Part presentation, part tasting and part cooking class, this event showcased 2 really great Scotches produced by The Glenlivet: their 18 year old and the Nadurra Cask Strength. The question is: Does Scotch pair well with food?
Our chef for the event was Wendi James – I had met her at a prior cooking class at the Hill Center a few months before teaching a pasta class – she’s a very good cooking teacher with really great presentation skills (in other words, she uses plain English!) so it was easy to understand her directions. The recipes were for:
- Smoked Chicken in Bacon Cream Sauce
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Vanilla Vinaigrette
- Butterscotch Bread Pudding
Little pointers along the way made it educational – for example, to make “lardons” (in essence crispy bacon pieces), Wendi said it’s best to start with a pan on low heat vs high heat. See, I always start with a hot pan – it’s just my way of getting food started quickly..but that’s actually a bad idea if you’re trying to render fat – so it makes more sense to put the bacon pieces in a low heat pan to let the fat melt and create “oil” and slowly crisp the exterior. Hmmm, good lesson!
Of course, my friend Emily is Kosher – and two immediate problems came to mind: 1)bacon! and 2)meat and dairy at the same meal..Emily was a real trooper (I swore to her – I had no idea what the dishes would be!) and she simply ate the chicken prepared without the bacon (I highly doubt the meal was even close to Kosher – Such is Life!)
So how did the Scotch and food pairing go? Well, of course, I had to raise my hand and ask Craig, Glenlivet’s Brand Ambassador how he suggested that Scotch and food be paired. His answer was also pretty insightful: the 18 Year Old Glenlivet is a rounder/mellower style of Scotch than the Nadurra which is full “Cask” strength and uses only Bourbon barrels (the 18 Year gets both Sherry and Bourbon barrel aging). Also one other quick point: Glenlivet uses minimal if any peat-smoked grains, so the smokyness of the Scotch is really not a factor. The 18 year went well with the bacon/cream sauce and the smoky chicken, but even better with the mashed Sweet Potatoes because they had orange zest in the ingredients – that really made it pair beautifully! Since the Nadurra is a more aggressive style, you need something to either cut the intensity or match it – so cheese being a fat often is paired with it, but also desserts – he mentioned chocolate is a great pairing, but I noticed the butterscotch sauce in the Bread Pudding sort of tamed the flames of the Scotch. When I looked at the recipes, I noticed: smoke, vanilla and butterscotch – these are noteworthy components of the Whisky aging process, so it just makes sense that using these in cooking will pair well..
Conclusion: Glenlivet, Culinaerie and everyone staffing the event did a bang up job of presenting Scotch as a wonderful addition to a meal – not just a drink to be enjoyed by itself. I suggest you look for these type of events in your city..and of course if you live in Washington, D.C., check out the TasteDC site for cooking classes and these type of events – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler