Falanghina and three dishes
SEPTEMBER 2016 UPDATE: I’ve written a new post on falanghina with a couple of amazing food pairings! After you’ve read this post, make sure to check out: An update on falanghina.
I brought back a very nice bottle of falanghina from my travels a few weeks ago. I had a chance to taste it in the store before buying it. I absolutely loved it and had to bring it back home for a food pairing!
This falanghina is a medium-bodied white that is very refreshing with fruity and flowery aromas. It has good acidity and its flavors are quite bold with citrus, herbs, and a noticeable minerality. Typical of many Italian whites, the falanghina has a slight bitter finish.
Most falanghinas are produced in the Campania region of Italy. This particular bottle is produced by Feudi di San Gregorio, a highly regarded wine-maker in the region. The vintage is 2012.
This week I’m trying something different. Rather than coming up with a single dish to pair with this wine, I’m cooking three dishes and I’ll determine which one works best with the wine over the course of the meal. The three dishes that I chose are: caprese salad, seared scallops with parsley, and clams with herbs.
So which dish was the best one for the falanghina?
The first dish is a caprese salad made with fresh buffalo mozzarella, a selection of pachino (or Sicilian), yellow, and cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, all topped with a drizzle of robust Sicilian olive oil.
How did the caprese do with the falanghina? This dish performed well for three reasons.
When you sip the falanghina, you immediately notice the taste and aroma of fresh herbs. Herbacious wines pair well with foods that feature fresh herbs. Indeed, the basil in the caprese salad was a great complement to the falanghina.
Second, the mineral flavors in the falanghina work well to cut down on the richness of the dish. The fresh mozzarella is delectably creamy and, combined with my generous drizzle of olive oil, the caprese is a moderately rich dish.
Overall, while the falanghina was not a bad pairing for this dish, I don’t think it is the best one because I think the tomatoes are a bit too acidic to pair with such an acidic wine. With acidic foods, you want a bit of acidity in the wine so that the wine does not fall flat. But tomatoes are so acidic that if the wine also has a lot of acidity, then between the food and the wine, there will be an overload of acid in the palate. Furthermore, the falanghina has strong flavors. Mozzarella, while it may have some richness, has flavors that are quite delicate. I think the delicateness of the fresh mozzarella and strength of the falanghina were not the best match and the wine overpowered the mozzarella. Given how delicious fresh buffalo mozzarella is, I definitely do not want its flavors to be drowned out by the wine.
The second dish was scallops seared in olive oil and butter. I served them with a simple sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. I also topped the dish with some chopped Italian parsley.
Again, the fresh parsley in the dish was a good complement to the herb flavors of the falanghina. Scallops are naturally quite sweet and this had the effect of offsetting the bitterness of the wine. Sweetness of a dish and the acidity of a wine can work well to balance each other out. However, I think the scallops were too sweet for this wine. Acidity is a great characteristic of this wine and the relative sweetness of the scallops detracts from the crispness of the wine and even makes it seem a bit dull. With scallops, I might want to go for an off-dry riesling or a chardonnay instead.
Finally, similar to the fresh mozzarella, the scallops do not have a strong enough of a flavor (besides the sweetness) to match the intensity of the fallanghina. Overall, it’s not a bad pairing but I think we can definitely do better!
The last dish was Italian clams cooked with garlic, butter, and a mix of herbs (tarragon, chives, Italian parsley).
The clams worked wonderfully with the wine and I think this dish was the best of the three. Clams have a just a hint of sweetness, which offset the bitterness of the wine but not too sweet as to detract from its crispness. I love herbs so I put a fair amount of tarragon and chives into this dish. Like the other two dishes, the herbs were a great complement to the falanghina.
I did not add any salt to the dish but the salty water that came out of the clams was enough to create a well-seasoned dish. Salty foods love acidic wines and just in that respect alone, the falanghina and the clams work really well. Not only that, but clams are quite strong in flavor and the seawater added even more concentrated flavor to this dish. I think there was definitely an equality between the intensity of flavors in the food and in the wine, where neither overpowered the other. I think the clams was the only dish that could keep up with the intensity of the falanghina rather than getting lost. There are just so many reasons why clams and falangina are a great match! Can’t wait to make this again.