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Dessert and Wine Pairings

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Andrea, thanks for taking the time to engage in these discussions, and congratulations on your latest James Beard Awards nomination!

I'm interested in your personal philosophy of wine and dessert matching. Has the ever increasing complexity, and the occasional "savory" component, of restaurant desserts led you to change your strategy? Apart from the obvious issues of sugar and acid, are there specific observations you've made, where a certain element of a dessert might seriously enhance or detract from the synergy of a wine pairing? What obscure, interesting, or off-the-beaten-path discoveries have you encountered recently with regard to "sweet" wines?

Have you experimented at all with alternatives to the usual suspects? For example, at Petrossian in Paris, I've sampled the Parfums à Boire- a flight of infusions incorporating, flowers, roots, spices, and fruits, all prepared à la minute at table- that were designed specifically to accompany the selection of desserts. As a pastry chef, the experience opened up a whole new range of possiblities... juices, infusions, perhaps even beers and other spirits. Any thoughts?

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York


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I cover this with some very detailed charts in Great Tastes, but I feel I just scratched the surface, all the same.

I think the occasional savory element (chili peppers or earl grey tea and what-not) are a neat additional element.

And I do look at multitudes of pairings. One of the cool things I saw done at Herb Farm restaurant was they crushed fresh herbs into a champagne glass then poured in the bubbly. The exploding bubbles carried the perfume of the herb to your nose, then they put the herb in the sorbet or panna cotta or whatever.

Very cool.

I also like to pair beer and cocktails with desserts. Lambic beers and barleywines are great options, and Dale DeGroff is the master at creating cocktails that compliment specific desserts.


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