(Yes, I realize this sounds like food blasphemy)
Surf and Turf is one of those classic dishes on almost every white tablecloth restaurant menu (and some not so fancy ones too). Don’t get me wrong- lobster is mouth-wateringly delicious, and a good steak cooked properly is divine! So how can I profess my hatred for two delicious items that most people would kill to be served? It is the sheer panic and inability to choose my wine to drink with this dish that gets me every time! This hard choice also has to be made if you are sharing a bottle with your dinner guests, if they order a seafood dish and you order some red meat, what is the right choice to please everyone? Is there a “right” choice?
So what is the best option for dishes that want to push the wine pairing limits and make you contemplate your perfect match? Here is my cheat sheet when choosing the right wine for those hard dishes....
Do You Choose White or Red?
If we go back to that surf and turf you are eyeing on the menu, the red meat is just dying for a full-bodied cult wine from California with dark fruit, a hint of jammy red fruit, and that subtle oak and smooth tannins that just feel right when you swirl it around in your mouth after a bite of that medium rare steak. But then again, that buttery lobster is screaming for a Premier Cru Chablis from France with acidity, notes of lemon, peach, cream and some stone minerality for balance and complexity. So what is the right choice?
I can’t say I have one, or that my logic that follows is the best possible answer, but here are my thoughts....
Question 1: What kind of wine do you typically prefer?
Some people just "aren’t red wine drinkers"( I myself can't believe this and will push your limits) and vice versa, so this might make your decision simpler than mine (I happen to love white and red with equal adoration). If you have a preference over one or the other, choose it. My logic here is simple- drink what you like and what you are going to enjoy most. In this situation, you aren’t actually “that” person who insists they “just don’t like red wine” and you can get away with a nice full-bodied white.
Question 2: What part of the meal are you going to enjoy most?
Is lobster (or in some cases shrimp) your most favourite food on the planet (and if it is why bother with the steak?) then I would say get a white wine! But if it's that red meat that is really what you are after and you love so much, then go for a red wine.
Question 3: Are a red or white your only choices?
Obviously not, I mean, you could decide to drink a beer or a cocktail (I can’t bring myself to do this) but it is okay to avoid wine all together. My other wine option would be a really nice bottle of champagne. And before you say it- no, not an inexpensive Prosecco or Cava, this just won’t do. But the real stuff- it would be a splurge, but I would argue its well worth it. Why I think it works? Real champagne goes through a process that creates complexity and a flavour profile that can stand up to red meat. Not to mention many champagnes use Pinot Noir grapes. It is one of those things that “tastes good with everything” and you won't be disappointed. A meal fit for a king or queen.
Question 4: Why not both?
I know this might sound a little nuts, but if you are really undecided (like I am) and perhaps you are going all out for a special dinner with that special someone, why not order both and eat your seafood first with a white and your steak second with your red. It’s the best of both worlds- shall we say- have your steak and lobster, and eat it too! (Side Note: If you are drinking 2 bottles of wine, suffice to say, drink responsibly.)
I hope this sheds some light on a few options when you look at that classic on the menu and ponder the right choice for your wine. I myself tend to have seafood as an appetizer and even order just a glass of white wine to pair with it and then move to a red bottle with some kind of red meat. This way, I get my fill of seafood and steak, but avoid that hard decision when it comes to surf and turf. It might sound crazy, but there is nothing better than that perfect pairing, and I search high and low for it every where I go.
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