HE SAID/SHE SAID: Fish & Wine Pairings

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Even though this is our second He Said/She Said blog, we haven't properly introduced ourselves. Let's remedy that now!

He Said: 

My name is Aaron and I'm a classically trained French chef through Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado. I am also an advanced certified wine professional through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) based in London.

She Said:

My name is Maggie and I'm an advanced certified wine professional through Wine and Spirits Education Trust as well. I've been in the hospitality business for 9 years now. I pride myself on service. I love helping people elevate their gatherings around the table to a special experience.   

They Said: 

This blog is a fun way to share our favorite food and wine pairings. Every recipe and wine is tried and true, so it's a guaranteed success at your next gathering! Even better, we feature wines that can be found at Colonial Wines and Spirits. It's always such a bummer to read about a wine in a magazine and get really excited about trying it--only to find out it's not even available in the state. 

Have any questions about a recipe or wine we feature on He Said/She Said? Just pop into Colonial and ask away! That's the great thing about supporting a local business, we are here for YOU!   

Now that we're officially introduced, let's get to the good stuff; since we've covered steak pairings, we'll talk about fish. Red wine with steak and white wine with fish is probably the most well known "rule" for food and wine pairings. We're going to delve a little deeper and even pair a red wine with fish (gasp). So without further ado, 

These Wines Can Swim

The three filets we're featuring are salmon belly, sea bass, and rainbow trout. Even though the weight and texture differ from fish to fish, the preparation starts with pan searing. The recipes here utilize a cast iron skillet, similar to prepping a steak. The most important part is getting your skillet very hot while utilizing a high heat oil, such as peanut oil or sunflower oil. Note: olive oil burns at a very low heat, so it is not ideal in this cooking method. 


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He Said: Seared Salmon Belly

Salmon belly is the thinner, fattier portion of the salmon filet. The higher fat content of this cut makes it melt in your mouth! Try king salmon belly for a decadent treat-it's definitely worthy of its name! 

This part of the fish is so unctuous, delicate and small that I like to eat it on its own, typically as an appetizer.

To cook this fish, I like to add some smashed garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary. Lay the salmon belly (presentation side down) in the hot skillet and sear without moving for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, add a pat of butter to the pan and baste for another 30 seconds. Plate on a small bed of lettuce, grilled bread, or a la carte and enjoy! 

She Said: Hahn SLH Chardonnay

I think king salmon deserves a wine that's decadent and weighty. Chardonnay is the 'king' of heavy white wine, so why shouldn't these two be paired together? Chardonnay is a full bodied white wine on its own, but there are ways that winemakers can add to this weight. One technique is called batonnage, or stirring of the wonderful leftover lees. Leaving the lees to mingle with the wine adds weight, fullness and complexity. Hahn SLH Chardonnay goes through lees stirring once a week for an entire year in barrel. Think of the aroma that rises out of a bowl filled with bread dough, right before it's time to knead it into a ball. That's the smell and flavor these yeast cells add to the wine! Makes sense, right? Don't worry, there's not going to be a quiz at the end of this blog. Just know that this Chardonnay is a great match for salmon belly!


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He Said: Sea Bass

Fun fact: only a small portion of sea bass sold comes from from the coast of Chile, yet most sea bass is sold as Chilean sea bass!  Also... it's not a bass! It's actually a type of cod. The term "sea bass" was created by a fisherman in 1977; before then it was known by its given name--the Patagonian Toothfish. (Catchy, right?) Now you know the real story! This is one of the more pricey fish fillets at your local market, but it's well worth the money. Cooked properly, this is a fish to wow!

Sea bass is meaty, fatty, buttery and can stand on it's own. It's so good that it doesn't warrant being covered up by a heavy hand of seasonings, garlic mashed potatoes or a lemon beurre blanc sauce. I like to stick to subtle side dishes that won't take the spotlight off the sea bass. Roasted vegetables, or pureed parsnip and carrot are always complimenting. Olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a sprig of thyme fresh from the garden. It's all about letting this beautiful piece of fish shine! 

To cook the fish, I typically go classic and sprinkle the filet with coarse sea salt and pepper. Sear in the skillet for 2 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 2 minutes more. Place in an oven preheated to 350 for 10 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees. Remove and tent with foil until ready to eat. Note: If you find a fillet with the skin on still (our personal favorite way to enjoy) place the skin side of your fish in the skillet first and cook for 4 minutes. Once the fish is flipped, follow directions above. 

She Said: Domaine Du Clos Du Fief Julienas Cru Beaujolais

That's right, I'm committing the cardinal sin--white fish with red wine! DUN DUN DUN! 
Now that we've all figured out the world isn't going to end, let me tell you about this amazing pairing. What I'm looking for in this pairing is to match the weight of the fish with the weight of the wine. Since this is such a big, thick and meaty fish, why not go with a red wine? If you haven't discovered the 'hidden gem' row in the burgundy section of the store filled with Cru Beaujolais, you're in for a treat. Like many other Pinot Noir lovers, I enjoy red burgundy. Unfortunately, Burgundy is a region very well known for their wines and they charge a pretty penny for the good stuff. So instead of settling for a middling $20 bottle from the red burgundy shelf, look to Cru Beaujolais! Grown in the southern region of Burgundy, Cru Beaujolais is made with Gamay grapes instead of Pinot Noir. It's very easy to guess Pinot Noir if you were to taste them blindly. This Cru Beaujolais, specifically from the village of Julienas is known for its richness. Rich blackberry and earthy notes with a velvety finish is everything this fish fillet needs!


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He Said: Crispy Skin Rainbow Trout

Oh, rainbow trout, how I love thee! Seriously, trout has a special place in my heart (and stomach.) Maybe it's my southern roots. Rainbow trout is light, flaky, buttery, mild and very versatile. You'll most likely find it butterflied with the skin on in the store. This is perfect! Season with salt and pepper and place skin side down in your hot skillet and cook, without moving, for 4-5 minutes. After that, throw some fresh dill and lemon peel on top and put 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Baste with the butter, lemon and dill for 1 minute more. Remove from skillet with a fish turner, making sure to keep that crispy skin intact. 

She Said: Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris

Being lighter than the salmon and sea bass, rainbow trout deserves a wine that isn't going to steal the show. I went with a Pinot Gris, because it's a light white that doesn't overpower--remember our goal: match the weight of the food and wine. The minerality in Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris is reminiscent of standing next to the Little Red River (a haven for rainbow trout and the people who fish for them), coupled with a citrus profile that acts as a squeeze of lemon, this pairing has so many supporting factors.  

We hope this has encouraged you to try some new pairings and has busted some myths! Red wine can indeed go with fish and not all fish is created equal, so each can be paired with a new and exciting wine. Bon Appetit and salut! If you have any questions or want to pick our brains for another pairing, Colonial is the place to find us!

Cheers! 

Four Italian Wines to Make You a Rock Star at Your Next Dinner Party!

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Let’s face it, choosing wine for a dinner party can be tough. Step into a wine aisle and all the bottles start to blend together. Add a mix of those miniature signs we store folks call "shelf talkers" and mobile apps that turn the wine into a cartoon character, and the confusion multiplies. Then there are ratings – one wine earned five stars, while another on the same shelf isn't rated at all. What to do? Pick a bottle you vaguely remember enjoying at your office Christmas party?   

Here's a two-word solution: go Italian.

Nothing says gourmet like Italian food and wine. Here are some great Italian wines that are native to their regions and are great expressions of the vintner's craft. There's no way you can mess up with these selections, and you'll be a rock star serving them at dinner! These are some great wines to set a foundation of wine knowledge to boot! 

Just remember the age-old adage: "if it grows together, it goes together." In addition, with the most successful food and wine pairings the food will make wine taste better and vice versa. 


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1. The wine: Indigenous Nero d'Avola

Grape variety: Nero d'Avola (“nair-oh davo-la”)

Region: Sicily 

Italian wines are representations of their homeland, and we're starting with Sicily. Sicilians have been making wine since 1100 B.C, so there's some history to be found here. Sicilians love their meats, and whether you're serving a platter of charcuterie filled with capocollo and salami; a meat heavy red sauce with pasta or toast points; or an unctuous piece of meat like braised oxtail, this is the wine for you! Think the body and tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. Nero d'Avola will satisfy your red wine needs with lip smacking fruit. 


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2. The wine: Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio

Grape variety: Pinot Grigio

Region: Alto-Adige

Many people don't know that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the exact same grape variety. The difference is place and style. Grigio is the Italian name and Italy is homeland for this grape, and I'm not talking about the name brand stuff that's on every wine list of every restaurant, diner and airplane between the two continental lines that form our country. I'm talking about Pinot Grigio from one of the best places to grow this grape: Alto Adige. Bordering Austria and Switzerland, this is the most northern growing region for grapes in Italy. These steely, crisp refreshing white wines will make you think you're breathing in cool air from the banks of a river lined with slate; and the nose is reminiscent of visiting the cold Little Red River here in Arkansas. Wines from Alto-Adige classically pair with fish dishes. Pairs brilliantly with sardine dishes (anything from a salad to a flatbread) or white fish with risotto. If you catch anything fly fishing on the Little Red River, definitely give this wine a try!


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3. The wine: Antico Sigillo Primitivo Di Manduria

Grape variety: Primitivo (pree-mee-TEE-voh)

Region: Puglia

A grape with a very Italian name, Primitivo is related to a grape very familiar to us here in America: Zinfandel. This is a full bodied red, filled with delicious fruit, baking spices, herbs, leather and smokey characteristics. Ringing in at 15% abv, it's not a shy wine. This grape finds its home in Puglia Italy – the heel of the peninsula's boot. Primitivo grapes love warm weather and they get just that in this agriculturally renowned region. You'd typically see lamb dishes in Puglia paired with this wine, but let's not forget about its newest pairing trend: pizza and burgers! Host homemade pizza night and grab some arugula, prosciutto, Italian buffalo mozzarella, burrata, sun dried tomatoes, and spicy olive oil or any Italian ingredients of your choosing. Create your own Italian pizzas and pair them with some Primitivo.  


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4. The wine: Michele Chiarlo Gavi

Grape variety: Cortese

Region: Gavi

The Cortese grape finds its home in a sub-region named Gavi, in the much bigger region of Piedmont. Piedmont is known for world class red wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Unfortunately, these red wines overshadow a white wine that should get much more attention – Gavi. Gavi is a citrusy, zesty wine full of mouthwatering acidity that makes it a hit for food pairings. If you're a Chablis fan, Gavi will resonate with your palate. It pairs wonderfully with white fish dishes with herbs. An herbed sauce, like pesto, is a natural pairing. So are pasta, roasted vegetables and shellfish.  If you want to go off the beaten path and do a modern pairing, braised pork or chicken with fresh herbs would complement Gavi quite well. The zesty acidity cuts through the fattiness of the meat and go very well with the fresh herbs added to the braise. 

There you have it: four wines that are a terrific introduction to the depth and diversity of Italian wine-growing tradition. I hope that my suggestions will inspire you to delve into these Italian delicacies for your next gathering of friends. 

I am officially hungry after writing this! Since it's my first blog of 2018, Happy New Year, and cheers to a year filled with good food and wine!