TRAVERSE CITY — Patrick Brys has long had a passion for cooking.
So when he came back home to Traverse City to join the family business, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula, his mom put him in charge of supplying a recipe for the monthly newsletter.
Now, these aren't just any recipes. They must be dishes that pair well with certain kinds of wines.
"My style of cooking is I shoot from the hip," said Brys, 35. "I just find ingredients that I like, or if it's a seasonal kind of dish, just a general feeling of what foods are tasty at certain times of the year.
"I start creating something, and pair it with one of our wines."
At this time of year, Brys said, Rieslings go well with the season's produce — think butternut squash, pears and apples.
Pinot noir can be paired with almost anything.
"When I think pinot noir, which is a beautiful red wine, I think roasted chicken, roasted turkey or those fall kinds of spices," Brys said. "Very earthy kind of flavors go well with pinot."
Cabernet franc goes well with gamier foods like rabbit, lamb or veal, as well as steak.
"There's general parameters that definitely work with certain wines, but there's always the surprise — like the one that you didn't expect," Brys said. "We had a recipe last year that I created in the fall, for a curried carrot soup. And you're thinking maybe a red wine is going to with it, but it actually ended up being a Riesling that was the winner."
There's an art to matching food with wine. Certain flavors complement others, and it takes some experimenting to find good matches.
But it's worth the effort, Brys said.
"Wine and food pairings are interesting because when you find the right pairing, not only does the food taste better, but the wine tastes better as well," he said. "When I create these dishes, we'll all sit around as a family, we'll line up a bunch of bottles we bring from the winery, and we start tasting and trying.
"It's a really fun process, and it just makes food and the whole art of cooking and entertaining just that much more fun."
This Saturday marks the last in a series of harvest weekends at Brys that have featured a moveable feast of sorts, with four stations that present different wine and food pairings. Brys Estate also regularly offers small plates, which create another avenue for the staff to discuss pairing food with wine.
"Sometimes people come into a winery setting and they're a little intimidated — maybe they've drank chardonnay before, or pinot noir, but some of these other grape varietals, they're not familiar with," he said. "So when you talk about different foods and wines, it gives people ideas.
"It's really about experimenting and having fun with it yourself."
Cream of Mushroom & Herb Soup
1 stick butter
1 large yellow onion, diced (about 2 c.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 8-oz. containers sliced baby bella mushrooms
¼ c. flour
1 c. pinot noir
6 c. chicken stock (Brys prefers Kitchen Basic)
1 t. fresh thyme, minced
1 t. fresh rosemary, minced
1 c. heavy cream
2½ t. kosher salt (amount varies depending on saltiness of stock)
¾ t. fresh ground black pepper
Melt butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onion and garlic. Saute until tender. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add flour, continue to stir and cook for one minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Next add chicken stock and herbs. Bring soup to boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree soup. Add cream, salt and pepper to taste and stir. Makes 6-8 servings.
The Record-Eagle will offer wine and food pairings periodically in the Food section. Wineries and others with good combinations to share are asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 933-1477.