I love this town. The city has a lot of passion. And great food. Oh, and despite what you may have heard about the sports fans here, they are extremely dedicated and knowledgeable. I mean, given what the teams rankings usually are. Before I get too worked up, I’ll move on. I could go off on a tangent and fill up three posts on this topic.
Anyway, even though Philly is primarily a beer town, the wine culture here continues to grow and the surrounding counties are making some quality juice. This afternoon I had the chance to taste some provincial Philly cuisine. And pair it with some local wines from Pennsylvania & New Jersey.
Our experience fittingly took place at Pinot Boutique, in the heart of Philadelphia’s trendy Old City. Owner Dan Soskin was our host this afternoon. The cozy downstairs tasting area was set up to accommodate the dozen or so patrons today. Fran & myself met our friends, C.J. & Randy for this 2:00 event and shared a table.
I was as stoked as anyone to see what paired well with some local favorites.
And we’re off …
1. Paradocx Barn Red / Philly Soft Pretzel (plain)
Philly is pretzel central. Eighty percent of the nation’s pretzels are produced in PA. And healthy or not, soft pretzels in particular are a staple of the local cuisine. Pretzels are mainly a beer food, but they go well with beer because the two are perfectly contrasted. The medium bodied Barn Red from PDX worked with the saltiness of the soft pretzel. This wine is a blend of Cab Franc & Sangiovese. The raspberry and plum character of the wine complemented the pretzel quite well.
Dan pointed out that pairing contrasting food & drink is riskier than two with similar quantities. Beer and pretzels together are a home run but somewhat of an anomaly.
2. Pinnacle Ridge Traminette / Philly Soft Pretzel w/ spicy brown mustard
Next, we added spicy brown mustard to the same pretzel. If you’re not from around here, yes, that’s normal. A spicy condiment calls for a spicy wine. Traminette is a Gewürztraminer hybrid with a sweet, floral character. Dan shared an interesting analogy:
If the food has a value of 1 and the wine has a value of 1, adding them together doesn’t necessarily equal 2. It could be zero if the two don’t work at all, or even a 3 or 4 if they complement each other exceedingly well. The Traminette did go well with this. I can also attest that it pairs great with Chinese cuisine.
3. Auburn Road Rustica / Philly Cheesesteak w/ Cheez Whiz (Sonny’s, Old City)
Now we’re cooking. A quality, Philly cheesesteak w/ whiz, no onions, just how I prefer (that’s Whiz wit’out to you locals). Actually it was only about three inches of sandwich, kind of a tease. Whiz is the most popular cheese in a Philly cheesesteak over American cheese by a 10 to 1 margin. I was surprised by that tidbit, because many of my friends actually prefer Provolone, which is third.
Dan aerated some Rustica from Auburn Road for this one. Rustica is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sav and Chambourcin. This is the most popular wine sold at Pinot Boutique and could be categorized as an American Bordeaux blend. The ‘Red with beef’ cliche is very true in this case. The Rustica, a powerful red which is great on it’s own, brought out the flavors in the steak and cheese (If you classify whiz as cheese, that is). The sandwich, with a soft Amoroso’s roll, is also great on it’s own, by the way. I speak truth.
4. Auburn Road Sole / TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpet
TastyKake has been a regional favorite since it’s inception in 1914. They sold over $300,000 worth of the fresh pastries their first year and exceeded $1 million by 1918. Not bad for a little cake that sold for a nickel. The pies came later.
The Sole (pronounced So-LAY) from Auburn Road is 100% Vidal Blanc. The name is inspired by Galileo, who said that wine is “Sunshine in a bottle”. It pairs well with spicy seafood dishes. And, to my surprise, Butterscotch Krimpets. This was my favorite pairing of the day. The semi-dry, slightly sparkling Sole absolutely crushed it with the sweet cakes w/ butterscotch frosting. I could have sat there all afternoon and kept putting these away.
5. Auburn Road Good Karma / Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews
Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews are popular movie food, found in theaters everywhere. The company was founded in 1890, and gained notoriety by manufacturing ration bars for the U.S. military in WWI. The Good Karma from Auburn Road is a Sangiovese/Merlot blend with a lighter character similar to a Pinot Noir. I found that the wine was just light enough to nicely offset the dark chocolate in the candy. I recommend doing a wine & chocolate pairing if you ever have a chance. There’s more variety than you may think.
Campo’s is one of hundreds of local establishments to claim the title of Philly’s best cheesesteak. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, and there’s no clear cut winner … but it’s fun to judge. I guess the diet starts on Monday. Again.
And I was the only one who went with Cheez Whiz. Go figure.
Pinot Boutique – Old City, Philadelphia
Philly Soft Pretzel Factory – All over
Sonny’s Famous Steaks – Old City, Philadelphia
Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews
Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery – Salem County, NJ
Paradocx Vineyard – Landenberg, PA
Pinnacle Ridge Winery – Kutztown, PA
Campo’s Deli – Old City, Philadelphia