Cool whites for hot dishes
I ate some spicy dishes lately and was excited to bust open some white wine that would help counter the spice in the food. That's the beautiful thing about wine -- it really goes so well with what you eat, but you have to be careful you choose properly. Case in point: my partner and I went to Bill Kim's new hot spot, Urban Belly. During our meal, at one of the four communal tables, we casually talked with the couple next to us. They brought a Pinot Noir, which is a lighter red, but not necessarily a great wine for spicy food. At one point, when the guy's mouth was on fire, he commented that he was jealous of us that we had a Gewurztraminer -- a perfect choice for the dishes at Urban Belly. When we were getting up to leave, I noticed a couple waiting to be seated and they held a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Needless to say, I felt sorry for them. Live and learn, I suppose.
Covey Run Quail Series Gewurztraminer 2007
This wine got us through some pretty spicy times at Urban Belly -- and I was so glad this was the one I grabbed. Sure we could have brought a nice dry Riesling or a crisp Viognier, but this was perfect. The wine was just sweet enough and had a nice effervescence that worked with the non-spicy food (the short rib rice and bacon and squash dumplings -- holy cow!). But pairing it with the special that night -- the LA-inspired pork cutlet with udon, Napa kimchi, Chinese black beans and sweet chili pork broth -- was like a team of firefighters putting out the flames in my mouth. The dish had enough heat to make my nose run, but didn't get to linger long enough to impede the enjoyment of the meal, thanks to the wine.
Available at Kimbark Liquors & Wine in Hyde Park (1214 E. 53rd Street) for $8.99.
Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Last week my partner came into the kitchen and proclaimed, "I think I'm going to make turkey chili tonight." Drew is a great cook and every so often tries out something he's never made. This time was turkey chili. He went through the 30 cookbooks in our kitchen and found a great recipe in an obscure book, Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking. It called for chicken but he improvised. It was so good and since he added more green chiles and other spices, the dish called for a crisp white wine. I had a bottle of this California Sauvignon Blanc and decided to twist the screw cap (love that!). While this herbaceous wine is normally great with fish, chicken or a light salad, it actually paired really well with the spice of the chiles and tomatillos (that were already in a salsa verde -- I told you, he improvised). The bright grapefruit and lime notes went perfectly with the food, but the wine's slight fizziness really helped to cut the spice. And even though it's freezing outside now, remember this wine when summer comes around because it's a great sit-on-the-porch sipper.
Available at Kafka Wine Co. for $13.99.
Fantinel Vigneti Sant' Helena Collio Pinot Grigio 2006
The turkey chili got better as the week went on -- and while I was in the mood for a bottle of red tonight, we had to go with a another white to knock the spice outta the park. Enter the Vigneti Sant' Helena Collio Pinot Grigio. This wine is a little pricier than the other two, and it shows as you pour it into the glass. If you enjoy drinking lesser expensive Pinot Grigio, then you will absolutely to love this one. The slightly pink hued, coppery color is gorgeous in the glass and when it hits your tongue with its crisp citrus notes with a creamy lemon and kiwi zip, you've just discovered your new favorite splurge Pinot Grigio. And to say it went well with our dinner -- a somewhat nontraditional pairing -- it made the last batch of turkey chili that much more memorable.
Available at Artisan Cellars (222 Merchandise Mart) for $14.95.