There are combinations of food and beverages that just belong together. I’m thinking Oreos and milk (or, since it’s Cocktail Week, Oreos and White Russians), pizza and beer, pasta and wine, enchiladas and margaritas, and menudo and micheladas –– because if you’re needing a hangover cure, you’d best double down. As restaurants are developing their cocktail menus more often, more patrons are looking for the right food to complement their choice of hooch. We figured, who better to speak on the subject of the matching food and cocktails than area chefs? The list below is what the pros recommend you pair with their cuisine.
John Piccolino, B&B Butchers (5212 Marathon Av, 817-737-5212)
B&B Butchers is known as a place to splurge. For this pairing, executive chef John Piccolino goes for broke with the shellfish tower from the raw bar (oysters, shrimp, lobster, and crab) teamed with a French Diplomat –– gin, cucumber vodka, St. Germain liqueur, lime, and orange bitters. The floral liqueur, and cucumber and citrus flavors, play foil to the briny oysters and sweet shellfish.
Marcus Paslay’s Clay Pigeon has survived whatever bad juju inhabited the pretty building on White Settlement Road– before Clay Pigeon opened in 2013, the space was inhabited by Lambert’s Steak, Seafood, & Whiskey, and before that, it was Pedro’s Trailer Park. Paslay’s love of game is no secret, and the game bird potpie on the menu raises the bar for comfort food. Ground duck, chicken thighs, and quail mingle in a hearty thyme-infused gravy, all cozy under a housemade pastry crust. The perfect cocktail, Paslay said, is a pear martini, made with muddled pear, Grey Goose La Poire, lemon, and simple syrup. The sweet pear and tart lemon balance the herbaceous thyme and tender fowl flavors.
Ben Merritt won an episode of the Food Network’s Chopped this summer, although he had to sit on that news for close to a year. His first restaurant has been an, a’hem, fixture on the Near Southside for five years. Merritt’s pick from his restaurant’s booze selection is Fall in the French Quarter (brandy, rye whiskey, a proprietary fall-spiced simple syrup, absinthe, and lemon) paired with a new fall menu item – an 8-ounce filet with a mushroom and sour cream sauce. Merritt said the earthy, umami richness of the mushrooms mixed with a little tart from the sour cream is a perfect complement to the dark whiskey and anise, cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg in the cocktail.
Gabriel DeLeon, Mi Dia from Scratch (1295 S Main St, Grapevine, 817-421-4747)
Gabriel DeLeon’s mash-up of Mexico City, New Mexican, and Tex-Mex cuisines lights up his little corner of Grapevine. The chef suggests Baja tacos paired with his Pink Taco margarita. We’re allowing the taco/marg combo because of the unusual ingredients in the drink: Tres Generaciones silver tequila, Cointreau, Chambord, lemon juice, and agave nectar, which makes the beverage “skinny” (no table sugar or corn syrup). So you can save your calories for the Negra Modelo beer-battered jumbo shrimp, which are stuffed into the housemade flour tortillas along with pickled cabbage, green salsa, and avocado.
James Gaines, Reata Restaurant (310 Houston St, 817-336-1009)
Reata’s executive chef James Gaines excels at classic Texas comfort food. He recommends you wash down the downtown eatery’s monster 16-ounce braised bone-in pork shank served on a bed of black-eyed peas and bacon hash with the jalapeño and cilantro gimlet (Dripping Springs vodka or gin, lime, jalapeño, cilantro, and simple syrup). Gaines says that the bacon, garlic, thyme, and other ingredients in the hash are a perfect dance partner for the pork shank –– a dish that will transport you back to either a Southern New Year’s Day celebration or maybe your grandmother’s kitchen. The crisp, clean effervescence of the jalapeño and lime flavors shine through the heavy, seductive home-style pork and peas