It’s hard to show sophistication during Mardi Gras celebrations. Who can expect refinement when you’re busy thinking of ways to land you a string of beads? Now that you’ve sufficiently disgraced yourself over the past week, and with Fat Tuesday quickly approaching, it’s time to class it up a little bit with some thoughtful food and drink pairings that are sure to put you back in your friends’ good graces – or at the very least, pairings that taste good. Now obviously you can’t go from 0 to 100 at the drop of a hat, so we’re going to take it slow and pair alcohol with everyday, down-and-dirty Louisiana delights.
A Bowl o’ Crawfish
A crawfish – or scramp, as it is traditionally pronounced – might be the single most delicious thing you’ll have in New Orleans, especially if it’s in an étouffée. But on its own, there’s little that would be better than an Abita, except for Oregon Pinot Gris. The texture of the Pinot Gris will mimic the succulent flesh of the tasty crustacean while the wine’s ripe fruit acts as a foil to the Costco-sized vat of Old Bay you should have tossed them in.
Roast Duck Po’ Boy
This was my first meal in New Orleans, and I found it to be really representative of everything else there: cheap, delicious, plentiful and bad for you. My jaw hit the floor as I paid $6.50 and was given a huge French bread loaf overflowing with duck that had been roasted so long, it was falling apart. Even in October it was muggy and sweltering, so at the time I paired this with about a gallon of water. But if I had had the foresight to hydrate on the plane, I would have paired this with a Pinot. A Burgundy like this Givry is a perfect fit: Its acidity will cut through the fat and its earthiness will bring out the sweetness of the meat.
Though your mind might go directly to fried and on a po’ boy, it’s hard to escape NOLA without having at least a half dozen on the half shell. The obvious way to go would be Champagne, but you spent too much on Hurricanes last week to be able to afford that. The next best thing in wine is Muscadet from the far west of France’s Loire Valley. This austere, mineral-driven white, made from Melon grapes, echoes the briny flavors of the oysters while its high acidity keeps pace with mignonette or any other accouterments. My favorite pairing with oysters, however, is Islay Scotch. Islay peat is generally composed of compacted seaweed, so it should come as no surprise that this salty and smoky whisky should totally go with seafood.
Whether it be seafood, sausage or okra, the best gumbos tend to have their fair share of chili powder. When there’s any sort of spice involved, my mind goes straight to Riesling. Pick a kabinett from the Mosel; its sweetness will make the gumbo’s spice more flavorful and less hot. If you’re gumbo isn’t as intense, try an Aussie Shiraz. Its ripe, blue fruit should handle whatever spice there might while its earthy pepper notes will kick off the sweetness of the andouille sausage.