Meet New York's Taste & Pair Experts

December 18, 2023

 In recent years, the art of plating food has become more important in the world of fine dining. The unrivaled significance of social media in today’s world has shifted many chefs to put all their attention on how a dish looks rather than how it tastes. By prioritizing the plating elements in a dish, the flavorful sensations experienced by the palate can be somewhat muted. There’s no denying that we eat with our eyes first, yet these recent trends in food plating have made the element of ‘flavor’ come secondhand for several chefs. 

Thankfully, the NYC private chefs and sommeliers at Gradito are reminding us of the power of ‘taste’, and how thoughtfully pairing foods, especially with wine, can bring forth a truly unforgettable dining experience. Gradito’s personal chef app brings together the joy of food and wine to create luxury private experiences in the comfort of their client’s homes. Besides offering classic (three-courses), elevated (five-courses), and luxury (seven-courses) tasting menus, this ‘hire a chef’ app offers an add-on sommelier service. Gradito’s talented and trusted sommeliers are experts at pairing the best wines in the market to these Michelin-trained private chefs’ full-course menus to create personal chef experiences like no other. 

Tasting & Pairing 

In essence, the experience of ‘taste’ lies in the layering of ingredients in a dish, and how placing attention to certain components in a dish can create a harmony of flavor for the senses. These NYC private chefs have had years of training in top Michelin restaurants around the world, and have developed a keen sense of understanding of how flavors work and the distinct relationships that exist between ingredients and across cuisines. Hence, a private chef dinner for 2 with Gradito consists of beautifully plated dishes that also have intricate flavor profiles that have been carefully crafted to test your palate. 

Gradito’s ‘personal chefs for hire’ create their personalized full-course menus based on their unique culinary vision, all while incorporating their clients’ specific requests and dietary preferences. They are tasked with taking their already existing knowledge of ingredients and experimenting with new ones to design a customized menu that will bring their clients’ gourmet vision to life. And what better way to taste these delicious courses than to pair them with the nectar of the gods? 

Once you hire a chef for your dinner party, it can’t be complete without a sommelier. Gradito sommeliers work closely with these personal chefs to create wine-tasting menus to compliment their private chef dinner party menus. This is where the real ‘tasting’ and ‘pairing’ occurs. These sommeliers are forever students, connoisseurs, and lovers of wine, and are excited to share their knowledge during these private chef experiences. 

To Pair, Or Not to Pair

To pair, or not to pair… that is the question for the private chefs and sommeliers at Gradito.

First off, here are some important wine terms to know according to Gradito sommeliers: 

  • Acidity → It’s a component in all grapes and plays a role in the preservation of the wine. (Ex. Wines with a sharper and more crisp taste will have higher levels of acidity)
  • Body → A term used to describe the flavor profile of a wine. (Ex. A full-bodied wine has a strong flavor and aftertaste) 
  • Dry → Wine that has a small or zero sugar content. 
  • Tannin → A chemical compound found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. 

Taking these terms and other more advanced elements into consideration, Gradito’s sommeliers pair these private chefs’ food with wines that complement or add something to each dish. The ‘complementary factor’ occurs when a dish and a wine share no compounds or flavors. Surprisingly enough, this balance of flavors can be created by contrasting elements. The crispness of a white wine, for example, is a great idea to lighten the heartiness of a dish. On the other hand, a Gradito sommelier can opt for a congruent pairing instead, which creates balance by amplifying shared flavor compounds between ingredients. The most simple and common example of this is pairing a dessert with a sweet wine, which enhances the experience of sweetness and lessens the perception of sugar on the palate.

A private chef meal can be completely elevated with the right wine, so Gradito’s sommeliers carefully study the ingredients and components present in a private chef’s dinner party menu to find the best wines available in the city. Once they receive the private chef’s final personalized menu, these sommeliers check in with their favorite distributors and local shops like MCF Rare Wine and Chambers Street Wines to find the perfect wine pair for each dish. Just like each client can find their perfect private chef match with the Gradito personal chef app, so can a dish with their wine match with a Gradito sommelier. 

Friendships of Flavor

Some flavors are more friendly to certain wines than others, and Gradito sommeliers are well-versed in these friendships of flavor. Here are some of the most popular flavors you can encounter during these private chef experiences, and some characteristics that come into play when pairing these flavors with wine: 

  • Salt + Sparkling & Acidic Wines 

(Complementary pairing) 

Due to their chemical composition, salty foods have a strong impact on a wine’s taste profile. A dish’s saltiness decreases a wine’s sweetness and brings out the wine’s aromas and fruity flavor. Sparkling and acidic wines can balance the flavors within a salty dish and are a great complement to fried dishes, popcorn, and pasta sauces. 

  • Acid + Even More Acidic Wines

(Complementary & Congruent pairings) 

Acidity exists in both food and wine, so Gradito sommeliers can opt to choose a complementary pairing as well as a congruent pairing for a private chef’s dish. Whichever pairing method they choose for the private chef’s dinner course, the wine’s acidity should be equal to or more acidic than the food’s. Otherwise, the wine will lose its flavor potential and taste bland. A Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, pairs very well with a vinaigrette or goat cheese.

  • Fat + Tannins 

(Complementary pairing) 

Fat is a flavor profile that can’t be found in wine, therefore congruent pairings are probably out of the question for a steak private chef dinner with Gradito. Tannins in wine work especially well with fatty foods as their bitterness can soften fat within red meat and enhance the flavors. The berry notes in a Cabernet can be a wise choice to complement a ribeye’s marbling and smokiness. 

  • Bitter + Acidic Wines

(Complementary pairing) 

Gradito sommeliers know that bitter food paired with bitter wine is a ‘no’ when it comes to pairing a private chef’s dish with a wine. Pairing bitter elements together will enhance the bitterness altogether. An acidic wine such as an off-dry Riesling is certainly the way to go with some pickled veggies, for example. 

  • Sweet + Sweet Wines

(Complementary pairing) 

Similarly to acidic wines, sweet wines should be sweeter than dessert so the wine doesn’t lose its flavor. Sweet sparkling wines such as Moscato d’Asti are great to bring fruity flavors to life in a dessert, rather than heightening the sugar.

  • Spice + Sweet Wines

(Complementary & Congruent pairings) 

Spicy foods are a bit more complex. What’s important to take into account is its ability to increase a wine’s bitterness and acidity and decrease its body and sweetness. A sweet white wine such as a Riesling is usually a great option to pair with a spicy dish as it will balance the spiciness in the dish and allow the sweetness of the wine to calm down. 

These are some of the factors Gradito sommeliers take into consideration when taking a private chef’s menu to create their wine-tasting menus. As we can see, food and wine pairings can be as simple and or as complex as the sommelier wishes. At the end of the day, Gradito’s sommeliers and private chefs are interested in challenging their clients’ curiosity for ‘taste’ and bringing their private chef experiences to the next level. 

Experience the Taste & Pair Experts

A private chef and sommelier for a night is the ultimate ‘taste and pairing’ experience. The Gradito private chef app offers a large variety of cuisines that can transport you to different parts of the world in the comfort of your home, and introduce your tastebuds to new and exciting flavors. Creating a harmony of unexpected flavors is at the forefront of their personalized private chef menus. They are ‘tasting’ and ‘pairing’ experts wanting to bridge the gap between unknown flavors and curious foodies. 

These personal chefs and sommeliers are not only skilled in balancing and understanding the relationships that can exist within and between flavors but are also masters of pairing their clients with these flavors. In the same way, they get to know their ingredients and wines, and the private chefs and sommeliers at Gradito take their time to get to know their clients’ preferences through the Gradito ‘hire a chef app’. Book a private chef and sommelier with Gradito, and you’ll soon be uncovering the delicious mysteries that lie behind flavors and pairings one bite at a time. 

Camelia Iturregui Fuertes
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