Pour it On!: Steakhouse Fare
There’s more to pair with steaks—and steakhouse fare—than Napa cabernet
When pairing steakhouse fare with drinks, people often think martinis and Napa cabernet, but it’s time to embrace the spectrum of red and white wine you can offer.
To help prove that, we got pairing recommendations from two experts: Brent Kroll, owner of Maxwell Park wine bar in Washington, D.C., with a 500+ bottle list, and Richard Hanauer, wine director for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ RPM restaurants in Chicago and D.C., where he oversees a list of approximately 1,100 bottles in Chicago alone. Both were named as sommeliers of the year by Food & Wine; Hanauer in 2015 and Kroll as part of the new 2018 class. So yeah, we trust their opinions.
Steak Tartare with Dijon and Egg Yolk
Kroll: I love to pair this with gewürztraminer (an aromatic wine grape variety). Instead of doing a complete palate scrub, the gewürztraminer stands up with flowers, lychee and baking spice. For me, I think gewürztraminer can stick with the delicacy of the steak.
Hanauer: I like doing Alsatian gewürztraminer. If you take tartare’s individual components with cornichons, mustard, meat, etc., you end up with a northern Alsace-style charcuterie plate. All those work well with gewürztraminer.
Crab Cake with Aioli
Kroll: Carricante (a white wine originating from Sicily, Italy) from Etna. It’s one of those unsung heroes that has a waxy texture and not oxidized. It has higher acid that brings out the acid in the aioli and has the weight for crab with a slight saline quality.
Hanauer: I would do a Bandol rosé. Garlic is too tough to pair, but Provencal rosé is great with it. Bandol takes on these flavors and you end up with an impressive wine for this dish.
Kroll: Fino sherry all day. Certain somms try to reinvent the wheel, but this is one of the most classic pairings you can find. It adds undertones of almonds, pear skin and sourdough or pumpernickel, so you get tree fruit quality.
Hanauer: I’d want something with nice weight and viscosity, so probably a Châteauneuf du Pape blanc. It has the weight and is low in fruit and high in earth flavor.
Chilled King Crab Legs
Kroll: Albariño in a heartbeat. When you have the crab, you have this salty fruitiness and a rich texture, and the albariño adds lemon and salt notes to it.
Hanauer: My favorite is a wine that comes from the island of Ischia called biancolella. For an unoaked white wine, it has the body to stand up to the king crab.
Burger with Onion Jam and Aged Cheddar
Kroll: I’d go with Rioja. It has higher acid and tannin and adds green herbal elements to clean the palate.
Hanauer: Chianti Classico all the way. You get umami from the onion and cheddar. The wine has incredible body for the burger, which is going to be juicy when you bite into it.
42-day Aged New York Strip Steak
Kroll: It’s a rich, fatty steak, and I want something gamy in my wine. I’m going with one of my favorite regions: northern Rhone. It’s syrah, which is like a horse stable, leather, cured meat and it acts like seasoning.
Hanauer: To me, this is pure Barolo or Barbaresco country. The big thing that happens during the dry-aging process is you get earthen flavors and Barolo is the earthiest wine. It’s really dry, and when you bite into the moist, juicy steak you get dry wine and it’s lights out.
Chocolate Lava Cake
Kroll: Green chartreuse is one of the best pairings I’ve ever had with chocolate lava cake. The chartreuse makes the chocolate taste dryer with a basil-tarragon element, so you’re getting this herbal note and it acts as a digestif. You have to drink it in moderation because it can get you hammered and give you a terrible hangover.
Hanauer: There’s a really cool region just to the east of Sherry called Montilla-Moriles and they use the Pedro Ximénez grape (PX). This wine more than any other really showcases the flavor of chocolate. The grapes used are so raisined and have so much red fruit, it’s like drinking chocolate with chocolate.