By Susan Cashin
Austin these days is experiencing a renaissance of locally produced foods, wines and other beverages. And so, when asked to select drinks for the first Edible Austin Thanksgiving menu, I happily became part of a quest to scour Central Texas for the finest libations available. With a very unconventional menu in hand, I set off into the wide world of wine and spirits, determined to become a matchmaker.
Hmmmm…would the duck in tangerine glaze be smitten by an elegant New Zealand pinot noir, or would a perfumed-yet-racy Alsatian gewürztraminer steal him away? How to find out?
I decided to think outside the bottle, bring in a variety of choices, and see if the magic happened. While you’ll find a solid representation of great beverages from Texas, I also wanted to include some from the rest of the world, too. I also made sure to find beverages in a variety of price ranges, as well as pairings that would generate lively conversation at our readers’ holiday tables.
So I gathered an assortment of liquid treasures and brought them before 11 fellow culinary pilgrims. The feast was prepared in an atmosphere of laughter and bonhomie, and, yes, the magic happened. Strangers and acquaintances turned into friends and comrades, through the communion of food and drink. And that’s the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
Below are our informal panel’s favorite food/beverage matches. A note about the “CAT scan” shorthand I use: C is for color, A is for aroma and T is for taste.
Dripping Springs Cocktail
Start with 1 ounce Dripping Springs Vodka and a splash of Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur on ice, then add sparkling water. The new Texas vodka on the block is a hit, especially when wedded with Paula’s citrus zing.
Real Ale Brewing Company Sampler Six-Pack
For those who like to start a holiday get-together with a little less in the way of alcoholic kick, this selection of bright, flavorful, made-in-Texas ales is just the thing. All three styles—Brewhouse Brown Ale, Full Moon Pale Ale, Rio Blanco Pale Ale—are terrific with a nuts-and-cheese platter.
Tangerine Glazed Duck with Rice and Sausage Stuffing
2004 Trimbach Gewürztraminer – Alsace, France $18.75
A – Lychee, ginger, flowers, spices
T – Off-dry, a hint of sweetness with clean refreshing acidity and
explosion of spice and exotic fruit flavors.
Yes, the duck and the racy fraulein (German is also spoken in this part of France) ran away with each other. This is a lush, opulently textured white wine that stood up beautifully to the richness of the duck as well as the tangy sweetness of the tangerine glaze.
Standing Rib Roast of Bison with Herbs
Three wines were big enough to run with the buffalo. Try one or all!
C – Bright, deep ruby with hints of purple
A – Black currant, plum, dark chocolate and spice
T – Ripe black fruits with balanced tannins and alcohol
A New World wine that pays homage to classic elegant French winemaking. A great value, too.
2002 Chateau de Mercues – AOC Cahors France $14.85
C – Deep, inky, black
A – Black fruits, spices, dried herbs, leather, and chocolate
T – Bold, ripe fruits and tannins packed in a powerhouse of a wine.
Another strong wine from malbec grapes—muscular, not fatty.
2004 Dickson Troubadour – AVA Texas Hill Country $35.00
C – Medium deep cherry red
A – Baked dark berries, spices, leather, smoky notes
T – Tart red berries, currants, raspberries, cranberries with cloves, nutmeg and smoked spice and cured lean meats.
This 67% merlot/ 33% malbec, is lighter and leaner than the previous two, but still is a great choice for red meats and game.
Pumpkin and Mushroom Gratin with Colby
2006 Becker Vineyards Viognier – AVA Texas Hill Country $14.95
C – Bright, light straw yellow
A – Light floral and ripe stone fruits, peach, mango, apricot
T – A dry white laced with a medley of ripe tropical fruits, balanced alcohol and acidity, and a lovely finish.
Weighty enough to hold its own with the meatiness of the mushrooms, but fruity enough to cut through the Colby cheese.
Persimmon Rum Cake
2005 Domaine des Bernardins –Muscat Beaumes de Venise – France $20.55
C – Bright golden straw
A – Exotic fruits, honey, spices, and honeysuckle
T – Taste mirrors the aroma—low acidity and a long, luxuriant finish.
A magically perfect match for brown sugar and baking spices.
Bourbon Pumpkin Tart
Katz’s “Ethiopian Harrar Dark Roast Fair Trade Certified
Organic” Coffee – Texas $10.99/lb.
C – Deep black mahogany
A – Fruit with roasted nuts
T – A rich, full-bodied coffee, with sweet, nutty undertones. Perfect with bourbon flavors.
Sesa Vetiver Green Tea – Texas Wooden Box of 20 bags $8.99
C – Amber
A – Deep and fragrant with a mint overlay
T – Pure green tea leaves combined with vetiver (a fragrant perennial grass) and mint provide a clean, fuller-bodied green tea that balances the sweetness and flavors of this tart.