Greatest Food & Wine Pairing Ever (or I *Heart* Seattle)

(Above: Champagne grapes are indeed very cute)

I was in Seattle last week for the Wine & Spirits Hot Picks tasting event, which was held at the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown. Like I did for a similar W&S event held in LA, I participated in a radio show in the days before the tasting (although this time I called in for a live broadcast). Anyway, the host asked me a common question: What’s the greatest food and wine pairing that you’ve ever experienced?

You think I’d have an answer to this one, but no–I just don’t think that way. I mean, there are loads of epic wine and food pairings that come to mind but I don’t really dwell on them. Too many more to look forward to, I guess. Why live in the past?

That said, one pairing immediately came to mind… Two years ago, I was hanging out in Seattle with Peter Liem prior to another W&S event, and we went to Matt’s In The Market for lunch. At the time, Matt’s was a narrow space with a fish counter and a few tables (it has since expanded to double that size). Hot food was cooked on a propane burner in the back; I think there was also a toaster in use. Peter, of course, brought along a bottle from one of his remote North American stashes: Louis Roederer’s 1983 Cristal.

1983, as Peter told me at the time, is considered an off year for Cristal (and Champagne), yet this wine was gorgeous. Better still, we ordered up a couple of fried catfish sandwiches to pair with it. Damn! Absolutely perfect combination…the Champagne was still very fresh at 23 years old, with plenty of zip left in it–bubbles, acidity–to cut through the rich fish and crispy batter. I can still taste it today, two years later. Now that’s bling!

(Above: The catfish at Matt’s is perfectly fried–crispy outer crust, the meat is fluffy and moist–and then generously served as a sandwich with aioli and greens)

I went back to Matt’s on this last trip, but alas, I didn’t have a bottle of ’83 Cristal with me. Matt’s has always had a good wine program, however, and the selection, I’m pleased to report, grew along with the remodel. Catfish sandwich ordered, we asked for a bottle of the delicious ’05 Muscadet Clos des Allées Vieilles Vignes from Luneau-Papin, a Loire Valley producer with total geek cred. Yeah, it kicked ass.

(Above: The marquee at the Paramount Theatre… not only did Wine & Spirits share the upcoming billing with NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, but also Billy Idol!)

Drink Wine, Save Water

So after a surreal couple of days–wherein I found myself lost briefly on the back lots of Paramount studios where I was to be a guest on the Tasting Room by Tom Leykis (check out the link to the Memorial Weekend Event podcast)–I’m once again in Los Angeles, the sprawling city and twisting highways of my youth in southern California, this time helping with the preparations for the first of two Hot Picks events put on by Wine & Spirits (tickets for tomorrow’s event in LA, and the second installment in Seattle on June 24th, can be purchased here).

Among the many errands that my colleague Nicole Drummer and I ran today in support of the event was a water pickup in South Central LA, where we procured several 5-gallon jugs of premium drinking water from Aqua Blue. We had to strap some of the bottles in to the back seat of my rental car (above) to keep them from rolling around as we drove on the freeway. In an effort to encourage a lighter carbon footprint for the event, we opt for bulk water stations rather than bottled water: ergo the event tagline, “Drink Wine, Save Water.” Proceeds from the LA event will benefit the Surfrider Foundation, while the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance will be the beneficiary at the Seattle event.

Now, if there was only some way to cut back on the actual glass bottles of the wine poured at the event, we’d be golden..

*To view a complete list of the wines featured as Critics’ Picks from the 2008 June issue of Wine & Spirits, click here. Many of these wines will be available to taste at the Hot Picks events in Los Angeles and Seattle.