Dealing with flavours and aromas can seem like a daunting task. With countless options that range from simple to bold, the sensory experience can be overwhelming at best. Because I deal with food on a minute-to-minute basis, I've built up a palate over the years based on what I enjoy and what I like to serve. However, this is something that can also be learned at home easily and can be fun and experimental, rather than intimidating.
A great dish is all about balancing the contrast of flavour and texture. When setting out to create a dish I seek to achieve a play on both. Be creative and bold -- there is no right or wrong and often the best ideas come from mistakes, so don't be afraid to make them. The more you experiment in the kitchen and determine what works and what doesn't, the greater your understanding of this subject will become. Compile a database of your successes and failures and before you know it, dishes will begin to come together in your head.
Start with a main flavour and build around it; there are countless combinations but it's best to focus on just a few. It also doesn't need to go from one extreme to the other. When pairing a simple flavour don't think the exact opposite, but how you can enhance what you have and what you like with added flavouring. A dish also doesn't need to be built around the main ingredient -- such as the meat or fish -- it can start anywhere you choose, you just need to go with it.
When compiling your menu, the flavour experience can be enhanced that much further by keeping in mind and pairing the flavours of what you will be drinking. A good glass of wine can make a meal and should be considered as a part of your dining experience. When combining food with wine, it's best to pick out the dominant flavours and aim to enhance them. Don't try to compete with the wine; rather try to complement what's in the bottle. Combine elements that highlight the notes in the wine and also appeal to your own flavour palate. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this. It's entirely up to you, and what you enjoy.
One way to make the pairing of wine and food flavours even easier is by choosing a wine blend as an alternative to single-grape varieties. Play off these flavours and work to enhance and highlight them in your meal.
Knowing that texture and flavour in both food and wine react differently to each other, will help in finding the right combination of these elements and will make the entire dining experience more enjoyable. I know I said it before but I'll say it again: Be bold and creative on your culinary adventure and let flavours be your guide.
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