From a Chef’s Perspective: Unusual Condiments & Wines to Pair with Them (with that summer bod in mind)

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So I’m going to come clean about something right off the bat –  I’ve been on a diet all winter. Surprisingly, it has been pretty smooth sailing because I have chosen to do the most basic, easy diet which is literally just EAT LESS CRAP. On this “diet” I can still have wine and cheese and fudge pops and chocolate, however I am now seeing those things as special treats and not like, 90% of my daily consumption. The truth is I love to eat, I love to cook, I love to drink … and I don’t love vegetables. These changes in my intake have had a brilliant side effect which is that I’ve been forced to get creative with my cooking to fool myself into thinking that a sheetpan of vegetables is something to really look forward to. This has been made easier by a deep exploration of interesting spices and condiments! That being said, here are a few cool condiments that I have been adding to my vegetables (and sometimes everything else!) and pairing with a (measured, modest, reasonable) glass of wine:

ZHOUG SAUCE

This is a fairly new discovery of mine and I can’t get enough. Zhoug sauce has Yemeni origins which you can sense by the spice blend and the kick of heat! I don’t particularly like when it’s referred to as “Middle Eastern pesto” because besides appearance it’s not like pesto at all. It’s made primarily of cilantro and jalapenos, and spiced with cardamom, garlic, cumin and chili flakes all in an oil base. It’s spicy and green/fresh tasting and the cardamom lingers on the palate. It’s truly a magical condiment substitute for your average hot sauce. Since it is oil-based I have to watch my serving but its SO flavorful that a little goes a long way. Slather it on grilled veggies, fish or go all out and brush it on your lamb when it comes off the grill.

Wine: As with any spicy food, this wine begs for a fruity white wine. A nice fruity rosé (like our Bridge Lane Rosé, for example) would be great at cooling down the palate between bites. Another option would be an off-dry Riesling or grüner!

GREEK YOGURT & DIP SEASONING PACKETS

So one of my favorite junk foods of all time is DIP. Like, cheap sour cream and onion dip. Do not leave me near a table of dips and ruffled potato chips. I have zero self-control! Thankfully I have discovered that non-fat Greek yogurt is a relatively low-calorie and delicious substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise when it comes to dip (and creamy dressing) recipes! This is crazy easy. Buy a container of non-fat Greek yogurt (don’t worry, it’s still thick and creamy) and a packet of your favorite dip seasoning blend. Pour both into a bowl and stir. You’re done, and you won’t miss the sour cream at all. Also if you’re lactose intolerant, they make goat milk-based Greek yogurts that work just as well. Use for dipping veggies (alas, I have given up the ruffles), as a spread for sandwiches or as a cooling condiment for a spicy dish.

Wine: Since this condiment is mild you can just about pair any white wine with it! However a nice chardonnay may bring something more interesting to the table. Our partially-oaked Lieb Reserve Chardonnay with a big crudité platter and dip sounds like a pretty good afternoon to me.

WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD

So this one isn’t a ground-breaking discovery, however if you haven’t tried it or pulled the trigger on buying a jar – you should. It’s not overly spicy and has an awesome slightly crunchy texture which makes dressings and sandwiches much more interesting. The mustard seeds themselves have such a nice flavor when eaten whole! (Not that Dijon and traditional mustards don’t have their place. I’m not about to put whole grain on a hot dog, although I have seen it done before.)

Wine: Since this mustard is mellower and not spicy I would recommend pairing crisp, citrusy white wines with it so as to not compete. Our Lieb Reserve Pinot Blanc comes to mind. If you slathered this on a meaty sandwich, a chilled can of our Bridge Lane Red Blend may be even more interesting!

BLACK GARLIC MAYO

So I’ll be honest, I haven’t made my own black garlic. Why? Because it’s pretty involved and I was able to buy it at Trader Joe’s! Black garlic is garlic that has been aged until the cloves literally turn black and their flavor morphs into this magical slightly-sweet nutty umami goodness. You lose the heat and bitterness of raw garlic and it becomes a much more delicate flavor. Mashed up with some high-quality mayo and you have a spread that is the ultimate game changer. I know, I know, mayo is not a diet food. Well, if you add black garlic it turns out you can use WAY LESS and it will pack a serious punch. Also garlic is hella good for you! You can also mix it with olive oil instead of mayo for dressings or brush a little on a burger that just came off the grill to make your guests go WHATS IN THIS MAGICAL BURGER?? If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s you can buy black garlic online.

Wine: This heavenly condiment can pair with just about any white wine, and any red wine that isn’t too tannic or rich. I’d say a Lieb Reserve Merlot or Cabernet France would pair nicely with a burger brushed with black garlic mayo. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it!

So now that I’ve told you about all of my magical condiment discoveries, I hungry and need to go eat. But in moderation. But with big flavor.

Hope you appreciate the tasty tips!

Alicia Ekeler-Valle

Tasting Room Director