Blood & Sand's grilled quail, $26
Although still considered mild amongst most proteins, game birds such quail, duck, squab and guinea hen have earthy flavors that are more robust than chicken. Therefore, like pork, they provide an array of pairing possibilities, ranging from white to red. With that inherent versatility, we look next to the preparation - how they're cooked by the sauces and other components that make up the primary flavor profile.
Blood & Sand chef Chris Bork accompanies his grilled quail with a housemade mole. If you are unfamiliar with this traditional Mexican sauce, it is most often a blend of chile peppers, tomatoes, chocolate and up to 20-plus other ingredients. Savory with a subtly spicy kick, the flavors are rich and rustic. Bork complements the dish with a bacon-fat tamale and the slight sweetness of pickled pear.
THE DRINK PAIRINGS
Anne Amie "Amarita," Ore., $11 by the glass
Knowing I would be running the gamut for pairings with a dish such as this, I started with white wines. Two approaches: find an earthy and round white that would easily match the tone of the quail or a contrasting wine to play a balancing act. I chose the latter. The Alsatian-inspired blend from Oregon has zippy acidity with sweet fruitiness. It finds an interesting way to both correspond to the spiced sauce and earthy flavors while still accentuating the pear and the sweet nuttiness of the quail.
Vin Ver'ray Syrah, Mount Veeder, Calif., $11 by the glass
One of the most interesting aspects to food and wine pairing is the fact that extremely different wines can both pair nicely with the same dish, each finding their respective highlights to the meal. Which one we prefer is often based on our own palates or perhaps which flavors we are in the mood to savor. Our previous pairing found the lighter, fruity side to the dish, but this red wine match will do the exact opposite. This intense Syrah is anything but shy with explosive notes of dark berries, tobacco and cedar. It may seem overpowering at first but instead pleasantly settles in to the mole sauce. The ripe fruit notes keep the quail lively and bolster the cured meat flavor to the tamale.
Espadin & Sand, $10
Continuing the campaign for varied and creative pairings, I could not help but be inspired by the restaurant itself. With an obvious namesake cocktail, including six other house interpretations of the classic, I turned to owner TJ Vytlacil for expertise and guidance. After discussing flavors and libations, I heeded his advice and ordered this mezcal-based rendition. With its smoky aromas and taste, the cocktail became an immediate ally for the mole dish. Dashes of citrus in the drink perked up the quail as well.
Blood & Sand, 1500 St. Charles St., Downtown, 314.241.7263, bloodandsandstl.com
Every Wednesday, STLwinegirl Angela Ortmann helps you navigate wine and beer lists at restaurants around town and suggests the best by-the-glass pairings with certain dishes. Through her event and consultation business, she is dedicated to enhancing your food and wine experience. Missed one of her columns? Check them out here!