Or so I’ve heard. My eyes? Maybe. A certain duo jutting out below those baby blues? Sure, why not. Occasionally the compliment was about a pair not anatomically correct to my anatomy, but rather attached to certain bold behaviors I’ve exhibited from time to time. Regardless, when you find a nice pair, it’s worth noting.Last week my various pairs and I were invited by the awesome folks at Salt Lake’s premier hard cidery, Mountain West, to pair some food with their tasty brews.
I loved the idea of doing it, and was extremely flattered that I was asked, so naturally I said “YES!!!” Then I sat down and thought about what I was about to get into, and got nervous. It’s been about 6 months since I’ve done any cooking in my heels, and the “audience” for these parings were members of the local restaurant industry. Sure I’ve done pairings before, but usually for people who loved me, and would be kind in their feedback if they wanted another spoonful of my food anytime soon. These were strangers, people in the know, who didn’t know me. Not to mention I wanted to make sure my new friends at the cidery would continue to be so after industry night. But when you’ve got a nice pair, you don’t let a slight case of the jitters stop you. At least I didn’t.
Pairing food with cider (or wine, or beer) isn’t really as daunting as it sounds. Yes, there are probably thousands of books and article devoted to the topic, but in my mind there are really only three rules:
- Pair the cider with something with similar taste (ex: tart flavors with tart flavors);
- Pair the cider with something with contrasting taste (ex: tart with rich & creamy), and;
- If you love two things together, then toss the rules and just enjoy what you like.
So with those rules in mind, and a fun trial run with the cidery crew, a few flavors, and ample cider to wash it down, cider pairing night went off without a hitch. The people attending were friendly and receptive, shared other pairing suggestions, and hopefully walked away with a few new ideas, an armful of cider, and orders for much more.
As for me? I learned a little bit more, had a blast working with a terrific bunch of cider slingers, and am looking forward to the next time we celebrate some nice pairs. 🙂
Mountain West’s flagship cider is Ruby. Dry and full-bodied, an english-style cider that has all the best of the apple without being cloyingly sweet. This is the cider I paired with spicy and smokey flavors, because Ruby can stand up to them. For this particular pairing, and keeping in mind the season and countless parties and pot lucks that will doubtless ensue, I made up a batch of my Pimentón Almonds. Smokey, spicy and a tiny bit sweet, alongside Ruby they made one hell of a nice pair!
Makes about 3 cups
- 3 cups raw almonds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika (Pimentón Dulce)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika (Pimentón Picante)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Maldon or other flakey sea salt for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine pimento, honey, olive oil and salt in a bowl, then add nuts and mix until wellcombined.
Spread nut mixture out evenly onto the baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle flakey sea salt on top of almonds. Bake until toasted and fragrant, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes. Separate the nuts while they are still hot so they don’t clump together. Cool completely before serving. These will keep in an airtight container for a few days.