Refreshing Heat

By Jeff Harding | Will Blunt

By

Jeff Harding
Will Blunt
Grilled Baby Gem Lettuces paired with Assyrtiko, Koutsoyannopoulis, Santorini, Greece, 2012
Grilled Baby Gem Lettuces paired with Assyrtiko, Koutsoyannopoulis, Santorini, Greece, 2012

Heat is not the word that comes to mind when making a salad, or when pairing it with wine. But at Gwen in Hollywood, that’s exactly what happens. Chef Gareth Evans incorporates heat in as many elements of his dish of Grilled Baby Gem Lettuce, Sauerkraut, Pickled Pearl Onions, Arugula, Caraway, and Buttermilk as possible. He cooks the lettuces in a warm water bath, and char grills the baby gems to maintain their texture. Evans ferments cabbage, pickles onions, dehydrates peppy arugula, and toasts caraway, too. He cools it all back down with tangy buttermilk—acid, which is essentially another form of heat, right?

The beauty of this dish is how it comes together, and works as a palate cleanser. After all, it’s from his tasting menu (three, five, and 10 course menus are on the offer at Gwen). So, when looking for a wine pairing, Sommelier Fahara Zamorano looked to fleshy whites with refreshing acidity and a mineral backbone (Pinot Blanc, Muscadet, etc). Again heat plays its part because the volcanic soil in Santorini makes the connection. Assyrtiko from Koutsoyannopoulis provides a smoky backdrop for waxy texture, minimal fruit, and, ultimately, a minerality that’s “like licking rocks,” says Zamorano.

Sometimes wines complement or contrast a dish, or its components. The magic of this duo is in the composite nature of the wine amping up the “togetherness” of the salad components. It’s a mirror to the dish, showing how disparate flavors combine to make a marvelous whole. Bitter arugula and “sour” kraut can be “curse words for wine pairing,” but Zamorano’s pairing finds a little of each in the wine, and reflects a bigger sum of its parts.

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