When you want to talk about food and wine together, it’s hard to do better than talking with someone who works with both every day. Amanda Martin is the sous chef at Leoness Cellars in Temecula, California, and part of her job is coming up with dishes to serve with the wines made there.
We literally stumbled into her at a restaurant show last year and couldn’t resist doing a quick interview.
Q- What’s it like working at a winery as opposed to a restaurant?
Martin – With the winery, we have a little bit more flexibility, as far as the type of food, we get to serve because it is independent. With corporate restaurants, it’s a little bit harder because you’re told what to produce and how much and so forth. We create our own menus there, our own dishes there.
Q- So how much liberty do you have? Do you always have to include the wines?
Martin – No, I chose to include the wines. As far as in the cooking process? Obviously, when you’re cooking sauces, or preparing sauces in certain dishes, or pastas, you’re going to want a wine to deglaze. So I choose to use our wines in the process.
Q – How do you create a dish with a specific wine in mind, one that’s not necessarily going into it, but to go with it.
Martin – We just try to, uh, as far as what’s made with the wine? We try to have it complement the wines.
Q- So do you taste the wine first?
Martin – We taste the wine first and then go from there.
Q – And what flavors go with what – the idea being how to tell what goes with what wine? And since you’re creating dishes to go with a wine all the time, you can tell us.
Martin – A lot of the times, people try to associate reds with meats, whites with fishes. That’s not always necessarily the case. You have to get the tannins, the sweetness behind the wine and then compare it that way. Like with a scallop dish, if you have something that’s salty within it, I would go with a sweeter wine, just so it plays harmoniously with your palate.
Q – Is this something you just have to test, doing trial and error?
Martin – Yeah, it’s just trial and error. Unless you have your sommelier, you know. Also, wine and food is just more of a personal preference. It’s hard to pin point. What I enjoy, somebody else might not like. We can make our recommendations for it. Absolutely, but at the end of the day, it’s what you enjoy and that’s what we want it to be. It’s your experience.
Q – So what do you recommend? Just trying a bunch of different wines, such as different cab sauvs with a bunch of different foods? Or a Riesling with a bunch of different foods.
Martin – A Riesling would go excellent with the scallops, with fish. Halibut, surprisingly, we serve it with a port reduction. So you wouldn’t think a red wine sauce with a fish, but it goes beautifully with it. It’s trying. Have fun with it. That’s what food is, it’s fun. And wine. After a few glasses of wine, everything’s fun though.