Rosalita's Cantina Chile Rellenos, $10
Peppers are one of those ingredients we either gravitate toward or shy away from. Some don't enjoy the heat of a jalapeno and others aren't fans of bell pepper tastes. Tex Mex cuisine uses a variety of different peppers in a multitude of dishes, but one could argue that chile rellenos is the most popular and authentic.
The poblano is a mild chile pepper that typically leans more toward a green pepper than a hot and spicy one. When stuffed with cheese, battered, fried and topped with ranchero sauce, the gentle heat of the pepper becomes more of a "flavor" rather than an "intensity." Balancing the subtle spiciness with the pronounced earthiness of the dish is the basis for finding complementing beverages.
Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio, Italy, $7 by the glass
Although it might surprise you, Italian whites pair quite well with Mexican fare. Clean, crisp flavors and less oak notes allow the intricate sauces to shine. Like with many green-vegetable-based dishes, a fruit-forward white wine with high acidity brings a bright liveliness to your palate. The fresh citrus notes are a wonderful counterpart to the dense cheese, and the sweet heat of the pepper is not drowned out but instead delicately highlighted.
Cueva de Las Manos Malbec, Argentina, $7 by the glass
Red wines can often be a difficult match for the bold flavors of Tex Mex cuisine. The commonly used ingredients do not respond well to heavy, highly tannic wines. Malbecs from Argentina work nicely due to their jammy, dark fruit nature as well as medium, well-integrated tannins. The oak and chocolate tones also soften the pairing.
Schlafly Hefeweizen, St. Louis, $5 by the pint (draft)
The refreshing carbonation of a fresh beer is tough to beat with this fried, cheesy and heavy dish. Working with the same strategy as the white wine, a fruity brew will work best in this pairing. An unfiltered wheat ale hits the spot with enough body to hold up to the weighty meal as well as the sweet malt to balance the spicy heat. The crisp squeeze of lemon gives a lift of acidity, and the effervescence is the perfect fit for the fried breading and melted cheese.
Rosalita's Cantina, 1235 Washington Ave., Downtown, 314.621.2700, rosalitascantina.com
STLwinegirl Angela Ortmann gained a passion for all things epicurean by working in the luxury restaurants and hotels of St. Louis and San Francisco. Through her event and consultation business, she is dedicated to enhancing your food and wine experience.