The Gastronaut: Notes of Honey, Pine Needles and Regret

It’s holiday time again! And we’re here for you with some expert pairing notes to get you through the season.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Sure, sure. The holidays are a time for togetherness. For family. For stuffing yourself full of food and then passing out on the couch. But they’re also a time for drinking — both the joyous, let’s-give-a-toast-to-the-season kind, and the more common (and occasionally much more satisfying) let’s-just-have-another-drink-and-see-if-we-can-get-through-this kind.

Which is why I’ve assembled this list of ideal pairings for a variety of holiday-specific foods and scenarios you might be faced with in the coming weeks. So here’s what to pair with …

Candy Corn: Admit it — there’s something about these little lumps of tricolor awesomeness that just makes you feel like a kid again. And according to Steve Wildy, Marc Vetri’s beverage director, they present a unique challenge for proper pairing. “Cut the sugar, or match it with a sweeter choice?” he asks. “Because I hope for humanity’s sake that a sweeter product is scientifically impossible, I suggest something just a tiny bit sweet: Yuengling lager. It’s also pretty meta to pair a sugar product we call corn with a corn product we call beer.

Overcooked Turkey: All the experts have their own favorite bottles to break out when the turkey hits the table, but there are two things to consider. If you’re staring down an overcooked bird mauled by inexperienced home cooks (or maybe just ones cranked up on Yuengling and candy corn), go with spice, like a classic Alsatian pinot gris to keep your palate alive. For a perfectly done turkey? Go red and fruity with a syrah or grenache.

Getting High and Eating All Your Kids’ Leftover Halloween Candy: Wildy on excess: “Indulgence has already taken you to a dark place, so why stop now? Anything special you’ve been saving will work: Birth-year wines and vintage champagne are great candidates. But that 18-year-old scotch you were going to share with your child on his 18th birthday is ideal. You’re going to have to come clean about the candy, but a little trick you used to pull with your parents’ booze bottles will come in handy for the scotch. Your kid will appreciate that it’s been watered down when the time comes anyway.”

Pumpkin Pie: Legendary local barman George Costa suggests an Irish coffee: “Because it would be delicious.” Wildy goes for a spice pairing, opting for “the biggest, oakiest, creamiest Napa chardonnay you can afford” because of the clove, allspice and vanilla notes lent by those French oak barrels. But I say this is when you break out the bubbles — a counterintuitive reveal of an icy cava or non-vintage champagne.

Annoying In-Laws: Brown liquors. Don’t try to be a hero.

Vegan or Gluten-Free Dishes Brought by Dietarily ­Militant Relations: This is actually a cinch. Base your pairing choice exclusively on the cooking method and you can’t go wrong. Someone brings a spicy curry? Go with wine that’s sweet and low-­alcohol, like a riesling. Grilled vegetable matter? Treat it like a steak and break out the full-bodied reds. One note of warning: Nothing pairs with tofurkey. Except regret.

Originally published in the November, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine