Dig Baton Rouge

Champagne + Crawfish

George Krause explains the art of pairing food and drink

When it comes to pairing food and drink, George Krause IV will not hesitate to buck tradition.

“I have been known to bring a bottle of bubbling moscato and drink it straight from the bottle while peeling crawfish,” he said, grinning through a full beard and surrounded by spirits at Doe’s Eat Place.

While the coldest beer in reach is what most of Baton Rouge might prefer with their spicy crawfish, Krause’s preference of sweet champagne is the very heart of a good pairing: contrasting flavors battling it out for your taste buds’ delight.

As president of the Greater Baton Rouge Bartenders Guild, Krause has mixed far too many cocktails to count. Slinging steaks as executive chef for Doe’s also seared in his credentials for knowing how to bring out the best flavors for his diners. But nailing the perfect pairing of food and drink?

“It’s still mostly luck,” he admits. This comes from one central truth Krause adheres to when asked about what to pair together: drinking what you like matters most.

“If you’re not a whisky person I’m never going to sell you a scotch that’s going to pair with this deep chocolate dessert, it’s just not going to work,” he said.

Krause starts with simple questions for his diners: do you like white or brown liquor? Sour, or sweet flavors? From there he can hone in on just which taste buds he can really light up.

“Pairing should help cleanse the palate and provide a harmony note or a contrasting note,” he said. “It’s more about finding what makes things work well together.”

This is what can trip up someone focused on ‘rules’ like only drink red wine with steak and white wine with fish. It’s more important to know the flavors you’re getting, like a heavy and fatty porterhouse smothered in butter or an herbal and citrusy sea bass. From there you can choose to either put a contrasting drink with it, like a deeply acidic red wine to cut the fatty steak, or a complementary pairing to put similar tastes side-by-side and find new ways to appreciate each one.

“You’d be surprised how well beer pairs with chocolate or strawberries,” Krause said. “Doing a milk stout or a milk porter with a chocolate ganache, they pair well because they’re going to bring out different depths with each other.”

People intimidated by puzzling out all the ways flavors interact with each other have other options to discover good pairings—research where your food comes from, and see what they eat and drink there. This is especially true for Old World dishes and wines or spirits.

“It tends to be something they’ve been doing for hundreds of years,” Krause said.

Tequila and tacos? A cab franc with butter-filled French cuisine? Sangiovese with your Italian menu? All great and well-tested pairings. So, if you plan to light up the grill for backyard barbecuing this summer, take time to consider what flavors you’re about to present to your guests. You may discover new ways to really make them sing your praises, like mixing bourbon with your sauce and serving it alongside the ribs to complement the smoke and spice.

“I mean, you’re probably drinking it while you’re making your sauce anyway,” Krause laughs. “If you’re doing it right.”

Photos by Nicholas Martino

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