Nico's Lamb Sausage Burger, $12
Flavors and textures are of course the key players in deciding the best pairings for your meal, but might it surprise you to know that other, more environmental, factors play a large role in what will ultimately suit your taste buds as well. The time of day and your mood at that point also can help determine the pairing that pleases your palate.
When scanning Nico's cuisine to select the dish for my pairings, I noticed a couple items that were available at all three of the restaurant's dining hours - lunch, dinner and brunch. Already intrigued by their Moroccan rendition of a burger, I was happy to see that it made the cut for each menu as well. A patty of lamb sausage is finished with Moroccan-spiced caramelized onions and a basil-mint aioli then topped with a perfectly fried egg and served on a ciabatta roll.
As I pondered my choices, I began to reflect on how differently I would choose my beverage depending on the time of day I was enjoying such a sandwich.
Civil Life American Brown Ale, St. Louis, $5 by the draft pint
Devouring a delicious burger for lunch is something all of us have done time and time again, and I would venture to guess that a frosty pint of beer has most often accompanied that meal. Nico offers a rotating selection of six local brews, spanning a multitude of weights and flavor profiles. Although I found more than one beer that drank well with the sandwich, the classic Brown Ale from Civil Life Brewing Co. was a delightful match while also being very approachable for the occasional craft-beer drinker. Roasted, nutty notes and subtle hoppy bitterness work as a wonderful contrast to the highly aromatic and spice-heavy burger.
Li Veli Negroamaro, Salice Salention, Italy, $8 by the glass
The deep, rich tones of Nico's lamb burger translate beautifully into a casual dinner treat. But as the sun goes down, our tastes tend to follow and command more robust flavors, often calling for wine as a complement. The restaurant's wine list properly reflects the cuisine, offering both unique and familiar selections from France, Spain and Italy. It always catches my eye when I find a more unusual varietal on a list, especially by the glass. In this case, it was a Negroamaro from southern Italy. Upon talking with the owner, I found out that this was one of the first wines he chose, and I could immediately see why. The earthy, rustic notes of the wine emulate the overall feel of their food dishes. Drinking much lighter than it looks, this red throws off an extreme amount of fragrance and has dark fruit notes combined with baking spice nuances that find their way into the lamb and sing together harmoniously.
The 5th Dimension, $9
When you find yourself brunching, is it beer, wine or cocktails that catch your fancy? Perhaps a little of both? Browsing the craft cocktails at Nico, I came across this fruit and herb concoction. Vodka-based, it is blended with the aperitif wine spirit Lillet Rosé and also fresh strawberry, mint leaves and squeezed lemon. Dangerously drinkable, the 5th Dimension finds a brightness that brings the lamb burger into midday brunch fare while its herbal undertones are enhanced by the aioli and egg.
Nico, 6525 Delmar Blvd., The Loop, 314.727.0200, nicostl.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!