One of the best drinking games ever was conceived by a friend. He, a fan of travel shows, suggested a pull of beer every time Rick Steves was seen holding a beverage. Many, many drinks later, we realized the PBS travel guru very much likes his wine.
But that’s not always the case. There are a fair number of travel and cooking shows that don’t always stress the beverage side of the coin. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but pairing enthusiasts are left scratching their collective head. We can’t all be Anthony Bourdain (RIP), sauntering about in a foreign land with drink in hand, but we certainly can at home from our favorite TV-viewing piece of furniture.
New Scandinavian Cooking
Host Andreas Viestad is as Scandinavian as they come, with a razor-sharp wit and a bone dry sense of humor. The ale-guzzling aspect of his Viking ancestors, however, is not so obvious, or at least not advertised. Most of his dishes — which incorporate the many joys of outdoor cooking and foraging — are plated and then enjoyed with little more than water.
Enhance those dishes by not only imbibing like a Norwegian but doing so with the Nordic ingredients very much in mind. So many of the show’s recipes revolve around Scandinavian staples like potato, apple, lamb, root vegetables, and fish. A great aperitif or post-meal sipper here is aquavit, made from fennel, dill, or caraway (and barrel-aged to great results).
With the dishes themselves, look to match both their inherent brightness and earthiness. Lamb calls for medium-bodied, character-driven wines like Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. Fresh fish does great with most Chardonnay while the veggies and often vinegar-kick they pack are perfect for a cider or refreshing white wine like Müller-Thurgau. Try mead alongside one of Viestad’s hearty desserts.
There could be a sibling show devoted entirely to matching these quickly assembled meals with drinks. But until that show comes into existence, you’ll have to fend for yourself. Our advice? Work wholly around the secret ingredient. Also, try to match the weight of the dishes. Light and delicate platings need little more than the subtlety a good brut IPA provides. Dense dishes need the might of Tannat or Merlot.
But the show’s dishes are often extremely broad and unexpected. That said, go with the most flexible drinks out there, just to be safe. Utilize agile sippers like pilsner, Pinot Gris, or, unbeknownst to many, a good subtle gin.
One of the greatest things about Good Eats is that it’s both nerdy and accessible. Host and creator Alton Brown is nothing if not educational and entertaining. So too are the best pairings. Get in there deep, for Alton’s sake. He moves fast and keeping up is half the battle. Go for complex drinks like saison beers, infused spirits, or amphora wine.
Oh, and drink every time there’s a weird 90s font used to describe something or an extra-dated dissolve.
The Great British Baking Show
This show brings dessert — and other baked goods — to the fore and, as a result, a whole new family of pairing candidates. The best approach here is trial and error. Things like port, vin santo, dessert wine (ice and late-harvest), imperial stout, brandy, bourbon, and more do great with sweeter items. Mix and match in small portions according to what’s being made on the show and see what works. It’s a fun way to expand your palate and complement a dish so often served by its lonesome. No shame if you simply settle on a shot of espresso as your best pairing option.
Drink every time a contestant gulps, you see a Union Jack, or somebody fans something warm, fresh out of the oven.
While there’s some drinking on this show, David Chang and company are often eating on the run or making no mention of what’s in their glass. Because what they’re eating is often exotic or at least jam-packed with giant flavors, it’s best to line up an arsenal of drinks that can stand up to such a thing. Look to wines like Riesling and Zinfandel and beers like imperial IPAs and German-style bocks for assistance.
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