For Aly Moore, grasshoppers were the gateway bug.
Moore tried tacos de chapulines, or grasshopper tacos, during a summer building health clinics in Mexico, and that first taste opened the door to what would become her calling. Five years later, the Los Angeles resident and founder of Eat Bugs Events has made it her mission to educate people on the merits of eating bugs, offering (somewhat) approachable events like gourmet wine and bug tastings.
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In its latest report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggests that insects are a viable solution for sustainably and affordably feeding the world’s population, which could reach nine billion by 2050. Moore, who studied public health at Yale University, hosts events that aim to normalize a practice here in the U.S. that has already been adopted by countries around the world.
There’s debate in the industry about the best way to market bugs to the masses, Moore says, with some proposing the “Trojan Horse” method—like sneaking the bugs into protein bars—while others insist the insects shouldn’t be hidden.
“The wine pairing allows for a brazen display of insects in their full form, and it allows for us to treat them as a delicacy,” Moore says.
Just like with traditional cuisine, there are rules to pairing wine with bugs. While a conventional wine tasting goes from lighter to heavier varieties, Moore says she tries to do a psychological order for the bugs.
“I start with easier bugs — a protein bar or some chocolate, and then make my way down to the scorpion or the June beetle,” she says. Although there’s no official guide book for wine and bug pairings, Moore has some suggestions, below, for the most ideal combinations to fully appreciate the depths of the insects’ flavor profiles.
"Bubbles and Champagne go well with anything, so I usually open the tasting with some bubbles and chocolate, and then a Lithic protein bar. We’ve done many tastings and people cannot tell they’re made with bugs,” she says. Made with almonds, cricket powder, banana, honey and sea salt, Moore says they taste like brownies but aren’t loaded with sugar.
Queen Weaver Ant + Chenin Blanc
"The Queen Weaver Ant has a sour, lemony taste that goes well with an aromatic white with fruit and floral notes," she says.
Crickets + Riesling
According to Moore, the nuanced flavors of a cricket can be difficult to pick up on, so they’re often prepared with seasonings, like the honey mustard crickets from Entomo Farms. “Sweet foods make wine seem drier than it really is, so an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine like a Riesling can balance the flavor of honey mustard crickets,” she says.
Scorpions and Giant Water Bugs + Sauvignon Blanc
"Land lobster and land shrimp, or scorpions and giant water bugs, actually have a slightly fishy taste to them, and they pair well with the buttery whites,” says Moore.
Grasshoppers + Cabernet Sauvignon
A full-bodied red like a Cabernet Sauvignon typically pairs well with red meat, and, Moore explains, grasshoppers are among the meatier bugs in the edible insect world.
Mealworms + Grenache
"There are some insects that are more earthy and nutty, like mealworms, and they’ll typically go with lighter reds,” she says. “I like to match their nutty taste and light, crunchy texture with a crisp wine that has the right amount of fruit and richness, like a Grenache."
Barbecue Mealworms + Malbec
"A big red like a Malbec won't be overshadowed by sweet flavors, spicy flavors or barbecue, so often I’ll pair those with barbecue-flavored mealworms from Entomo Farms, which are a huge hit."
Sago Grubs + Zinfandel
"A typical rule of thumb is that ‘same goes with same.’ Zinfandel will go well with something rich, like a pâté or a mousse, so ideally I’d find some Sago Grubs,” says Moore. “These worms have a distinct taste similar to bacon, so you need a big red with loads of punch.”