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When I worked as a caterer, I was always surprised at how randomly people matched food and wine at cocktail parties. When the choices include six hors d'oeuvres and three wines, there are any number of combinations—many far from perfect. I can't imagine that sushi, curried lamb kebabs and cheese crackers all go equally well with Riesling, Chardonnay and Zinfandel.

But cocktail food with straightforward flavors can be quite wine-friendly. I followed this rule while developing the ideas for the hors d'oeuvres here. I wanted the recipes to be quick to prepare, and they are: you don't even need to twist the soppressata sticks, and the trout for the brandade is the smoked variety rather than the salted kind, which must be soaked overnight.

If you're wondering what to drink with these hors d'oeuvres, check out the recommendations from sommeliers Madeline Triffon of Detroit's Unique Restaurant Corporation and Bobby Stuckey of the Restaurant at the Little Nell in Aspen. They don't always agree, which is reassuring—it is okay to have an Austrian white or an Italian red with my pepper crackers. But what do both experts think is a must? Champagne. "Most definitely food friendly," Stuckey says. Triffon concurs: "It goes with salt, fat and cheese—the major hors d'oeuvres food groups."

Published October 1999
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