Alex Witchel combines four favorites from Vino with the flavors of the Far East
Italy and China have long since shared a common passion for eating well; today many young Chinese are excited about aspects of modern Italian culture, including fashion, football, and of course food and wine.
New Yorkers don’t have to travel half-way around the world to taste great Chinese food, yet are easily flummoxed when it comes to choosing a wine to pair with their pork dumplings or Peking duck. Though I drank only Tsingtao or Yanjing beer (or failing that, Coca-Cola) with food on a trip to Beijing earlier this year, I’ve often considered the sharp bubbles of Lini’s Lambrusco a perfect partner for all manner of classic dishes from the Far-East. Indeed, the cuisine of China and Emilia-Romagna are not so far apart: both are reliant on fresh vegetables, rich, meaty flavors, and of course, noodles.
Delicious meat, fish and vegetable dishes are more often paired with beer in Beijing, like at this restaurant in Bei Hai park. But what about Lambrusco?
In “What Marco Polo Knew” (published in today’s New York Times), acclaimed writer and critic Alex Witchel takes the idea one step further, and discovers — at the suggestion of Beijing Times reader and Gary Price — that the pairing of Italian wine and Chinese cuisine is not so unlikely. In her Feed Me column, Witchel admits to having “neither the patience nor the back for schlepping” to Flushing, but she did make it down to East 27th Street where she picked up four of our favorite wines from Vino, which were then taken home and paired with dishes from Shun Lee West, Wu Liang Ye and Szechuan Gourmet, three of Manhattan’s top Chinese restaurants. So how did these Italian bottles rate with Chinese take-out?
Typical Beijing dumplings known as “jaozi” and “baozi” served at a popular student eatery near the university.
Here are some of Alex’s tasting comments:
Lambrusco Scuro NV Lini and fried pork dumplings: “A fizzy purple… a light, bright match but not quite special enough to repeat.”
Rosso di Montalcino 2005 Cerbaia and filet mignon with black peppercorn sauce: “Lovely… [but] looking for love in all the wrong places.”
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2005 Le Ragose and Peking duck: “Transcendent… we all swore never to have one without the other again.”
Inzolia 2008 ERA and tofu with chili-minced pork: “Stood up to it like David to Goliath, unexpectedly heroic.”
Read the full article here.
Italian ragazzi have their cornetto and macchiato, but for young people in Beijing, a scorpion on a stick makes for a tasty mid-morning snack.
All photography by James Taylor, Beijing, April 2009.