Hunting for opportunities to step away from traditional pairings to simply explore what tastes good and makes us feel strong seems like a worthwhile exercise for us to engage in regularly. Lots of upside, little down.
Earlier this week, I wrapped up a long work and needed a clean meal to wrap the night. I found myself stopping at the bar at the Vig in downtown Phoenix, just steps away from my building. When I sat down, I had two goals:
- Get some late night nutrition
- Sip a glass of Scotch
Merely the act of combining the two promised a rewarding experience.
Of course there’s no one correct way to consume single malt Scotch whisky – it all depends on personal preference – but consuming it with food opens up a world of aroma and flavour opportunities.
Browsing the menu, the options looked appealing, but less nutritionally dense. Sure, there were salads and some fish options, but each had a dressing or sauce associated that didn’t quite meet my bar for the moment. Guac and chips jumped out at me, but this wasn’t a planned indulgence, so I continued to scan the menu. If you’ve been following along, you know my take on avocados in general and guacamole in specific. In a moment of clarity, I stopped to reconsider.
In one broad-based, national study, all participants who reported eating any avocado during the last 24 hours were compared to all participants who reporting eating no avocado during that same time period. The avocado-eating U.S. adults were found to have greater fiber intake (over 6 grams more for the day); greater potassium intake (439 milligrams more); greater vitamin K intake (57 micrograms more); and greater vitamin E intake (2.2 milligrams alpha-tocopherol equivalents more) than U.S. adults who ate no avocado…adults consuming avocado also averaged 43 milligrams more magnesium, 5.6 grams more monounsaturated fat, and 3.2 grams more polyunsaturated fat. The study authors also noted that avocado eating was associated with better overall diet quality, as well as better intake of vegetables and fruits as a whole.
Most guacamole is pretty simple: Avocado, garlic, tomato, salt, pepper and either lemon or lime juice. Clean and crazy healthy.
I asked the bartender for an Oban 14, neat and two bowls of guac, no chips. No sporks available, but a spoon sufficed for my needs.
Not only did a make a food choice that left me feeling strong in body and mind, I discovered that this strange pairing was a tremendously satisfying sensory experience. I unknowingly stumbled on two foods that, when consumed together, enhanced each other.
We’ve talked about the health benefits of fat before (fat doesn’t make you fat), but we haven’t touched as much on its role in making food taste good. We perceive taste based on how the volatile compounds in food are dissolved both in the air (as aromas) and in our mouths. Some of these compounds are dissolved in water, but some require fat. The fat from the avocados in my guacamole allowed me to taste more than I would without it.
Likewise, the alcohol in the Scotch brought out flavors in the guac. The structure of the alcohol allows it to dissolve both water soluble and fat soluble molecules, allowing me to experience the full range of tastes in my meal.
I didn’t know this while sitting at the bar, but I knew that the sweet and smoky tastes in the Scotch matched perfectly with the creamy and salty notes of the guac. You probably won’t find this pairing in many of those “what to drink” articles, but I left the bar enriched for the experiment.
Don’t get it twisted. The takeaway here isn’t to go pair guac and scotch (although I highly recommend you do). My point is simple. Follow your culinary intuition when you’re out experimenting. Trust your evolutionary instinct will steer you right.
Share your discoveries below.