May. 12, 2010 - Issue #760: The Meat Issue
Paring wine and beer with the out of the ordinaryWine
Snake meat has a similar texture and taste to freshwater lake fish—it is akin to catfish, only a tad more pungent. As such, avoid red wine and choose a white wine, rosé, or sparkling wine that will not overwhelm the delicate texture and flavours. If the python is lightly seasoned and poached, grilled or baked, choose a light white wine like unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis is lovely), Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry Riesling. If it’s fried and/or battered, definitely choose a sparkling wine like Italian Prosecco or French Champagne. A Cabernet-based rosé from Canada or a Provençal rosé from France would work well if it is prepared in a heavier sauce.
Alligator meat, especially from the tail, is akin to the white portion of pork. The rest of it is similar to chicken or rabbit, along with a faint fishiness reminiscent of frog’s legs. Stick to medium-bodied white and light-bodied red wines. Pinot Gris, Grenache Blanc (ie white Châteauneuf-du-Pape), Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Blanc would all work well for white wines. Lighter-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir or Gamay/Beaujolais, are good choices if it is served in a red sauce. The spiciness in Cajun-style alligator necessitates a wine with some sweetness to balance the heat. German Riesling, late harvest Muscat, and even Icewine are good choices.
Kangaroo meat is like a cross between beef and venison; its flavour is reminiscent of wild game. Choose a medium- to full-bodied red wine. Australian wines are a great choice (when in doubt, choose a wine that originates from the same place as the food), but try to avoid those super fruity Aussie Shirazes—the fruit will overwhelm the subtler flavours in the meat. Instead, pick something with a little more restraint, like a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coonawarra region or a GSM (Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre) blend. Outside of Australia, Bordeaux blends are a good choice—check out Canadian or American Meritage.
As the name suggests, muskox has a musky, gamey taste reminiscent of lamb or wild boar, and a texture similar to bison. Accordingly, it pairs well with the classic lamb and wine pairing: Bordeaux. Any hearty red wine would work nicely, such as New World Cabernet blends and traditional Italian wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Portuguese red wines, especially those primarily made from the traditional Touriga Nacional grape, would also make a great pairing.
I found this one the most challenging. Its body is delicate, like fish, but it has a brutally strong aroma and final flavour punch. That is a hard combination to pair. It takes quite the beer to complement this meat. After much consternation, I settled on two options: smoke and pepper. For smoke, we need a German smoked rauchbier and the only one available in town is Trois Mousquetaires Rauchbier. Its dark roast malt is dried out by a pleasant smoke linger. Alley Kat’s limited edition Smoked Porter might work too. As for pepper, I say try another Quebec brewer, Dieu du Ciel, and their Route des Epices, which is an amber ale heavily spiced with black and green peppercorns. Neither beer would push aside the python flavour, but each would stand its ground against the aromas.
Alligator’s light pork/chicken hybrid quality would depend on how you prepare it. If grilled or delicately sautéed, I would suggest an English bitter or pale ale, which has a balance of malt sweetness and bitter. Alley Kat’s Full Moon might be a good local option, as would Fuller’s London Pride. If prepared in a heartier manner, it would need something a little more substantive in body, like Howe Sound Rail Ale Nut Brown. However, my favourite suggestion might be Schneider Aventinus Weizenbock—the rich malt base with a complex spiciness of clove and banana would offer an interesting contrast.
Kangaroo is rather gamey with a pungent taste. It needs a beer that can hold up to the stronger flavour profile, meaning something that leans toward sweet, but remains committed to being refreshing. The perfect style would be Oktoberfest, but its are scarce in Edmonton. Instead, I would try Paddock Wood’s new seasonal, Maibock, which is a bit bigger than an Oktoberfest, but has a similar profile. A bit of a darker choice might be an old ale, like Yukon’s Lead Dog.
I am told muskox is similar to wild boar, which means it is strong and smelly and rather rich. A regular dark ale would push the rich side too much without offering anything original, so I am going to suggest going for contrast, without losing complexity. A Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA, with its huge hops and overall big presence, might wrestle nicely wwith muskox. Or, to be even more creative, go for Westmalle Dubbel, one of those funky Belgian beers, as it has a rich caramel base accented by peppery spiciness for a complex impression.
The exotic meats featured here can be purchased from Smokin' Iron Farms
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