If you’re anything like me, you have only a vague notion of what to do when it comes to food and wine pairings.
My knowledge is basically limited to the overly general advice to drink reds with meat and whites with seafood and chicken. Beyond that, I’m at a complete loss and usually have to phone a savvier friend for help.
Nationally known cookbook author and media personality Jill Silverman Hough believes most people get overwhelmed with the idea of food and wine pairing because they think it’s hard or complicated.
She notes, “They think they have to know every nuance of every wine that was ever produced to know what’ll pair with each one, but this is just not true.”
To remedy this problem, Hough says, “I like to think of myself as the antidote, as the food and wine pairing expert for the everyday wine drinker. My attitude is fun and friendly, and my ‘rules’ are ridiculously simple. I’m the absolute opposite of a pretentious wine snob.”
The California woman, who is a regular and popular presenter at cooking schools and wineries in the Bay Area, will be coming to Forgeron Cellars Tasting Room in Woodinville to share some of her tips and advice regarding food and wine pairing principles.
Though she’s never lived in Woodinville, she is familiar with the community, as her mother once resided here and she was a regular visitor over the years.
Hough has always been interested in food, having come from a family of great cooks. She says, “Eating is a family hobby and one of my most favorite things to do. I like cooking, but if I’m really honest, it’s a means to an end. I cook well because I want to eat well.”
Hough didn’t start out in the culinary field. Her affinity for writing led her to the advertising industry, where she spent more than a decade as a copywriter at agencies in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
She left it all behind when she decided to open Caledonia Kitchen, a neighborhood café in Sausalito, which she ran for five years.
Now in her third career, Hough believes she has found the perfect combination of the first two — marrying her love of writing with her love of food as a food writer and cookbook author.
She has written several cookbooks, including 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love and 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love, as well as co-authoring The Clean Plates Cookbook: Sustainable, Delicious, and Healthier Eating for Every Body.
She also developed the recipes for Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, a New York Times best seller.
Her work regularly appears in magazines such as Bon Appétit, Cooking Light and Clean Eating.
Hough’s forte is making food and cooking simple, yet special. Her passion is being able to show people that they don’t have to use fancy ingredients or complicated techniques to make great food.
She says, “Often, you can produce real delight at the table by just giving a familiar dish an unexpected twist.”
In regards to food and wine pairing, her aim is to present this activity as easy and approachable.
She explains that people mostly only worry about pairing the right wine with food when they’re throwing a dinner party or going to one.
She adds, “The other times, well, you’re eating and drinking and not really thinking about how the food and wine go together, and why should you? It’s all good. But, many don’t realize it could be great, stellar, awesome. So one challenge is to simply have people understand how great a combination of food and wine can be, and since wine isn’t inexpensive, it might be worth it to spend a little energy thinking about how to really make the most of the combination.”
The simplest rule for food and wine pairing, according to Hough, is to not worry about the nuances of a wine and instead, think about its broad characteristics, and then use those to inform your wine pairing.
She says, “For example, you may know your Sauvignon Blanc is nuanced with grassy flavors, which might influence you to pair it with a salad with fresh herbs. But more important than a nuance like grassiness, for food and wine pairing, is the broad characteristic of acidity, which is typically high in Sauvignon Blanc. So, it’s more important that your salad have a similarly acidic vinaigrette dressing than it be sprinkled with herbs. All the herbs in the world won’t help the wine’s more broad characteristic — acidity — work with the food.”
Hough admits to liking most wine, though her favorites tend to be middle-of-the road varieties because they’re easiest to pair with food. She prefers light-to-medium-bodied whites like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio with salads, chicken and fish; lighter reds such as Pinot Noir with salmon, pork and chicken and Zinfandel and Syrah in particular with homemade pizza.
“One of my favorite combinations is Riesling and lighter Asian foods, like stir fry, especially with a little spice,” she adds. “And I really love Rosé because it goes so well with so many things, but especially because it goes with Mexican food, which I absolutely adore!”
What: A fun, interactive afternoon of food and wine with nationally known cookbook author Jill Silverman Hough
When: June 8 at 1 or 3 p.m.
Where: Forgeron Cellars Tasting Room in Woodinville
Tickets: $23 without the book, $35 including the book (100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love)