Pair Off!

Seasonal appetizers + local libations = party perfection!

 Photography by Jen Fariello 

’Tis the season for throwing parties—and all good parties involve fabulous food and delicious drinks. When planning your party, remember to explore what you have in your local area. Virginia wines, beer, and ciders are amazingly complex and great fun to pair with foods.

The first step to crafting the perfect pairing? Know your guests. For wine lovers, select at least three varieties: one each red, white, and sparkling. If your friends prefer beer, select a lighter beer, a darker beer, and an IPA. If cider is a favorite, choose a seasonal flavor as well as a basic apple-based cider. The best parties have a good blend of all three beverages.

For food, a beautiful cheese display can serve as a centerpiece, especially paired with a suggested beverage (or several). Or, position the cheese display in a different part of the house from the rest of your party food; for example, a cheese platter positioned on a kitchen island can pull friends from the dining room, which can often be overcrowded. Prepare a variety of foods, most of which can be made and finished in advance. If you plan to put the finishing touches on a recipe while your guests are there, make sure it is something you feel comfortable doing with an audience because you know you will have one!

Finally, in pairing anything, make sure the beverage does not overpower the food and that the food does not overpower the beverage. The pairing should enhance and not take over. Use small tasting glasses, and position some glassware with the beverage near its paired food. Need some inspiration? Here are a few recipes with suggested pairings to get you started.

Sriracha-Lime Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce

with Rappahannock Sparkling Rosé

  • 2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled
  • ¼ cup sriracha
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large plastic bag, combine all ingredients, massaging the shrimp to incorporate the flavors. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerated for up to 12 hours. Heat a grill to medium-high, and drain the shrimp. Place the shrimp on skewers, and grill until cooked through. 

For the chimichurri sauce:

  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Juice and zest the lime. Combine with remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor or blender. Add additional olive oil if mixture is too dry. Serve with the shrimp; shrimp can be served warm or chilled. 

Makes approximately 36

Butternut Squash Soup Shooters 

with Bluestone Chardonnay

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chicken stock, warmed
  • 1 cup whipping cream, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sour cream
  • chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the insides of the squash with olive oil and place flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet. Roast 25 to 40 minutes or until you can easily insert a knife in the thickest part of the squash. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then scrape the flesh out from the outer peel and put into a blender. Add the chicken stock, whipping cream, butter, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste, and process. Thin if needed with additional stock, cream, or milk. Serve in shot glasses, top with a small dollop of sour cream, and garnish with snipped chives.

Makes 24-30

Smoked Pork Wontons with Hickory-Apple Barbecue Sauce

with Old Hill Betwixt Cider

For the smoked pork shoulder:

  • 3-5 pounds pork shoulder
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons paprika

Dry the pork and place on a baking sheet. Combine remaining ingredients and rub on the pork on all sides. Place on a smoker set at 225 degrees for 6 hours or until the internal temperature in the center of the meat registers at 180 degrees. 

  • 1 cup bottled hickory barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 ½ cups shredded smoked pork
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • oil for frying

Combine the barbecue sauce, cider, and vinegar. Set aside 1 cup to serve as a dipping sauce. Combine the remaining sauce with the shredded pork. Place 1 tablespoon of pork in the center of each wonton wrapper. Wet all four edges of the wrapper, then using the four corners of the wonton as the four directions on a map, fold the north corner to the south corner and press all the way around the two seamed sides to seal. Repeat for each wonton. Heat oil to 350 degrees and gently drop in the wontons a few at a time. (Too many added to the oil at once will decrease the temperature of the oil and make the cooked wontons too oily.) Fry until golden brown and drain on dry paper towels. 

Makes 24 wontons

Mini Lobster Mac and Cheese

with Wild Wolf Area 151 Ale

  • ½ pound macaroni
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces grated gruyere cheese
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces brie, rind removed and cut into cubes
  • 1 pound langoustine lobster
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni to al dente. In a large frying pan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly; do not allow to brown. Slowly drizzle in milk and cook until thickened. Add nutmeg and pepper to taste, then stir in cheeses. Add lobster and macaroni, and combine. Place in a 9-by-9-inch casserole dish. Melt the remaining butter, mix with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top of the macaroni. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly and the crumb is browned. Cool slightly and serve in Chinese soup spoons. 

Makes 24-36

Shiitake-Kalamata Olive Flatbread with Capers and Truffle Oil

with Glen Manor Cabernet Franc

For the crust:

  • 4 ½ cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place 2 cups of the flour in a food processor fitted with metal blade. Add yeast, sugar, and water, and process for 1 minute. Add the remaining flour, salt, and oil, and process for 2 minutes. Remove from processor and form into three balls. If the dough is too wet, knead in a bit more flour. Grease three medium bowls, and place one dough ball in each bowl. Grease the top of the ball, and cover each bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 ½ hours. 

  • 28 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons white truffle oil

While dough rises, combine the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, and salt in a blender, and blend on high until no tomato chunks remain. When dough is fully risen, roll each ball out to a 6-by-18-inch strip and place on a greased baking sheet. Top dough with sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, olives, and capers. Bake until dough is crispy and golden brown; be sure the bottom of the crust is browned as well. Drizzle with truffle oil, and cut into thin strips to serve.

Makes 36-48 

Stilton Beer Cheese Stuffed Baby Potatoes

with Brothers Craft Hoptimization 

  • 24 baby red and white potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour
  • cup milk
  • ¼ cup beer
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 8 ounces strong stilton cheese, crumbled
  • 1 ½ teaspoon minced chives

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prick each potato and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then turn. Continue to bake until potatoes are soft, approximately 7 minutes. Cool slightly. Cut the top off the potato to form a circle approximately 1 inch wide. Scoop out the potato; do not tear the skin. Set the skins aside, and place the potato filling in a small mixing bowl. Mash the potato filling, and set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Stir 1 minute to sauté, then add the flour, whisking constantly to prevent burning. Whisk in the milk. Slowly add the beer, then the mustard. Cook until thickened, then add the salt and cayenne. Add the stilton a few tablespoons at a time until all is added and combined. Add mixture to the mashed potatoes, add the chives, and stir well. Use a pastry bag to fill the potato skins with the mixture until they are slightly overfilled. Place potatoes on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the tops are beginning to turn a golden brown. 

Makes 24

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse

with Parkway Brewing Raven’s Roost Baltic Porter

  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces full fat cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 24 small chocolate shells or mini phyllo cups
  • whipped cream
  • ½ cup dark chocolate cookie crumbs or dark chocolate shavings

In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate chips, cream cheese, vanilla, and ½ cup of the heavy cream, and heat on high for 45 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir well. Place the mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Allow to rest and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining whipping cream and process on high speed in the blender until fluffy, approximately 30 seconds. Chill until cold. Place the mousse in a piping bag. Cut a hole in the end of the bag approximately 1 inch from the end. (The bag can be used with or without a piping tip.) Gently pipe the mousse into the chocolate shells or phyllo cups. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate cookie crumbs or dark chocolate shavings.

Makes 24

Bison Burger Sliders

with Port City Rivershed Ale

  • 2 pounds ground bison
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 24 slider rolls
  • assorted toppings

Separate the meat into 24 sections and form into small slider-sized patties. Season with salt and pepper, then grill to desired doneness. Combine mayonnaise and sriracha; set aside. Serve burgers on slider rolls with sauce and variety of toppings—such as cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles, and jalapeño. 

Makes 24

Tassie Pippert is a lecturer in the James Madison University Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management, a certified chef, and a certified wine specialist. She also hosts cooking shows at wineries and Un-Wine’d on VPM-PBS, a series pairing Virginia wines with her own recipes. It is her third series in a 30-year TV career.

This article originally appeared in our Drink 2019 issue.

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