Entering the ballroom of Makati Shangri-La Hotel, I find myself surrounded by a mix of all things red, white and blue. Lady liberty is having her photos taken with Uncle Sam, and throngs of people are lining up to have some face time with the “Avengers” (good God, I wish it was actually Chris Evans* behind good ol’ Cap’s cowl). Everywhere, there is an air of Liberty. Bravery, in the form of ruggedly handsome men in uniform (I should take photos… Nay, phone numbers, for my sister). And food… Lots of food. Not just any boring hotel food people frequently get served in a function, there’s Taco Bell. Pizza Hut. Hard Rock Café. I think to myself, man… There is nothing like Americans celebrating the 4th of July.
Hosted by the U.S. Embassy – Philippines, the 243rd Anniversary of Independence of the United States of America event was an interesting display of how Americans in Manila can party.
It’s not without its formalities, of course. There was an impressive parade of colours, a speech made by His Excellency Ambassador Sung Y. Kim…
But, as I am from 2shotsandapint, I made a beeline for the wine booth. A familiar face greeted me with even more familiar wines: My very good friend, Kath Yao Santos, armed with one of my favourite things, Cambria (which I’ve featured in a previous post).
Apart from Kath and friends’ good conversation, however, wine is also paired with good food. Looking around the ballroom at all the famous American restaurant franchises, inspiration hit me: What would pair well with some of the signature dishes of said restaurants?
Truthfully, I didn’t have enough time (or inches on my trousers’ waistband) to be able to do a proper experiment, I decided to make a mental list and figure out what would pair well with the following:
(P.S. Who knows… These pairs may pop up on the site in the future.)
Restaurant: Kenny Rogers Roasters
Food: Roasted Chicken
Pair: California Chardonnay or Oregon Pinot Noir
Why: I typically find a blast of oak and more pronounced notes of malolactic fermentation in the California style of Chardonnay, which translates to a kind of buttery, roast almond aroma. I like the idea of pairing these flavours with the savoury, spiced notes of the chicken. The chicken legs and thighs tend to be greasy, so I like the idea of an Oregon Pinot Noir, with its acidity cutting through the grease. Also, the delicate red berry flavours are do not overpower the chicken.
Restaurant: Taco Bell
Food: Soft Taco (with seasoned beef and cheddar cheese)
Pair: Beer, preferably a Mexican one
Why: According to What To Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (i.e., the bible), the best beer for a taco is a Tecate, a Mexican beer. I haven’t seen it around Manila (I could be wrong), but I figure the next best, and more accessible, thing would be the Corona beer.
Restaurant: Pizza Hut
Food: Supreme Pizza
Pair: A California Merlot
Why: Books would typically recommend an Italian wine with pizza, but I realised that these books were talking about the Italian brick-oven kinds of pizzas. Pizza Hut pizza generally has a sweeter sauce (and flavours) versus that of its Italian counterpart. A California Merlot is a red fruit-forward wine (perfect for the sweet style pizza sauce) with a pretty robust texture that generally holds its own against a gooey Supreme pizza. (Note to self: Should have messed around with a slice and the Freemark Abbey Kath had in her booth. Next time.)
Restaurant(s): Outback Steakhouse, Friday’s, Texas Roadhouse
Pair: California Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Zinfandel
Why: Every textbook would tell people that the classic steak and wine pairing would involve a Cabernet Sauvignon. The science of the pairing actually goes against the old school thinking of the tannins (that cottony sensation one gets on their gums) cutting through the grease. It’s actually the salt of the steak that cuts through the legendary tannins of a Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the acidity of the grape that cuts through the steak’s fat.
Restaurant: Hard Rock Café
Food: Original Legendary Burger
Pair: Beer, preferably Schiltz; or a Rioja (a Joven or a Crianza)
Why: It’s pretty easy to pair a burger with a beer, but I wanted to apply a bit of history and culture to this. Generally, food and drinks coming from the same region naturally pair together… Maybe it’s because of the area’s population sharing a common flavour preference. Cheeseburgers and Schiltz Beer both come from the U.S., but again, this recommended brand is a little uncommon in Manila. I’d substitute a Budweiser for this one. The younger of the Riojas are generally more fruit forward and has a youthful acidity, making it cut through a burger’s grease and complimenting the burger’s rich, beefy flavours.
Food: Grand Slam Slugger (Pancakes, Hash Browns, Bacon, Eggs)
Pair: Sparkling wine, mimosa style cocktails, or coffee
Why: Ah, the American diner experience. While arguably, Denny’s has much more to offer beyond breakfast food, for me, a diner is synonymous to the ultimate morning hangover cure. Free flowing coffee to perk me up, greasy food to coat my stomach from last night’s (this morning’s?) overindulgence, and the shrill voice of a diner lady asking me what else I’d want. In my ideal world, however, breakfast food also involves a little alcohol, and I like the idea of a contrast between seemingly rugged cuisine and a typically posh brunch beverage.
Restaurant: Red Lobster
Pair: Oaked California Chardonnay
Why: There are many other styles of Chardonnay that can pair well with a lobster, such as an out-of-Chablis Burgundian white and a Blanc de Blancs, but the common factor is the use of Chardonnay, and the oak ageing for the two still wines. I think the richer flavours and textures of these styles of Chardonnay add a nice dimension to a lobster dish.
Restaurant: Dairy Queen
Food: Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream
Pair: PX Sherry, Port, Muscat, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Why: Yes, ice cream can be paired with wine. Yes, I copped out and paired the least complex ice cream from Dairy Queen’s menu. My personal favourite involves a drizzle of a Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry, with its sticky texture and saccharine sweet flavours, onto vanilla ice cream. Generally, the rule of thumb for pairing dessert with wine is to make sure that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. Bonus points for matching creamy textures, such as ice cream and Port, or the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
Restaurant: Krispy Kreme
Food: The one with red, white, and blue sprinkles
Pair: Coffee, or a sweet sparkling wine
Why: Personally, I loved the idea of writing about the donuts that Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. playfully fought over in one of the Civil War promos. I also like the idea of ending this with a little celebration, and popping a bubbly is always present in a proper party. Pro tip: Sweet food tends to bring out the bitterness from the wine, which is why sweet wine pairs well with dessert (i.e., there’s a less likelihood of bitterness coming out of an already too sweet wine).
Having said all this, we at 2shotsandapint would like to greet our family and friends from and in America a Happy 4th! Cheers!
*Man, I’d really like to pick the actual Chris Evans’ brain as to what he prefers to drink.
Very, very special thanks to our friends in the Embassy of the U.S. Embassy – Philippines for letting me join in the festivities