Part of my youth was spent in Northern California. It is a cultural expectation in the region to drink wine with meals; reasons are obvious. I started living up to that expectation at 13 years old. I’m not sure my parents knew, but that really isn’t the important point here.
Tandem, I also developed a taste for hot and spicy food. While not a cultural expectation in Northern California, the density of ethnic restaurants and ever present force of entropy make that highly probable.
However, pairing wine with spicy food such as Thai and Indian has been problematic. Red wine is typically too dry to be a good pairing, save a well-crafted Oregon Pinot Noir. White wine, even the abundantly sweet Gewürztraminer, does not have the body to stand up to spicy food. Beer is a good option but it requires a variety with more flavor than the off-the-rack domestics and it should lean slightly to the sweet.
In New Zealand, facing a spicy Thai Beef dish which I had ordered extra-hot, I found a solution. In the US you almost never find a cider on a dinner menu, but luckily, that is not the case in New Zealand. Apple cider, the first of many varieties I would try, was the perfect pairing. It was slightly sweet which stood up to the saltiness of fish sauce in the Thai Beef, but it was cider’s effervescence which seemed to be the aspect that paired well with the hot pepper. Cider, who knew?
With a local liquor store the size of Home Depot I thought ciders might be abundant, not so. However, they had a small selection and picked one. I also noticed the liquor store is carrying beers from New Zealand’s MOA brewery, so I picked up one of those also. Experiments, always experiments! To pair we have: French Goat Feta on Garlic Cracker, French Smoked Rambol on Chili Cracker and Jalapeño Cashews on no cracker at all.
- Tietons Cider Works, Apricot Cider: Nice on its own with a solid and realistic apricot flavor, however a surprising lack of sweetness and a disappointing lack effervescence. It best paired with the French Smoked Rambol. The Goat Feta head-butted the cider to the ground since it lacked the sweetness to combat the saltiness; the cider also lacked to effervescence to make nice with the fiery Jalapeño Cashews.
- MOA, St. Josephs: Not really a beer person but this one is fantastic. Crisp, medium-bodied, slightly sweet with a little molasses and faint ginger bite. Strangely, this pairs well with everything, particularly the Jalapeno Cashews. Next test for MOA St. Josephs will be a Lamb Vindaloo!
Tieton’s Cider Works – Apricot Cider | Specs, Downtown Houston | $7
MOA – St. Joseph’s | Specs, Downtown Houston | $6