Together At Last

Photography by Matt McCourtney By Su Byron August 1, 2009

asset_upload_file134_28301.jpgBacon and eggs. Paris and champagne. Gable and Lombard. Some matches are made in heaven, and few perfect unions are more heavenly than the culinary marriage of brilliantly complementary flavors. We asked some of our city’s top chefs to throw their inhibitions to the wind and create the most sensual, sensational combination of different foods and flavors they could imagine. Here are some of our favorites—along with notes on the ideal wine to accompany each.

Chilled Kumamoto Oysters and osetra Caviar

Derek Barnes, owner and executive chef, Derek’s Culinary Casual

Derek Barnes celebrated his son Jack’s baptism a few years back with a brunch that included one of Derek’s favorite food pairings: chilled Kumamoto oysters from the Pacific Northwest and Osetra caviar harvested in California. “This is a blissful marriage of taste and texture,” says Barnes. “You’re taking two incredibly pure and decadent items that are perfect all by themselves. The oysters lend subtle overtones of salt and sea, and the caviar’s creamy texture creates a counterpoint to the brininess of the oysters.”

Barnes whips up a simple mignonette sauce (cracked pepper, minced shallot, lemon zest and red wine vinegar) to dress the oysters—but that’s it. To accompany this made-in-America feast, Barnes suggests a sparkling brut wine from the California-based vintner Schramsberg. Aside from brunch, when does Barnes enjoy this delicacy? “Morning, noon and night,” he says. “Any time at all.”

House-Made Vanilla Ice Cream with Maple-Baked Bacon

Sean Murphy, owner, Beach Bistro

Ice cream and maple syrup with bacon? Sean Murphy remembers when the inspiration for this sweet and salty combo struck him. He was in Maine, at the end of a long pier, making his way through a bottle of good Italian red wine and gazing across the waters to Nova Scotia, where he grew up. And that reminded him of maple walnut ice cream. “It was one of my fondest childhood memories,” he says.

But how to transform a boyhood taste treat into a sophisticated dessert for grown-ups? Suddenly, it hit him. Just add bacon.

When Murphy returned home, he began experimenting until he got it right.

“We brush bacon with maple syrup, bake it until it’s crispy, then dice it and fold it into house-made vanilla ice cream,” he explains.

You can savor this delicacy alone—or with bread pudding soaked in Willie Nelson’s Old Whiskey River bourbon. To sip with this taste of heaven, Murphy suggests a Botrytis dessert wine from the Californian vintner Elysium, for its “luscious bouquet and lingering sweetness.”

Pan Roasted Diver Sea Scallops and Miso-Cured Pork Belly

Chris Southwick, executive chef, Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

Ask any chef. Pork belly futures are a smart investment in fine dining. “Pork doesn’t always get the respect it deserves,” says Chris Southwick. “A good cut gives you layers of perfect, juicy taste and texture.”

Southwick especially enjoys pairing pork with scallops, but he wanted to invent something that went beyond traditional bacon-wrapped scallops. He found that twist with pork bellies.

“There’s an inspired counterplay of taste and texture with this pairing,” he says. “The scallops’ crispy texture and slightly sweet, slightly salty taste are sensational next to the fatty, succulent richness of the pork.”

Southwick brushes the pork bellies with a light miso glaze and serves the dish with a purée of apples and celery and a shot of vanilla foam. To accompany his creation, Southwick recommends French vintner E. Guigal’s Chateau d’Ampuis from the northern Rhone region in France. Bon appétit!

Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Saffron Broth

Chef Charles Flint, chef partner, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

When it comes to mussels, chef Charles Flint favors his steamed and swimming in a light saffron broth. Saffron and seafood have long been paired in French and Mediterranean dishes; bouillabaisse is a celebrated example. What inspires chef Flint about these two tastes?

“I love the earthy, rustic sensation of saffron paired with the delicate sweetness of the mussel,” he says. “Saffron perfumes the mussels.”

Flint enjoys the contrast in cost as well. “Mussels are cheap and versatile, but saffron is one of the most expensive spices. It adds a touch of glamour to the mussels,” he says.

Flint’s saffron broth is enhanced with white wine, tomatoes and a dash of Sambuca for an extra kick of flavor. Sop up this exquisitely flavored broth with a crust of fresh bread, suggests Flint, for a “very sensual” finish. What to sip alongside? Flint suggests a rosé or light Riesling wine.


Kobe Beef with White Alba Truffles

Dan Olson, executive chef, Ophelia’s on the Bay

Chef Dan Olson feels lucky. Why? “I get to play with fabulous ingredients and experiment with new dishes all the time,” he says. One of his favorite new creations is Kobe beef with shaved truffles. “American beef, in my estimation, has lost its flavor,” says Olson. “Kobe is real beef, full-flavored and remarkably tender.” Olson experimented pairing it with different kinds of truffles before he hit upon the perfect variety: the white Alba truffle. Known as the "the diamond of the kitchen,” these rare, scandalously expensive truffles are legendary for their pungent, earthy potency and aromatic allure. “This is a robust and sensual taste experience,” says Olson. “It’s become one of my personal favorite dishes.” Olson recommends the “biggest cabernet possible” to accompany it, preferably from Napa Valley vintner Stag’s Leap.

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