Posts Tagged : pairing

Craving for Crayfish

Text Ilkka Sirén |

Yes. It’s that time of the year again. Like every year on 21st of July at noon the crayfishing season starts. And like every year I’m both excited and just a tiny bit scared. All though very delicious the crayfish brings with it a series of long dinner parties where aquavit schnapps flows like water. But we will get back to that in a minute.

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Going crayfishing with my son – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The crayfish season is open from 21st of July until the end of October. That’s the only period when you can legally catch crayfish. You can find the little creatures in some rivers and lakes. Like with mushrooms the locations of the best spots to catch crayfish are secrets that people usually keep to themselves. I’m fairly new to crayfishing but already I’m scanning my lake for the best spots and I wont make a big noise if I do find a great location. Why? I’m not sure but I think that’s just the nature of the game. I usually go with a small rowing boat and place the crayfish traps in the afternoon. These small and tasty crustaceans are usually active during the night. So, normally you would go check the traps maybe just before you go to sleep and very early in the morning.

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Dill – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The hard part is catching the crayfish, cooking them is fairly straightforward. You clean them, boil them in hot water with some salt, sugar, dill and a dash of beer. The dill is actually the king of the table. It’s not just used to flavour the broth but people even decorate the table with it for the crayfish dinner parties. And if you have a headache the next morning it’s always the dill’s fault, not the schnapps. The crayfish dinner parties usually start with a soup. In this case my wife’s creamy chanterelle soup with cold-smoked reindeer shavings, chives and black pepper on top. Simply delicious.

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Creamy chanterelle soup – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

To pair with the soup we had Niepoort’s Dócil Riesling 2011. A Mosel-like white wine from the Douro. A fabulous pairing with the soup I must say. Although the wine has more flesh around the bones than its German cousins, the quality for a fresh riesling from Douro is still pretty damn fantastic. One reason for this is the high vineyards at 800+ meters above sea level. Making a wine this fresh with 8% alcohol in Douro is no walk in the park but Niepoort nailed it. A light wine with the starter soup was good way to kick things off.

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Niepoort Dócil Riesling 2011 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Next up was: crayfish. A platter of these red devils is a feast for eyes. The prices of Finnish crayfish can get quite high so catching them yourself is not only fun but it can save your wallet from imploding. Eating them is a form of art. You have special crayfish knives but mostly you work them by hand. The claws contain some of that delcious broth as well as some meat. You can eat it as such or with some white bread and butter. Simple and tasty.

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Crayfish platter – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Then comes the schnapps. Oh boy! The traditional saying goes “one schnapps per claw”. Each crayfish has two claws and on average you usually have at least 10 crayfish in one sitting. So, that means you would have to down 20 shots of aquavit during the dinner. Luckily nowadays that’s just a saying. That being said people do drink quite a bit in a traditional crayfish dinner party. It also involves a lot of singing, Helan går! (“All at once”) being the most well-known song. Aquavit doesn’t have the best reputation in Finland but make no mistake, there is some really good aquavit out there.

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Linie Double Cask Aquavit – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

One of my favorites is Linie Double Cask Aquavit. Like the Madeira wines back in the day this Norwegian aquavit matures at sea. It sails twice across the equator in sherry casks. This particular aquavit sailed on board the M/V “Tamerlane” from Oslo to Boston, then to Sydney, Singapore, Yokohama, Panama and back to Oslo. Quite an epic journey, eh? Then when it gets back to Norway it goes through an extra maturing in port wine casks. All together 22 months in cask. Definitely not the most cost-effective way of producing booze. Whatever the case it’s not only one of the best aquavits out there but it’s one of the best spirits, period.

Another great crayfish party. One thing I look forward all year and one thing I can’t wait to be over. That dill is lethal!

Fish + White Wine = Portugal

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Jani Dunne

Portugal is currently the country with the greatest annual intake of fish per person in the European Union, and the third in the world after Iceland and Japan. In fact, Portugal can brag about having the best fish in the world swim in its waters; this fact is acknowledged by some of the best Chefs de Cuisine all over the world. Everybody knows that noble examples of our fish are flown out to restaurants worldwide. As far as consumption goes, one must eat consciously and, thus, sustainably, which is the only way to keep a balanced maritime food chain.

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Mar de Portugal – Photo by Ciência Viva | All Rights Reserved

Ciência Viva has published a catalogue titled “The most popular species in the Portuguese Sea”, where they present the main species of fish of greater economical interest, which make their way from the Portuguese sea to our table. In total, twenty species of fish were selected, three types of cephalopod, three bivalve and three crustacean. For each species presented, their main morphological features, such as habitat, etc. For all of those interested, the catalogue is available here for free.

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Fish from the Portuguese Sea – Photo by Ciência Viva | All Rights Reserved

Well, if the Portuguese call the shots when it comes to fish, in white wine we are starting a buzz. Besides, these days Portugal undoubtedly offers the best whites around – whether in profile or in quality – to accompany fish at the table. Mankind thinks with the stomach; a fact that relates regional cuisine to the wine produced in the same area. Just think about it: the best combinations are cuisine plus wine of a specific region. Regarding white wine, the leap in quality that Portugal has seen in the last two decades has made all of this possible. Furthermore, these days, there must be no better pair for our fish than our wine, Portuguese Wine.

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Allo 2014 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

One example is Allo 2014, created in Quinta de Soalheiro (Vinho Verde), and the product of the plot of land between Alvarinho and Loureiro. While the Alvarinho variety gives it the structure and vigour, the Loureiro variety contributes with all its exuberance. This results in an addictive wine with only 11% alcohol, but if you relax, the next thing you know is the bottle is empty. It is a proper terrace wine, with a scent of summer, suggesting seafood or, as we had, oven-roasted Red Snappers, combined with all the freshness of aromas and flavours, and an invigorating acidity that will cleanse your palate completely as well as make you take another sip. For more on Quinta de Solheiro and its wines see here.

Ciência Viva – Agência Nacional para a Cultura Científica e Tecnológica
Parque das Nações, Alameda dos Oceanos Lote 2.10.01, 1990-223 Lisboa, Portugal
Tel: (+351) 21 898 50 20 / 21 891 71 00
Fax: (+351) 21 898 50 55 / 21 891 71 71

Quinta de Soalheiro
Alvaredo . Melgaço
4960-010 Alvaredo
Tel: (+351) 251 416 769
Fax: (+351) 251 416 771

The Holy Alliance of Cheeseburgers and Port Wine

Text Ilkka Sirén

Now before you go all “oh no he didn’t”, consider this for a second. Pairing food and wine was never meant to be an impossible task. If we start breaking things into molecular level we risk being bored to death by our own curiosity. I’m here to tell you: keep it simple. For me finding a good food match for wine is an exciting thing and the rules are, there are no rules! Yes, sometimes it can mean you have to take one for the team and try something you probably wouldn’t normally associate with certain wines. In this case a cheeseburger and port wine.

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Cheeseburger and a freshly popped cork – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Let me make something absolutely clear. I love port wine. I taste all kinds of wines all the time, and beers, and ciders, and spirits and pretty much anything with some <oomph> in it. But nothing comes close to a good port wine. It’s just an incredibly delicious liquid. There is many great food combinations to match with port. Although it’s mainly associated with desserts I think it is much more gastronomically versatile than that. I admit this burger-port match was at first just a semi-intentional attempt to provoke. I have heard people talking about matching things like juicy pepper steak with port. I thought why not something even more casual, like a hamburger. There was a voice inside my head saying this is not going to work. But I have learned to suppress that instinct.

I didn’t want to dance around it. I knew if this was going to work it had to be a cheeseburger. And not just any cheeseburger, a DOUBLE cheeseburger. Port wine and cheese is a well-known combination and one that I enjoy very much. I have always liked more the extremely tasty combination of sweet and savory, rather than going sweet with sweet. Making burgers is usually a bit devil-may-care but choosing good ingredients is essential for this match to fully succeed. Good beef with a touch of black pepper. Proper cheddar cheese, none of that pre-sliced crap. Additionally I made my own chipotle mayo to bring some nice spiciness to the mix. Pickled red onions for the acidity to give the burger some much needed zing. Always keeping in mind the very definition of a good burger: you have to be able to eat it with your hands.

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Ferreira LBV 2009 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

For the port I chose Ferreira LBV 2009. I wanted something approachable but with some good backbone. This wine is insanely flavorful. I love the mouthfeel, the texture and the upfront fruit with a spicy finish. The wine for this task can’t be no wallflower. It needs to have some character and this wine has just that. Not only is it good value for money, it’s also a very good example of a good LBV port.

So, how was it? Was it good, really? Yes it was. It might not be the fanciest combination but it was one of the most delicious wine and food combinations I’ve had in a while. If you like cheeseburgers (who doesn’t, right?) and port wine (duh!) you will like this combination. If the burger is well made. Just put a gag on your inner wine snob and enjoy something simple but very tasty food. The idea is to lower the bar for experimenting with different foods. That said, you should always keep the bar high for quality. Try it and if it’s not for you, try something else. In the end it’s all about having fun.