Drinks: as easy as pie


November 01, 2006|By ROB KASPER

To add even more pleasure to the most indulgent meal of the year, I searched for beverages that would complement Thanksgiving pies. I ate the traditional troika of pies - pumpkin, pecan and cranberry-apple - and ended up picking a tawny port, champagne and premium bourbon as their ideal companions.

For this endeavor I put myself in the hands of Nelson Carey, the owner of Grand Cru, a wine bar and liquor store in Belvedere Square in North Baltimore.

Carey, a trained sommelier, brightened at the prospect of picking beverages to be sipped at the end of the Thanksgiving meal. It is easier, he said, than picking wines for the meal's main course. "Thanksgiving is a real wine challenge because you have turkey, sauerkraut and creamed onions to deal with, and you are picking wines both for your wine-drinking friends as well as for Aunt Millie," he said.

Imitating the dessert course on Thanksgiving, I sat in the corner of Grand Cru on a rainy Tuesday afternoon and passed pieces of pumpkin, pecan and cranberry-apple pie. The panel of pie eaters consisted of Carey, a handful of Grand Cru staffers and Bob Kinnecome of Dangerously Delicious Pies, the shop from which I purchased the pies.

Carey poured port, champagne, sparkling wines and bourbon into small glasses. We ate forkfuls of pie, sipped and assessed the pairings.

Some combinations took off. The tawny port, Graham's Tawny Porto 10 Years Old, was a magnificent match with the pecan pie. "Port is often served with nuts," Carey said to me later, "so I thought it would work well with the pecan and sweet maltiness of the pie." Boy, was he was right.

Yet when this same port was paired with the cranberry-apple pie, the two clashed, making the pie taste, in the words of one panel member, "like a mouthful of cinnamon."

The preferred partner for the cranberry-apple pie turned out to be champagne, a Heidsieck Monopole Green Top. "Acidity likes acidity," Carey said. This champagne, a demi-sec, has enough acidity to parry the apples and cranberries, plus just the right bit of sweetness, he said.

Finding a pal for pumpkin pie, a staple of Thanksgiving, proved difficult. Most of the wines made the pie taste like squash, not a flavor welcome at dessert. Then Carey poured us a few sips of a fine bourbon, Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and a perfect marriage was made.

"Bourbon has vanilla notes and sweet oakiness that catch the spiciness of the pie," Carey said. I simply said, "Wow."

Icardi Moscato D'Asti, a sweet Italian sparkling wine, was everyone's second-favorite beverage with almost every piece of pie. "It has a softness, and a sweetness," Carey said, that work with desserts.

Any one of these pricey beverages would be a fitting gift to the host of a Thanksgiving dinner. Late in the day, as yet another piece of the pie is served, the bottle could be cracked open to provide a welcome taste to a feast that seemingly never ends.


Drinks for the Thanksgiving pie

Pumpkin pie's best friend:

Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($37). The bourbon's vanilla and oaky flavors marry with the spice of the pie, a blissful union.

Pecan pie's enabler:

Graham's Tawny Porto 10 Years Old ($34). Port and nuts are a traditional match. This pairing sent the pecan pie soaring.

Cranberry-Apple's tangy partner:

Heidsieck Monopole Green Top champagne ($37). Tang on tang, the acidity of the fruit finds a happy match.

Friend of all pies:

Icardi Moscato D'Asti ($20). A sweet, sparkling Italian wine that was kind to all the desserts.

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