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In each issue of F&W, we champion brilliant food and wine pairings. But back in June, chef Sang Yoon of Father’s Office in Santa Monica, California, made a case that beer can be just as perfectly meshed with food. An interesting argument that F&W Best New Chef Gavin Kaysen is hinging a fascinating dinner on tomorrow night at El Bizcocho restaurant in San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo Inn. The $125 a plate beer vs. wine dinner pits wines selected by sommelier and Trinchero Winery VP of Communications Barry Wiss against beers chosen by Stone Brewing Company CEO Greg Koch. Guests get to sample one of each with each of Kaysen’s six courses and vote on their preferences after each course. A final tally will ultimately determine the winner. I spoke with both men on their strategies and expectations:
Corner One: WINE
F&W: Do you have any pairing you’re 100 percent confident about?
Wiss: I think all of my pairings will work just incredibly. If I had to pick one in particular, the lamb with foie gras, truffle and eggplant paired with a Shiraz from South Australia—it’s just a natural match.
F&W: What about dessert—a panna cotta with lavender, rhubarb and strawberries? Do you think you can win that round hands-down?
Wiss: Absolutely. I’m trying to think of a dessert that will go with beer. I think Koch is really going to have a challenge on his hands. I’m pulling out probably the hallmark dessert wine, Muscato.
F&W: So are you anti-beer?
Wiss: I’m the first to admit that after a hard day during harvest, I like drinking a cold beer rather than a big red, but beer with fine dining? I don’t know about that.
Corner Two: BEER
F&W: Beer seems to be the underdog here. Do you agree?
Koch: El Bizcocho is a wine-centric place, which is not in our favor, but I’m throwing down the gauntlet and coming with an arsenal of beers. I’m going into this competition very lightheartedly, but that being said, I plan to knock him out of the park.
F&W: Wow. Those are some fighting words. Wiss sounds pretty confident, particularly with dessert.
Koch: Clearly he hasn’t watched the video clip, because if he had, he’d know that he has no chance in hell with that one. He could go with simple, sweet wines and we’ll crush that. Or if he thinks tannins will complement dessert, well, he doesn’t stand a chance.
F&W: Do you think you could come out of this with a clean sweep?
Koch: There is a chance that perhaps wine might possibly win one round, but it’s the overall score that takes the night. For the record, I absolutely believe there can be fantastic food and wine pairings. I just like to go to the deeper side. I’m not fighting wine. I’m just fighting the simplified generic perception of beer, and if I have to walk over a sommelier here or there to prove my point, so be it.
Check in next week to find out who wins and read comments from the winner and loser.