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Guide to pairing your meal with coffee brew

June 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mac n' cheese, fish and chips, peanut butter and jelly - some foods just seem to go together. Did you know the same is true with coffee? What you eat can actually change how you feel about your coffee. "I think any time you're sitting down to enjoy some good food, you want to have a good drink that's going to pair well with it and accentuate the food and kind of bring everything to life," said Dan Murray, chef at The Den of Hollywood.

We know to pair wine with food, but as it turns out, you should do the same with your favorite java.

"There's sweet, sour, salt and bitter, and so what we're looking for a lot of times is identifying how different coffees react to your tongue," said coffee expert Michael Gavina of Don Francisco.

Gavina says Columbian is the most consistently well-balanced coffee. It's also what the majority of Americans drink.

A Columbian coffee provides a balance in flavor that works pretty well with across all food categories, but move into bold blends, African coffees and lighter roasts, and you might have to be selective in the food you eat.

"Bold is usually held for chocolates or meats," Gavina said.

Brands vary, but Don Francisco's house blend is considered bold and heavy, so big flavors work well with a dark roast, whereas lighter roasts do well with fruits, nuts and egg dishes.

Kona blend is considered a light, smooth, low-acid coffee, which some prefer in the morning.

African coffees like Ethiopian offer a citrus note and often work well in the morning with citrus or fruity foods.

"If you're going to do anything cheese based, like a cheese strudel, hazelnut cream is really good, or vanilla nut," Gavina said.

To get the most out of both dish and drink, try your own coffee pairing. Gavina suggested tasting coffee black first, even if you take yours with milk or sugar, as all the coffees have unique flavor characteristics.

"I usually start with a little bit lighter coffee in the morning, and I like something a little bit darker in the evenings," Murray said.

Those new to the coffee scene might also start with a breakfast or lighter blend, and as the day wears on, work up to something bold.


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