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Food and Non-alcoholic Drink Pairings

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#1 Susan in FL

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 04:54 PM

I thought these pairings of soft -- soft meaning non-alcoholic -- drinks with foods were interesting. There are times when I wonder what to serve or drink with fine foods or cheese/hors d'oeurvres, if not wine or beer. We're cutting back on our alcohol intake right now for calorie reasons. There are other times we have guests or are dining with people who are in recovery or aren't drinking alcohol, for whatever reason.
Have you discovered any other "soft" drink and food matches that you recommend?
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#2 FistFullaRoux

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:00 PM

I find that Coke works well with food thats heavy on the salt (pepperoni pizza, for example). To make it special, serve it ice cold in the little glass bottles. Very nostalgic.

Iced tea (unsweetened) is another good all-around solution. You can ice just about any tea, so you aren't stuck with the little bags from the grocery store.

I have also seen grape juice from wine grapes. It's just bottled fresh instead of fermented. There's some possibilities there as well. There's sparkling grape juice as well.
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#3 eje

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Posted 06 December 2005 - 11:56 AM

I enjoy simple things on "alcohol free days".

Squeeze half a lemon or lime into a glass, add a dash or two of angostora, and a couple teaspoons of simple syrup. Ice, top glass up with soda water, and stir to combine. It's not quite a gin and tonic, but it's refreshing all the same.

Mojito and Caipirinha type drinks are also pretty nice without alcohol. The list of fresh herbs and varieties of citrus is nearly limitless. Basil, lemon verbena, lemon balm, grapefruit mint...

I made an alcohol free kalamansi (calmondin) Caipiriniha just the other night, and it was quite bracing.

I would like to get a soda siphon, so I don't have to keep buying sparkling water.
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#4 MarketStEl

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Posted 07 December 2005 - 02:25 PM

I find that a Virgin Mary works just as well as the Bloody variety with a Sunday brunch.

Or for a Canadian twist, use tomato-clam juice instead and make it a Virgin Caesar.
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#5 phaelon56

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 01:17 PM

As an apertif I often enjoy tonic water with a big splash of Rose's lime juice. Most folks who enjoy (or once did enjoy)
gin 'n tonic or Gimlet's will like these.

If you have a desire for dry and bitter look at in Italian import stores to find Sansbitter or Chinotto - both excelent non-alcoholic apertif's.

For a more versatile beverage it's hard to go wrong with a moderately minerally sparkling water (e.g. Pellegrino - be careful of the German brands like Apollinaris and especially Gerolsteiner which are way heavy on mineral taste). You can add great depth to that flavor by adding a few small drops of Angostura bitters per glass.

My standby for serving with meals is Amé . I have served all three styles - red, rose and white. The food pairing is done in a manner similar to wine although it's best to be careful with the red - it's the least dry of the three types. But that said - IMHO it's usually still the best match for red meats or game.

Wegman's grocery stores sometimes carry it in their Nature's Pantry section and most large health food oriented chains such as Whole Foods will also have it.

I don't have any suggestions for non-alcoholic digestif's - I'm too busy firing up the espresso machine for after dinner cappa's or machiatto's to worry about that!

#6 NYC Mike

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 05:50 AM

Hi All,

Tap and the ever present bottled water is getting dull. The ol diet cola staple isn't exactly what I would call a great paring for most things outside of burgers and pizza etc. The non-sweetened tea at most places is just yuck.

Any ideas of other things to order? Any restaurants out there that do interesting things for non-drinkers?


-Mike & Andrea

#7 chezcherie

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 08:51 AM

this stuff, apparently, is good enough for the french laundry:
grown up soda=GUS

i tried some ginger this week at the fancy food show--dry and crisp...pretty tasty for soda!
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#8 jackal10

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 08:58 AM

For a white wine substitute I like elderflower cordial with a slice of lemon. Water and lemon is OK.
Old fashioned real lemonade is nice, if not too sweet.

Red wine substitutes are harder. Plain red grape juice is OK but tends to be too sweet.

Being a geek, I'm happy to drink black coffee throughout the meal.

#9 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 09:12 AM

In the summer, I will often drink a fresh lemonade with a meal but don't care for anything too sweet ...
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#10 Jaymes

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 09:30 AM

My dad doesn't drink, and doesn't like any really sweet beverages with his meals, so we never, ever had any sort of sodas with meals when we were growing up, and I still don't.

But in restaurants, Dad usually gets water and a handful of lemon slices, squeezes the lemon slices into his water, and adds just about a half-packet of sugar. Kind of refreshing and citrusy, but not too sweet. Nothing like the heavy, syrupy sorts of lemonade served in most restaurants.

And non-alcoholic beer, while not as tasty as the real thing, of course, can be a nice substitute to drink with pizza, burgers, Italian, etc.

Oh, and I have a friend that always orders hot tea at the beginning of the meal. Often they bring out a tea box with all sorts of interesting options. She makes her hot tea at the table, sometimes using two tea bags, and then asks for a glass of ice. If we're at a nice, white-tablecloth place, and she doesn't want to risk spills, she'll ask the waiter to "please pour this over some ice for me in the kitchen." For her, that solves the problem of "the non-sweetened tea at most places is just yuck."

Edited by Jaymes, 28 January 2006 - 09:35 AM.

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#11 NYC Mike

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 05:57 PM

Thanks all! I will try a few of these things!
-Mike & Andrea

#12 cdh

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 07:08 PM

Tea has a huge range of possibilities... almost none of which will a restaurant be able to offer you.

I could probably figure out pairings for dishes from the various teas out there... but that would do you no good since no restaurant anywhere would carry the full variety, or be able to make it for you right.
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#13 jgm

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 07:24 PM

Iced Earl Grey tea is excellent with meat dishes. If you feel like fooling with it, you might order hot tea, if you can get Earl Grey (or bring your own; they likely won't notice you didn't use their tea bag), steep it very strong, and pour it into a glass of ice that you've ordered. A bit more than many would want to fool with, but it's an option.

#14 SushiCat

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 07:59 PM

A drink that goes well with many foods and enhances the experience is Aqua Libre. I don't have any at the moment to tell you who makes it etc., but I first had this at a nice white tablecloth restaurant in Seattle and I can still recall that particular dish with which it was paired.

Since then, the company has made several varieties and I still like the original best - it is dry and a bit herbal in flavor with a hint of a melon flavor but not sweet. Oh it is slightly effervescent so this may or may not appeal.

#15 petite tête de chou

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 02:51 AM

I really enjoy iced green tea or iced green tea with soda water added. Very refreshing.
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#16 jesskidden

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 04:27 AM

this stuff, apparently, is good enough for the french laundry:
grown up soda=GUS

View Post

My wife picked up a couple bottles of GUS Grapefruit soda for me (since she knows I like Grapefruit soda and my one good local source, Genuardi's, closed their store and the Blue Sky that's on the shelves in the "natural food" sections is often stale, dated from 2004).

The GUS I had had the overwhelming aroma & flavor of "rancid" (I could not even choke it down). I checked their date code, couldn't figure it out, wrote the company with my question/comment and they sent back a rather nasty note to the effect of that I don't appreciate the "adult" taste of a non-sugar laden soda. "Adult" = "rancid"? Now, it may very well be that I just don't care for their "grown up" soda, but one would think a small company looking for a niche in a market dominated by giants, would be more tactful- they wouldn't even give me their date code.

(I drink grapefruit juice regularly and hate that pink, sweeten stuff they serve in many diners).

#17 freshherbs

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 07:47 PM

Navarro Vineyards in Sonoma makes an excellent Pinot Noir grape juice--available online, i think

also, my pregnant wife has been drinking a lot of passionfruit juice with muddled mint

#18 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 08:29 PM

I don't drink a lick. I haven't for a very long time. The reasons are my reasons, but I'm happy enough to say that I know what I am missing and I don't miss it anymore. You can draw your own conclusions.

I'm a food and travel writer and formerly a skilled, trained brewmaster in a past, and very long and happy phase of my life. I live in New Orleans (or what's left of it), and I am not only a regular, but maniacally dedicated attendee of many festivals including Mardi Gras, The Jazz and Heritage Festival, and about a zillion smaller ones. I am a crazy regular host of seafood boils and other events where drinking is pretty much half of the event. Seemingly everyone in my social circle drinks and when I first quit it was really kind of amazing just how complicated it was to get people to remember that just beer wasn't going to get it at a party anymore. I needed something else. Like I said, I don't drink.

They eventually caught on. I can cook. They needed me around. So, they started thinking about it for me so I didn't have to keep showing up with my own drinks, which was nice.

It all depends on what I am doing when it comes to what I drink. I am a dedicated consumer of carbonated water (Seltzer, Soda, Lemonata, Orangina, whatever) at all times and especially when I am doing some big time dining.

Seafood boils and festivals tend to leave me more in the diet coke vein and casual food like lunch during the week I am a massive consumer of ice tea (most of the time unsweet, which in my part of the South is more common than the sweet variety).

You know, it's funny, but once you get used to it, you can do pretty well and not even feel like you are being deprived. In fact, for fine dining when one is trying to pay attention to whatever they are eating, water actually works pretty well and I can always read my notes at the end of the meal. So there's that.

Sometimes you can find places that have an interesting beverage or two, but generally I am fine with water of some sort, tea on occasion, and always ready for coffee after dinner.

I also really like fresh juice and it's usually available in better places if you bother to ask for it. Sometimes I like it with a bit of soda in it, and sometimes not, but it's usually a nice way to start dinner while everyone else is having a belt or two.

So that's what I do.
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#19 Roxie

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 08:37 PM

We like the Italian sodas found in Wild Oats and Whole Foods. They are light and fruity. Raspberry, blood orange, tangerine flavors.

#20 Tess

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 03:47 PM

As another frequent designated driver, I usually make do with water or iced tea with meals out. Too many of the non-alcoholic cocktails that are offered turn out to be way too sugary to go with food. I also like soda or seltzer with a few drops of Angostura or other bitters. Bitters do contain alcohol but you use very little by volume. Any bartender should be able to make this for you.

At home when not drinking alcohol, I sometimes make cocktails with selzer and fruit juice. I use Knudsen's cranberry and pomegranate concetrates but there are lots of others. You can try asking for this in restaurants but again, you will often get something way too sugary.

#21 duckduck

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:19 AM

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#22 Megan Blocker

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:36 PM

Diet Coke and Chinese food!!!
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#23 Sencha

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:39 PM

Before I comment, bear in mind that I am not a big soda drinker. So much so that a 12-pack is a year supply of soda to me.
I enjoy drinking a soda from time to time, but I really don't prefer to have such highly sweetened drinks with many meals. Sure, I'll go ahead and have a soda with the occasional fast food, but for anything higher (and better) than fast food, I prefer another type of beverage. Soda tends to have too artificial of a flavor in many situations to please my tastes with a meal.

#24 mmm_chocolate

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 02:14 PM

I agree with you, Sencha. Soda is great with pretzels and salty snacks; provides a yin-yang sort of thing. Maybe with any sort of salt laden junk food or fast food.

Root beer and pretzels would have to rank up there as one of my all time favorite junk food snacks!
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#25 s9498

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:30 PM

There are some foods out there where I just need my diet pepsi or a soft drink. Those usually are pizza, hot dogs, cheeseburgers. That's usually when I don't want a beer. But I don't think that if I went to a restaurant, I would order one of the speciality sodas. Like Sencha stated, I don't want something too sweet with my meal. I opt for unsweet tea or water.

#26 jesskidden

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 03:50 AM

As a kid, my favorite pairing was a tuna fish sandwich on white bread, sliced diagonally, with orange soda. The twist was that I *dunked* the sandwich into the soda. (I still remember the nice color the bread turned....).

Now, I've brought the combo up whenever the conversation has turned to "gross/unusual food combinations" but really haven't TRIED it in 45+ years but that's only because I don't buy orange soda much anymore (save for the Stewart's Orange N' Cream occassionally) and I usually will have tuna on a hardroll or wheat bread, but someday things are gonna all come together...

PS - Just went to the Stewart's site to check the name of the Orange N' Cream- they make a Peach soda? Never saw that on the shelves... now have to add another "must have/try" soda to the list...


#27 Pontormo

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 07:28 AM

Izzie's grapefruit soda & tuna/avocado roll snuck into the movie theater.
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#28 Toliver

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 09:09 AM

Grape Nehi soda in a bottle with sausage pizza.
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#29 Jake

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 09:37 AM

Ting and a jamaican patty on coco bread.

French fries and gravy with diet Pepsi.

Both habits began in high school and exist to this day. Hmmm, lunchtime is coming!

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