Matchmaker Pairings for Valentine’s Day

I have spent many a Valentine’s Day playing matchmaker – not matching the dates, but the plates. My historic home restaurant Windows on the World, which many remember fondly atop the World Trade Center before 9/11, played host to countless romantic trysts where I was responsible for at least the flavor fireworks–the rest being up to the romantic instincts of the couple. Naturally I wanted  their memories of our night together to be perfect, at least from a pairing perspective, so I had my go-tos which I will share with you now. You don’t have to go out to a fancy restaurant to make them happen and let’s be honest, staying home has its advantages (if you know what I mean). So here they are, just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Bubbles and bivalves – Oysters in particular are known as aphrodisiacs, and since they are at home with the foam of the ocean as I like to say, you should pair them with bubbles–sparkling wine or Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Champagne, depending on your budget. Raw on the half-shell is my favorite way to indulge, but another delicious option is to top them with a mix of panko breadcrumbs, butter and parmesan, run under the broiler until the topping is light golden. A Prosecco such as Mionetto makes a great budget option, or go with a Chardonnay-based Champagne such as Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.

Rose and artichokes – Artichokes are notoriously nasty wine partners, but I don’t buy all the bad-mouthing. You just need the right wine, and that is dry rose. Make it a love-fest by eating the artichokes grilled or roasted with olive oil, sprinkled with a little Asiago or Parmigiano cheese for extra umami. The spice in the rose stands up to the peppery/metallic notes in the artichokes, and cuts right through the saltiness of the cheese. I suggest Chateau d’Aqueria rose, or Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel.

Malmsey Madeira and dark chocolate – YOU MUST TRY THIS. Warm flourless chocolate cake is the killer pairing because of the added temperature (warm chocolate) and texture (runny chocolate) dynamics, but a simply decadent chocolate bar such as as Lindt Excellence 90% cacao is also a knee-buckling great option. Try Broadbent, or Blandy’s 10 year old Malmsey Madeira, and know that it will hold up great for a week or two after opening, so you can come back to this pairing. Trust me, you’ll want to!

As always I would love to hear what you think!

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