What We're Drinking with Outdoor

by Terry Thompson-Anderson

The advent of spring and more time outdoors combine to turn our food and beverage yearnings toward fresh flavors that pop and sizzle on the palate. Between the pages of this issue is a potpourri of adventurous and delicious dishes to add to your culinary repertoire, so how about a span of beverage pairings to help savor the many moods of the season?

Spicy Black Bean Burgers: Thoughts of savory, cumin- and chili-scented black beans bring to mind Havana and its rich heritage of black bean dishes. What better pairing for the spirited seasonings in these burgers than one of Cuba’s most famous cocktails: The mojito. To make one, start with plenty of fresh mint leaves muddled with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 ounce lime juice. Add 1½ ounces of white rum and soda water to top, and make it local using Treaty Oak Rum.

Lamb Bolly Burger with Cucumber Raita and Hari Chutney: A complex dish such as this demands a beverage that can properly shoulder all of the bold spices, as well as tame the flavor of the lamb, which is slightly gamier than beef. We suggest a tempranillo, and Spicewood Vineyards 2012 Estate Tempranillo continues to be a favorite—it was awarded gold at the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition, at the 2014 Concours International de Lyon Wine Competition in Lyon, France, and at the 2014 Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM International Wine Competition. If wine isn’t your thing, try a good “hoppy” IPA beer, such as Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewery IPA or Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle American IPA.

Lamb España: This is a rather multilayered and full-flavored dish, but could easily be overcome by an overly bold beverage. A good bet would be the Pedernales Cellars Texas GSM—a blend of Texas grenache, syrah and Mourvèdre fruit. The syrah in the blend will hold its own with the bold flavors, while the medium-bodied but flavor-packed grenache adds red berry flavors in a simple profile that won’t compete with the array of flavors. The trusty Mourvèdre holds it all together nicely.

100 Pounds of Czech Picnic Sausage: Sausage made from venison and pork butt, then smoked low and slow over pecan or oak, demands a bold brew that knows how to handle the smoke. An excellent choice would be Jester King Brewery’s Black Metal Imperial Stout. The dark roasted malt in the beer will pleasingly complement the smoky flavor profile of the sausage.

Pecan Chicken with Honey-Caramel Sauce: Chicken can be a bit of a chameleon when it comes to pairing with wine. To be considered in the pairing are the method of preparation, the taste notes and the texture. This dish includes chicken breasts butterflied and pounded thin, then sautéed in a crisp pecan-panko crumb breading. The chicken is served with caramelized carrots, which present a sweet profile, and oven-roasted potatoes—all drizzled with a honey-butter caramel sauce. To cut through, yet enhance, the sweet richness and end with a crisp aftertaste, opt for Lost Oak Winery’s 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine has a hint of apple, which will complement the sweetness, but also boasts a dry, crisp profile resulting from seven months in stainless steel.

Caramel-Pecan Tart with Pasta Frolla: Serving port wine with nuts is a classic après dinner alternative to dessert and a palate-pleasing match. Extend the pairing to nuts (pecans in the case of this rich and gooey tart) cooked in a caramelized custard that’s tucked into a flaky pastry shell. Texas Hills Vineyard’s Port Rubino has the requisite sweet notes to stand up to the sweetness of the filling, and an opulent profusion of both fruity flavors and a little brace of alcohol.