The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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28 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 { education } PHOTO ©THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA Strategies for Teaching ONE OF THE MANY ADVANTAGES OF TEACHING ABOUT WINE WITHIN THE environment of a culinary college is the access to myriad ingredients, cuisines, techniques and food palates; however given the sometimes overwhelming exposure to these things, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Over the years here at the CIA Greystone, we've learned some of the best practices for beginning the dialogue that leads to a more complex thought process on the subject of food and wine pairing than perhaps ever before in the world of the both American sommelier and culinary professional. Here are some of those ideas for your consideration: ■ You can never do enough component tasting. These exercises are like warming up before working out or playing a sports game. You have to remind your body of the sensation of tasting basic things in combination. We start almost every class with a lineup of wines with distinct characteristics—oak, sweetness, acid, tannin, alcohol and so on—as well as basic tastes of salt sugar, bitter, sour and umami. Even after 100 times, my palate is still surprised and awoken by the dramatic change in a very tannic wine after touching a bit of salt to the tongue, plus I enjoy the inevitable audible reaction from the students when testing this simple concept. Make sure the playing field is level with this quick warm up and you're set up for greater success later on. ■ Provide a neutral carrier for strong flavors. Many of the flavors we experiment with when experimenting with food and wine pairing can be overpowering on their own. Soy sauce, olive oil, sauce Bordelaise, chili based salsa can all trample even the most appropriate wine or beverage when tasted in too large a portion. And for good reason because we rarely eat any of these things straight off the spoon in a restaurant meal. One of our favorite lessons is called the "White Bean Soup" exercise and it consists of a creamy, mild flavored and downright bland soup along with a collection of up to 16 different ingredients, including finished sauces and adjusters like salt and pepper, citrus juices, grated cheese and fresh herbs, that the class spends usually up to two hours using to create various flavor combinations with a set of wines with equally diverse flavor profiles. Simple bread, white rice or unseasoned proteins work just as well and provide a better way to create a balanced bite that is more similar to what you would experience in a finished dish. Depending on your matrix, the possibilities are nearly endless. ■ Keep an open mind. Many times, on paper, combinations seem like a good idea and expectations are set before you even lift up the glass but resist the urge to speak up to your students too quickly. More important is to let them experience it on their own, searching for their unique balance and preferences and find pleasure in the work. As long as they are becoming fluent in the terms—complement, contrast, emphasize, overwhelm, to name a few—these laboratory classes will be productive, whether result - ing in a tragic ka-boom of a failure or a eureka-like discovery. FOOD AND WINE PAIRING TIPS FOR THE CLASSROOM by Traci Dutton, Manager – Public Wine & Beverage Studies, Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

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