Wine With . . .
by Paul Lukacs and
The idea of having an all-white dinner seemed
strangely soothing, a last respite, perhaps, before the madness of holiday
over-imbibing takes hold. We’d savor white food, on white plates, with
white wine in our glasses, giving our senses one brief evening of calm before
the assault on them by Christmas’ vibrant colors, exhausting aromas, infinite
musical loops, and endless noshing and sipping.
As it turned out, our simple white meal was indeed
comforting and peaceful, but it was also delicious. What a good idea an
all-white dinner is! And think of the many other white foods that might
be incorporated into the meal (chicken breasts, scallops or shrimp,for
example). Any number of variations on the theme is possible: you could
turn it into a black-and-white dinner, for example (a little black pepper
ground over the lily-white pasta makes a bold statement), and for a truly
festive evening guests might be instructed to dress in black and/or white. But
that idea about drinking white wine only? Forget it. Red wine, we
discovered, is an equally fine partner for this white pasta dish, so enjoy
either, or both. A soothing meal can go only so far.
Serves four as a first course, two as a main
One pound good quality fettuccine or tagliatelle
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, or a mix
of Parmesan and Pecorino plus extra cheese to pass at the table
Drop the pasta into a generous amount of rapidly
boiling salted water. Place the garlic in a large bowl and cover it with about
1 tablespoon of the pasta-cooking water.
When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the
bowl with the garlic. Add the butter and toss the pasta until all the butter
has melted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve at once.
(Since we wanted a white salad to tie into the
all-white theme, we chopped up raw fennel, radishes, apple, and cauliflower,
mixed all the crisp veggies together, and drizzled them with olive oil plus a
generous squeeze of lemon juice and some good finishing salt. Other possible
salad additions might be turnips, endive, artichoke hearts, jicama, and so on.)
* * *
Reds and whites proved equally satisfying with this
cheesy white pasta, so long as the reds weren’t too tannic or heavy and the
whites had some heft. We tried a few whites that seemed overly delicate
(an Orvieto, for example, and a Pinot Grigio), as well as a couple of reds that
were excessively muscular (a California Merlot, for one). By contrast,
the wines that worked best, regardless of color, all tasted substantial without
being hot or muscular. They complemented and so never threatened to
overwhelm the food.
Buty, Columbia Valley (Washington) Semillon/
Sauvignon/ Muscadelle 2009
A Bordeaux-styled white, this wine’s waxy, almost
fleshy texture enabled it to more than hold its own with the rich, buttery
pasta. Beautifully integrated, its near perfect balance of fruit and
acidity made for a very impressive match.
Cambria, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot
Noir “Julia’s Vineyard” 2009
Tasting of sweet cherries with a hint of spice in
its finish, this silky red echoed the smooth texture of the pasta and
sauce. We had feared that it might seem too domineering, but it meshed
with this dish very nicely.
Clayhouse Estate, Paso Robles (California),
Estate Cuvée Blanc “Red Cedar Vineyard” 2010
A blend of equal parts Grenache
Blanc and Viognier, this is a substantial white wine that contributed added
depth and nuance to the pairing. It’s nutty secondary notes in
particular made the dish seem earthier and more intensely flavored than otherwise.
Decoy, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2010
Of the two Chardonnays we tried, this was by far
our favorite, as the oak influence did not threaten to take over either the
wine or the pairing. Instead, the sweet vanilla and butterscotch flavors
that come from oak aging enhanced the rich flavors in the sauce, and the
wine’s core of citrus-scented fruit echoed the lemon zest in the dish.
Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja (Spain) Crianza 2008
(Imported by Vineyard Brands)
An old-fashioned because soft
and supple Rioja, with virtually no astringent tannins to disrupt the match,
this red simply felt good to drink. Its dark red berry flavors provided
a pleasant contrast to the rich ones in the dish, while its silky texture echoed
the comforting pasta itself.