The weather in New York is finally starting to turn and there are some days that truly feel like autumn. Colder temperatures always remind me of comfort food (or, okay, I am reminded of comfort food any time I am hungry, any day of the year, fine), I think because a lot of comfort foods take the warm and gooey approach to comfort.
But just because I want to cram seventeen triangles of grilled cheese (no crusts, please!) into my mouth doesn’t mean I can’t do it with a little sophistication. It’s times like these when Boyfriend turns out to be particularly useful, being a sommelier and whatnot. Listed below are four of my favorite comfort foods, as well as Boyfriend’s suggestions for wine pairings.
1. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Who doesn’t love this combination? This is the first thing you can eat after you’ve been sick for a week. It’s the meal you go for on the second night of a snow storm when you’ve been stuck in your apartment and are running out of food and sanity. It’s the thing you can eat the day you move into a new apartment and can’t find any cooking utensils. This is not your favorite party dress; this is your favorite sweatshirt that you will wear and cherish until the threads literally fall off your body.
Personally, I am fond of Heinz’s Cream of Tomato Soup and the most basic grilled cheese available. I am all for upscale takes on comfort classics; Daniel Boulud, one of my culinary heroes, has arguably made a career out of this. But to me the wonderful thing about comfort foods is that they do not require creativity or sophistication to be satisfying. Butter up that Wonder Bread and layer on as many slices of Kraft American as you dare. Yum.
Boyfriend’s Pairing: I would have this with a demi-sec Vouvray. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and coming from France’s Loire valley, Vouvry’s are often made in an off dry style exhibit aromas of fresh orchard fruit, earthy wool, and honey. This all underscored by a beautiful crisp acidity that keeps the wine refreshing rather than cloying. I think it would cut through the heaviness of the cheese and highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.
His pick? Huet ‘Le Mont’ Demi-Sec Vouvray, 2008
2. Mac & Cheese
I’m not going to dwell on this dish, since I just posted about a cheeseburger chili version of this comfort food staple. However, true to its comfort food classification, it’s hard to mess this one up. Cook some pasta (multiple shapes work!), throw some cheese in there, get it all melty, broil it for a bit to get that perfect crusty top layer, and voila.
Boyfriend’s Pairing: Why not turn to Italy for this delicious bastardization of their culture [editor’s note: What?? Mac and cheese is not a bastardization of anything. Anyway, carry on…]. I say go with a beautiful Gavi di Gavi. Made from the Cortese grape and hailing from the north of Italy in Piedmont, these wines exhibit crisp citrus tones and enough weight to stand up to butter and cheese laden macaroni.
His pick? Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2009
3. Tuna Melt
Are you sensing a trend? Perhaps that melted cheese is the express lane to the well of happy, safe, loving feelings we constantly try to capture by stuffing our faces with food? Well anyway, I always make the tuna salad with extra mayo, relish, and diced red onion. I vary on the cheese, and have been known to dump something French and creamy such as Brie or Camembert on top, but similar to my feelings about grilled cheese, this is not a moment for food snobbery. Toss me that individually-wrapped Kraft single and I’ll be a happy camper.
Boyfriend’s Pairing: Here we turn to one of my favorites: Savagnin. A grape cultivated in the Jura, usually in Arbois or L’Etoile, and, depending on the producer, made in an oxidative style. If you find an oxidative one, you’re likely to be surprised by how salty it seems to taste. These wines are big on chesnut and pinenut aromas with an almost salty taste, perfectly suited to a tuna melt.
His pick? Puffney Arbois 2005
4. PB & J
This is less one of my personal favorites (go ahead, I’m ready for backlash), but I recognize that for many people, it has powerful comfort food allure. Go classic with more Wonder Bread, JIF (creamy or crunch?), and Smucker’s strawberry jam. Dress it up with some whole grain or whole wheat bread, homemade peanut butter, and an unusual jam. Recently I made cherry-ginger jam and raspberry-basil jam. They both turned out pretty well; you want about a 1:2 sugar-to-fruit ratio by volume, plus whatever other little bits of flavor you want to throw in there.
Boyfriend’s Pairing:Boal Madeira is one of the sweeter grapes used in the production of Madeira, but it’s not over the top. Boal madeira’s tend to be off dry with nutty elements to them and hints of baked fruit. A perfect pairing for a PB&J.
His pick? D’Oliveiras Boal Madeira 1977
So go forth and pair your comfort foods with confidence! You’ll likely be saving money on the food, so go ahead and splurge on the wine. Hint: if you’re looking for a particular bottle, check out websites like Wine Searcher to locate a store.