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White or red
that is the question.
He may be an omnivore, but Rob Clarke knows vegetarian cuisine: he’s head chef at Vancouver’s vegetarian hotspot, The Arbor, and created the plant-forward menu at its sister restaurant, The Acorn. “Not being vegetarian gives me unique insight into how to prepare vegetables the way I would a protein,” Clarke says—and it also gives him unique insight into how to properly pair those plant-based dishes with the right wine.For happy hour, Clarke tends to favour whites over reds. A dry riesling tops his favourites list, alongside sauv blanc and chardonnay. “I find white wine more refreshing after a long shift,” he explains. But depending on what’s for dinner, he might prefer a strong red. With his own herbed gnocchi (get the recipe here!), for example, Clarke enjoys a cabernet sauvignon. The ingredients—which include wine braised shallots, mushrooms and fava beans—“are able to stand up” to the wine.Put simply, the right wine pairing can make a plant-forward dish more nuanced and complex—just as it does with proteins. Planning your next meatless Monday? Read on to find the perfect sip to serve dinner with. An earthy dish—like this herbed gnocchi with ragout and braised shallots
We all know that whites go well with fish, while reds stand up to steak and other meat. Clarke notes that the same logic applies to plant-based cuisine: pair whites with more delicate vegetables, like asparagus, and save your reds for heartier mushroom- or bean-based dishes.
Hearty root vegetables pair well with a bold red—but the right white can also make them sing. That’s because “when root vegetables cook, they become sweeter.” Try them with a chardonnay.
When it comes to Clarke’s favourite cuisine—Indian!—“I’ll always pop a bottle of white.” A riesling, gewürztraminer, or even chardonnay pair well with vegetarian curries, helping to balance out the spice.
As with any dinner party—vegetarian or not—wine progression is paramount. Start light with a sauv blanc or unoaked chardonnay, then end with something heavier—say a cabernet sauvignon. “You don’t want to start too strong,” Clarke explains, “because that’s going to take over all the senses in your mouth.”
There’s one rule of thumb that applies to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. “If you’re cooking with a wine, you should be drinking that wine,” Clarke says. “That’s going to come through and help the nuances of the whole meal.” Bottom line? If it goes in your pot, make sure it also ends up in the glass.
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