Monday, May 2, 2011

Taste Combinations: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Blessed Beltane to all!
(belated, I know)

What a gorgeous spring weekend! We were suppose to be slated for a long weekend of rain but clever Mother Nature decided to give us a break. I hope you all having a wonderful weekend! Finally green has come to the city and it looks like it's here to stay. This weekends highlights included lots of biking, garden clean up, the first market day of the year, brunch, Veg Fest, laying in the daffodils, browsing around street vendor stalls, and general outdoor awesomeness.

However, it was Beltane this weekend, so I figured I should make the theme of this post a little bit more romantic or at least relationship-based? I present to you: delicious food pairings. Last week's beyond bizarre basil and kiwi combination (okay, I'm sure there are weirder things in this world) made me think of the other lovely pairings you should definitely try out. As much as those who are similar stay together, I definitely believe that opposites attract and do create a tremendous amount of spark, especially in the food world where taste and texture is concerned. Sweet and sour is only one such example. However, a good food pairing more often has to do with texture as it does with taste. Combining crunchy and buttery, soft and crinkly , are only some of the texture-based aims of true foodgasms. As I just read in the Last Chinese Chef (an amazing book I've been meaning to review), the author writes that "food should be more than just food: It should tease and provoke the mind."

If you're at a loss for some kitchen creativity, here are some of the strange or just plain tasty things I've come across over my lifetime (some of these I've mentioned before or are relatively generic but it never hurts to give a refresher):
  • Coffee and lemon (in ice cream is the best)
  • Oranges and beets (makes a fantastic and quick salad)
  • Blueberries and lavender
  • Pear and ginger
  • Spirulina and frozen bananas (or spirulina and anything in my case! That spirulina sure does get around...)
  • Mango and cilantro
  • Chocolate and black pepper
  • Cacao and chipotle peppers
  • Tomatoes and basil
  • Chocolate covered almonds and roasted chickpeas (together they taste just like pocky)
  • Red beans and any liquid sweetener
For you omnivores and vegetarians:
  • pear and blue cheese (add walnuts if you're in the mood for a threesome)
  • rainbow trout and raspberry jam
  • goat cheese (or raw nut cheese) and figs
  • brie and raspberry jam
  • heck, any white cheese and any fruit preserve
  • duck (or probably any bird meat) and figs
  • scrambled eggs and dill
  • cucumber and jellyfish
And back in my more unhealthy days (unfortunately I confess that if these foods still rock your boat, I still do condone these fantastic combinations):
  • M&Ms and Doritos
  • Popcorn and M&Ms
  • Ruffles (the chips) and vanilla ice cream
  • rice and ketchup
  • rice and melted brie
  • ... oh the shame I'm currently feeling...
I've also just been told that sundried tomatoes, though salty, pretty much have the same texture as raisins so can be interestingly paired with things that raisins would usually go with. Kiwi and strawberry, though they look nothing alike, can also be used interchangeably in the same way.

One of the ickier tastes that I have to say I did not enjoy was shortbread and curry spices. It tasted like bum. Other than that do you have any weird and/or interesting food pairings to share?


  1. I once had a Chinese salad with jellyfish and cucumber. That one was definitely as much about texture combination as about taste combination.

    I noticed that of the purely taste combination, all of them seem to be some pairing of two of the five classic "tastes" of Chinese cooking: sweet, sour, bitter, salt and pungent

  2. I love this post! Such a fantastic way to celebrate Beltane with lovely food pairings. Thanks for all the good suggestions! When it comes to desserts, I love salty and sweet. In fact, I've got a batch of chocolate sea salt truffles in my fridge right now.

    And okay, here's a really weird combo that I was so skeptical about...but it actually, somehow works. White chocolate + marinated green olives. Yes, I know....but it's quite good!

  3. Oooo, good one, I could so see how that would work! There are definitely no food pairings too strange for me!

  4. Ick. Sundried tomatoes will never go with the things that raisins taste fabulous with. I just can't get into them. One day maybe. The rice and ketchup is a tad bit unnappealing too.. haha. My weird pairings would have to be raisins and anything. Seriously, I have yet to eat them with something and have it taste bad. That's not really weird though. How about.. yeah, I'm drawing blanks. I know I've eaten some weird combos because my family points it out to me but I'm so use to them that I don't even notice!