A new year brings with it the opportunity for new chefs to change the way we eat, what we eat, and what we eat our food with.
Over the last few years, the latter has become of far greater importance than ever, with food and alcohol pairings becoming a staple in menus across the country. From 13 course degustations to burger joints, having a recommended drink pairing is a brilliant way to ensure your customers correctly match their meal for the best possible dining experience. Sure, there’s the staple pairings like champagne and oysters or red meat with red wine, but many customers can already pair the two together.
In this article we will look ahead at some future food trends, what’s hot in the world of food and alcohol pairings plus some general considerations for kicking off your pairing menu. We’ve also included our top 5 pairings for you to try out for yourself!
- First and foremost, the whole point of a pairing menu is to accent a particular element of either the meal or drink. Don’t get stuck if your drink or dish alone isn’t amazing, its purpose should be to bring alive an element when the two are paired together.
- Ensure you have a solid plan between the kitchen and the bar in order to smoothly roll out a pairing menu. There’s nothing worse than food going cold whilst waiting for a drink to be served if your bar isn’t equipped to handle the uptake in drink orders, or vice versa.
- Size matters when it comes to pairings, so try to match a smaller drink with your entre and deserts and a larger drink to accompany a main.
- Ensure you promote your pairings online as well as inside your venue – you might have a pairing menu separate to your main menu, but then list recommended drinks with all your main menu items. It’s an easy way to increase your average customer spend. This also means all wait staff needs to be trained up on your pairings and are confident enough to recommend them to customers.
Trending food and alcohol pairings:
- Australia is obsessed with craft beer, and this isn’t going away anytime soon. This has had a roll on effect to food and alcohol pairings, with many venues – including Neil Perry’s Burger Project for example – now pairing beer with food.
- With the rise in health conscious consumers moving away from alcohol, creating delicious mocktails allow non-drinkers the ability to get in on the fun of a paired menu. Plenty of degustation menus now come paired with mocktails instead of or in addition to traditional cocktails or wine.
- A growing trend – but one that will certainly gain momentum in the coming years, especially in the face of food shortages is cooking with insects. They are highly nutritious and can be a welcome inclusion in either your food menu or drinks menu!
- Another big trend is using native and foraged ingredients. More chefs are looking at using indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques, with cooking over fire (generally with charcoal ovens) becoming more and more popular.
- Move over acai bowls – poke bowls will take over the foodie scene this year. A mix between a hearty health bowl and sushi, it’s a welcome addition on a growing number of menus across the country.
Five food and alcohol pairings to incorporate into your menu
Pilsner & Poke
Not only does this roll nicely off the tongue, but pairing the lively carbonation and round, subtle maltiness of the pilsner with the fresh raw salmon or tuna in the poke bowl is a winning combo. There are literally hundreds of variations on the poke bowl, but for a starter you can try Adam Liaw’s tuna, nori and avocado poke bowl recipe here.
Smoky Westside Cocktail/Mocktail with Charcoal Beef Burger and Grilled Pepper
If you’ve jumped on the smoked / open fire trend, you’ll be able to perfectly match your menu by carrying through that smoky flavour from dish to drink. Make some smoked salt and add a dash into this delicious smoky Westside cocktail (for a mocktail version simply skip the tequila and mescal and add extra grapefruit juice). You can even rim your glass with this smoked salt for that added wow factor. This will pair perfectly with our delicious charcoal and grilled pepper burger below.
Quandong Gin with Pavlova, rose sorbet and quandong cream
A delicious native Australian fruit, the quandong is highly nutritious and comes jam packed with vitamin C and delicious flavour – it’s a bit similar to a peach but with sour, earthy notes that’s great for both sweet and savoury dishes. This spin off to the classic Pavlova features quandong’s simmered in in crème de cassis, which adds tartness to the dish, cutting through the sweetness of the cream and meringue. The sorbet keeps the meringue cool and fresh-tasting, and when consumed with a neat quandong gin makes for a perfect pairing.
Tequila shot, lemon and Mexican beer with insect tacos and guacamole
A staple in Mexican culture, grasshoppers, mescal worms and escomole (insect eggs) will need to be shipped to Australia dehydrated, but once rehydrated these critters are delicious, high in protein and a welcome addition to any Mexican dish. If a full blown insect taco is pushing the limits, try adding friend grasshopper bits into a guacamole – it’ll resemble the taste and texture of bacon bits. Accompany this with a tequila shot (paired with lemon and salt of course) and a Mexican beer. Salud!
Stout with Braised Wallaby shanks
The thick, hearty creamy stout pairs perfect with a stew, casserole or pie – but for that extra element of surprise try mixing up your shanks for wallaby shanks. This recipe by Chef Mark Olive also utilises kutjera, a native Australian bush tomato which adds a subtle sweet hint to the shanks for a fantastic end result. For an extra kick, try searing your shanks in a charcoal oven before finishing.