A Holiday Food & Texas Wine Pairing: Feast of the Seven Fishes
Earlier this year, I had a chance for work with friend Chef Terry Thompson Anderson on one of the most intensive food and wine pairing and writing projects in my 15 year career in Texas wines (second only to our now famous 2011 Edible Texas Wine and Food Match). This pairing was based on the Feast of the Seven Fishes of Italian tradition, but done Texas Style.
You can get the full dosage of our efforts in the November issue of Marla Camps, Edible Austin magazine. With its emphasis on Cooks at Home, Cooking Basics and Sustainable Kitchen, this annual issue, simply named “COOKS”, is worthy of your kitchen library or archive. You can also get a peek at our Seven Fishes article and Chef Terry’s recipes and my Texas wine pairings at:
At first blush, The Feast of the Seven Fishes: Texas Style, might seem somewhat of strange twist on Italian tradition for a Texas wine and food experience. The history of this feast originates from Italian tradition based on the Christmas Eve celebration of the Vigilia di Natale in Italy (See article or link for the significance of the number seven).
The Texas connection actually came at the turn of the 20th century when a flood of Sicilians settled in Galveston and the lower Brazos Valley while northern Italians moved farther inland. The bountiful Gulf Coast waters, with their delicious grouper, calamari, blue crabs, shrimp, briny oysters and more, became the new palette for this particular year end holiday feast.
The preparation for this Texas wine and food pairing extravaganza came at mid-year, far in advance of the November issue’s September editorial deadline. Terry and I met to discuss recipes and possible approaches to wine pairing. My Texas wine pairing task was made more straightforward than you might expect. First, Chef Terry’s recipes are well written prose that make mental manipulation of the major elements of the dish and wine approaches seem straightforward. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, Texas wine growers and winemakers have finally embraced their hot sunny clime (and perhaps their inner Italian). Texas wine country is now a mecca of Mediterranean wine production representing grapes grown locally, but that originate from Italy, Spain, Sardinia, Portugal and southern France.
After our initial meet-up, Terry worked up her recipes and I made several candidate wine selections for each recipe. The size of this task became apparent as we realized that seven Gulf seafood preparations were involved that required two or three candidate Texas wines for each course to pair.
Then, the big night came. Terry and I and my wife Delia, got together at Terry’s house in Fredericksburg where she prepared three plates for each recipe for us to taste alongside two or three (and sometimes more) of my Texas wine selections. We voted separately for our favorites and as you will see, there were times when one wine just wasn’t sufficient. There are several ways to approach wine and food pairing: intensity and weight of the cuisine, ethnic origin, similar or contrasting flavor elements, and synergistic aspects (as with a hint of sweetness with the heat of the chili or a splash of brisk acidity with a buttery, creamy sauce).
At the finish of a grand evening, I tallied our votes and came up with the wine pairing notes that highlight the Texas wines that did very well alongside Terry’s gulf seafood offerings.
The following are Chef Terry’s Seven Fishes Feast recipes (that are linked to the Edible Austin website) along with our Texas wine selections (with links back to their corresponding winery websites for more information along with availability and ordering details):
- Tres Palacios Bay Crab Appetizer — William Chris Vineyards Mary Ruth, an orange Muscat and Chenin Blanc blend.
- Spicy Boiled Shrimp with Jalapeño Rémoulade — Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Roam, a lighter yet aromatic Rhône-style red blend, and McPherson Cellars Albariño, Castaño Prado Vineyards.
- Brown-Butter Oysters with Beet and Goat Cheese Salad — Pedernales Cellars Viognier Reserve
- Cumin-Fried Squid on Red-Chili Aioli with Pico De Gallo — Duchman Family Winery Dolcetto, and McPherson Cellars Roussanne
- Oyster Pan Roast — Brennan Vineyards 2012 Lily
- Crawfish Dauphine — Messina Hof Winery Riesling (Father and Son Cuvee)
- Pan-Seared Grouper in Tomato Broth with Crisp Garlic, Shrimp and Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts — Perissos Vineyard and Winery Aglianico, and Llano Estacado Winery Montepulciano
- Pistachio Tiramisu — Messina Hof Winery Papa Paulo Port
I hope you have a fantastic holiday season no matter what your ethnic or religious persuasion. Celebrate and toast the occasion with your favorite Texas wine.
All Texas wines featured in this article were Texas appellation, meaning that they were made from 75 percent or more Texas-grown grapes. These wines are available at the wineries, many of which offer online sales and shipping to your home or drop ship location (with adult signature upon receipt). Some are distributed and found in local markets (Central Market and Whole Foods in Texas) and wine stores, and especially at Spec’s Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods across the state.
NOTE: Please be advised that wines from Texas wineries that display “For Sale in Texas Only” on their labels are not generally made from locally grown Texas grapes. Please support Texas wineries that have signed the Texas Winery and Winemaker Pledge.