Tasting Table follows an “if it grows together, it goes together” philosophy. This straightforward approach to food and wine shows they don’t take themselves too seriously. Discover the secrets of a well-stocked pantry, sentiments behind shipped wine, and the importance of a cheese grater in our interview with the team behind Tasting Table. For more food and drink culture, join Tasting Table here for free.
To open, there’s a problem we all face: unexpected guests. What are some proven last-minute planning techniques and go-to menus for these inevitable situations?
“A well-stocked pantry. I like to keep cans of nice sardines, good-quality olive tapenade and other great snacks so that I can at least pull off cocktails, some dried pasta and Parmesan for easy pasta, and – if I’m really thinking ahead – some frozen hors d’oeuvres like gougéres that I can bust out.”
“My two last-minute-dinner-party secret weapons are actually cooking vessels: a ceramic tagine and a clay Japanese donabe pot. They are both ideal for easy, one-pot meals, and make a festive (and functional!) centerpiece. Stew meat, vegetables and dried fruits in the tagine and serve over couscous, or put the donabe atop a small camping stove on the table and let guests cook their own food in a simple simmering broth of miso, soy, water or stock, and whatever you have in the fridge and cabinet.”
The kitchenware scene is crowded. What are some products you couldn’t do without?
“A big molcajete (Mexican mortar and pestle), an inexpensive Japanese mandoline, a citrus hand-juicer and a well-seasoned cast-iron pan are my kitchen workhorses, used constantly to crush, slice, juice and cook.”
“How did we grate hard cheese, chocolate and nutmeg before the rasp (Microplane) grater? I can’t remember—I use it every day.”
“I am smitten with my soda-maker. I use it to make sparkling water during the day, then prep cocktails when I have guests over at night. I love that it cuts the waste of cases of bottled water.”
“Storage containers are key in my home. From storing simple syrup and iced coffee or wrangling leftovers and different types of flours, I don’t go a day without using my quart and pint containers. They don’t have to be expensive, give me something with a tight-fitting lid and I’m golden.”
We’re seeing a bar cart revival. What are some essentials for the well-stocked bar?
“Interesting bitters, a few unusual liqueurs and a small-batch syrup or two for mixing, plus good-looking tools (bar spoon, shaker, jigger, mixing glass) for doing so.”
“Beyond the must-have tools, a bar cart should have some great glasses (particularly martini and highball), a shaker and some unique bottles, including bitters and artisan liquors. Keep citrus and fresh herbs nearby to instantly brighten whatever you’re mixing.”
Tapas and sushi have dominated the foodie scene for a while now, but we feel a new trend is just around the corner. To stay ahead of the curve, what are some emerging trends?
“Restaurants inspired by ramen and izakaya cuisine (Japanese small plates meant to accompany drinks) are popping up in the major food cities, with menus conspicuously devoid of sushi. Northern Italy, Austria and Germany, long well-represented on wine lists, are getting love from chefs around the country. Restaurants devoted to flavors, techniques and dishes from the American South have opened in Boston, New York and beyond, and the Southern takeover shows no sign of stopping!”
“We’ve gone from dainty tapas to hulking platters with the rise of family-style dining. From casual to high-end, restaurants across the country are moving toward supper-style dining. This year’s tapas are probably cicchetti, or Italian small plates.”
A $20 bottle of wine can stand with the best of them in blind taste tests. Are there situations in which indulgence is expected? What are they?
“If we’re traveling to an area with a great wine-growing culture, I always buy a great bottle. It can be a hassle shipping it back or rolling it into enough clothes to make sure that it won’t break in my checked luggage. But opening a phenomenal bottle weeks, months or even a year after the relaxed aura of vacation has worn off always helps me relive a great trip.”
“If you’re buying Champagne, get the good stuff.”
Wine and food pairings are marks of a true connoisseur. What advice can you give to hopeful hosts on this important subject?
“When it makes sense, I try and follow the “if it grows together, it goes together” philosophy—if I serve cheeses from a particular region, I like to serve a wine from the same place. If I’m making a pasta dish with roots in Piedmont, Italy, I might look for great wines from that region. If I’m serving Southeast Asian food, however, it all goes out the window, and I like to pair those spicy, robustly seasoned dishes with German off-dry whites.”