The traditional Galician preparation is to simply grill the freshly caught sardines over hot coals. Instead, Janet Mendel fills the tender fish with a sweet-salty ham-and-raisin stuffing and fries them to make a crunchy starter that loves a crisp Albariño.
Chris Cosentino of San Francisco's Incanto is known for his offal dishes but a hearty fish like sardine, served whole, can also appeal to the nose-to-tail crowd. Cosentino pan-fries the omega-3-rich fish with an exhilarating mix of olives, capers, lemon zest, parsley and chiles. To make this more of a main course, he prepares a crunchy salad of artichokes and sunchokes to eat alongside.
The local sardines now sold throughout California are so rich and lush-tasting that they can stand up to the smoky, charred flavors of grilling. Chef David LeFevre of Los Angeles's Water Grill adds even more character to these incredible little fish by serving them with a puckery tarragon, caper and pine nut relish. A fishmonger can bone and butterfly the sardines, making them especially easy to cook and eat.
Beaune's winemaker hangout Bar du Square doesn't serve a lot of food. But it does offer an outstanding snack that comes to the table as components to be assembled DIY-style: a can of good-quality sardines; a basket of oiled toasts; and little bowls of sweet balsamic glaze and flaky salt.