I usually prefer simple food with great wines, like a grilled steak with a big Bordeaux or Rhône – or the opposite, complex foods with simpler wines, such as seafood with exotic spices and sauces with a clean, crisp white. If there’s too much going on between the food and wine, I often find it creates a clash for me.
At New York’s Telepan, however, things are different. Chef Bill Telepan’s cooking is quite complex, with menu descriptions that leave you both intrigued by the possibilities, but scratching your head in doubt that a dish can actually work. Items include a yellowtail tabbouleh – which is sashimi yellowtail with faro tabbouleh, cured tuna and mint – and roasted chicken with egg pasta, wilted greens and salted ham (which is how it came out, as opposed to having the spring vegetables and crème fraîche on the menu).
Neither of these dishes screams any particular wine to me – not to mention that items like mint and greens can often spell doom for a wine. Which is a shame, because the wine list at Telepan is loaded with food-friendly Burgundies and Italians, along with solid whites from the Loire and more. It’s a wine geek’s kind of list.
Luckily the restaurant employs a knowledgeable sommelier, Aaron Von Rock, who suggested Pojer & Sandri’s Müller Thurgau Vigneti delle Dolomiti Palai. Müller Thurgau would never be confused with a world-class grape, but in Northeast Italy it can produce good wines. In this case it cut through the fish like a rapier, while the tabbouleh and its mint component bounced off the herb and citrus notes of the wine. It was a lovely interplay of flavors and textures.
As for the chicken, and the red wine to follow, I already had my eye set on an ’02 Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes from Hudelot-Baillet, and Von Rock didn’t steer me off my course. Sometimes sommeliers will let the diner do his own thing, without any warning, on the assumption that the customer is always right. I’d like to think Von Rock concurred with my choice because it was a good match, which it turned out to be. As with the white, the chicken and Chambolle were on a two-way street, each working with the other's texture and flavors.
It’s not the tack I normally take, complex and complex together – but at Telepan, where neither the food nor the wine are for the uninitiated, it’s working marvelously.
When you match food and wine, what rules do you follow (or ignore)?
Elwood Reid — July 7, 2006 6:58pm ET
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Justin Mcauliffe — Vancouver, Canada — July 8, 2006 1:20pm ET
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Jeffrey Ghi — New York — July 10, 2006 9:55am ET
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Joshua Masur — Redwood City, CA — July 10, 2006 12:08pm ET
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Dan Jaworek — Chicago — July 10, 2006 1:53pm ET
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