After a long day at work, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a glass of wine or a slice of chocolate cake. While each treat is perfectly enjoyable on its own, both become all the more indulgent when paired with one another.
Of course, that’s not to say that just any old red is acceptable alongside a hot dog or cozy dish of bread pudding. As with other wine pairings, each dish requires careful consideration before it can be matched with the optimal wine. We reached out to local vino expert Alex Van Allen, the owner of Dyad Wine Bar in Kinderhook, to figure out which sips to pour alongside our go-to eats.
Van Allen: How can we have a conversation about comfort foods and not mention chicken and waffles? Fried chicken + waffles = life. I like to top off my chicken and waffles with the addition of a spicy aioli, because why not?
I’m pairing my fried chicken with prosecco. I am a firm believer that salty fat goes best with acidity and bubbles. This makes a dry prosecco the perfect dancing partner for a fried chicken dish. Besides, nothing says “fancy” like flutes filled with bubbles, and greasy fingers. Now we have sweet, savory, spicy, salty, tart, and bubbles all in one pairing.
Van Allen: My sisters constantly remind that I could eat a full box of Kraft by myself at the age of 5. Thank god I didn’t know about wine pairings then, or there would have been full bottles of Chardonnay through a twisty straw to go with it.
Ground breaking statement of the century: macaroni and cheese is rich. In order to combat this richness, I’m going to go with a bolder white. My weapon of choice will be a white burgundy. Chardonnay usually has high alcohol content for a white wine (often over 12%). This alcohol content can be used for more than just getting your buzz on. The alcohol in the chardonnay will help our taste buds slice through all the richness of the cheese.
Van Allen: The hot dog can be a playground for flavors (think Chicago-style dog). The hot dog is often overlooked for its versatility, but similar to its grill companion, the burger. It can be a fantastic vessel for culinary creativity. My hot dog is topped with a homemade creamy mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions, relish, and bacon.
An important component to wine pairing is to remember that toppings, sauces, and additions to recipes also play a key role in what pairs well with the dish. Start with something that will work well with the dog, and then dial in on your toppings and condiments. For a beef dog, I like rosé. A rosé has a little more body to it, and will work well without smashing the hot dog flavor down. Here, I’m focusing on the pork belly for the same reason that the prosecco works with the fried chicken. We need a little zip and tartness to cut the fatty bacon, and that makes cava a prime candidate for the job.
Van Allen: The magic of the chocolate cake is that it can be both the dessert that grandma makes and the decadent cap to dinner at the nicest restaurant in town. Either way, chocolate cake always brings us comfort.
Call it boring, but there is a reason why some pairings have become “old staples.” Dark chocolate and a vintage port will always be a thing; it’s slightly bitter, sweet, and rich. Next time you have dark chocolate, get your hands on a good bottle of port, and I promise you that you will never look back.
Van Allen: I think I ate my fair share of bread pudding as a child. This was a favorite dessert amongst my siblings and me. Naturally, it screams comfort. My mom’s recipe is comprised of glazed donuts, homemade caramel, and fresh whipped cream.
In terms of wine pairings, Riesling is just about as versatile as it gets. With sweetness and acidity working in harmony, Riesling gives you lots of room to play. In this particular case, I’m drinking a 2012 vintage Spätlese from the Rheingau. Aged, late harvest Riesling can be a thing of beauty. Take your bread pudding, now throw raisins (late harvest grapes) into the mix… you get the point.