I've always been mystified by the esoteric science of pairing wine with food. While I have learned some of the conventional rules, I often ignore them, or (better yet) delegate the wine selection to someone who claims the appropriate knowledge. In this new book, Francois Chartier both challenges some of the conventions and provides a basis for food and wine pairings based on contemporary science. He looks at various families of flavor compounds, and lines up compatible/similar ones for consideration.
The book has a very busy and sometimes confusing design, which I found distracted from the content and made it hard to read. After keeping it on the kitchen counter for a couple of weeks, I found the best way to use it is as a reference guide. The index is well-done and one can simply look up a food or wine to find ideas about pairing. I suspect there will always be more of an art than a science to pairings, but Chartier's studies help us think outside the box. With this type of book, the proof is in the pudding -- and Chartier definitely proves the value of his ideas in the recipes and suggestions scattered through the book. The first to catch my eye was pineapple scented with fennel and star anise and served with Jurancon. It is a startling and really perfect combination, and encouraged me to continue my explorations in this interesting volume. I'm sure I will continue to turn to it for inspiration.
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