Just like her favourite Caol Ila whisky, Martine Nouet is a rare find: a connoisseur of both the world's finest spirit and of the world's finest foods. Put these two knowledge pools together, and you will be able to experience and enjoy the insights of someone who is passionate about creating vibrant and interesting flavour combinations in a way that few have suggested before.
Traditionalists may be reeling in horror at the thought of whisky being embraced during the course of a meal, rather than left to the smoky confines of the postprandial smoking room. However, as younger, more adventurous drinkers join the world of whisky, so too are the conventions around the spirit changing.
Because each whisky has its own character, it is difficult to offer absolute rules to aspirant master chefs seeking to create an impact with an attention-grabbing food and whisky combination. Nouet has some suggestions, gleaned from her years of experience as a professional 'foodie' and her years as editor of the French edition of Whisky Magazine.
“When I pair food and whisky, I always start with the whisky,” says Nouet. “I start with the aromas, as this creates the texture I desire - as every whisky has its own unique 'mouth-feel.'
‘The textures of the whisky and food need to correspond, so for example, I would include some crunchy ingredients in the food if the whisky is smooth, to balance its softness with a crisp sensation on the palate.”
Nouet points out that there are several ways of working the combinations to achieve the best harmony: “You can pair food and whisky by complementing, by opposition or by similarities.”
By using this understanding, Nouet has defined some basic principles for pairing food with whisky, according to the character of the particular spirit of your choice.
“Whiskies matured in a bourbon cask are generally perfectly matched with seafood, while sherry-cask whiskies will pair with rich meats cooked in sauces. The most sublime pairing I can think of is a delicately fresh, fleshy oyster with a few drops of Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength. Another unforgettable combination is a Glenfarclas 40 Year Old with an aged (for at least four years) Gouda cheese. For something completely different, try roasted pineapple served with a long peppercorn ice-cream and Glenlivet Nadurra.”
Nouet says that there are however certain food-whisky combinations that should never be paired.
“Bringing any dish prepared with garlic close to a fine whisky is a disaster waiting to happen,” says Nouet. “And don't try to pair smoky whiskies with smoked foods - as the strong flavours clash terribly.”
Nouet will be sharing her specialist insights at the 2012 FNB Whisky Live Festival, where she will be hosting the Pick n Pay Canapé and Whisky Pairing Zone at the upcoming Durban and Johannesburg shows.
“I will be showcasing the art of pairing the sublime flavours of whisky with canapés in a hands-on interactive format, alongside some of Pick n Pay's chefs,” she says. “I will be showing whisky lovers how to make canapés using fresh ingredients, and will suggest the best whisky pairings for each.”
This fun and informative practical workshop will be spiced up with extra insights into food and whisky pairings, giving visitors to the show the confidence to create delicious whisky-paired canapés to try out at their own cocktail parties at home. Four workshops will be held each night at the festival, and will operate on a first come, first serve basis.
FNB Whisky Live Festival Facts
November is undoubtedly whisky month as it sees the FNB Whisky Live Festival grace the shores of Durban from 1 - 2 November at the Durban International Convention Centre for its inaugural show and end in Johannesburg for its 10th year anniversary at the Sandton Convention Centre from the 7th - 9th November (18h00 - 22h00 daily) for its showcase of whiskies from around the world.
A variety of ticket options are available for purchase via the website - www.whiskylivefestival.co.za. The organisers suggest you book early to avoid disappointment. There will also be deli-style food available to complete your “great night out” experience.