Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pairing foods and beverages to please the palate

Fish is white. Meat is red. That color pairing helps me decide which type of wine to order. It also sums up my interest and ability as a gourmand! For example, today we had a family brunch to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday and I ended up with two pitchers, one with grape juice and the other orange. Each had about a third of the juice remaining and the refrigerator could accommodate only one pitcher. Hmmm, what could I do? Eureka, a thought came to me: Mix the grape into the orange juice to combine it all into one container! Unfortunately, the resulting mixture looked so unappetizing that only my son Hank, an engineer like me (him software, me chemical), would drink it. Also, Hank admitted to having one or two beers –maybe more, while watching the Gopher hockey game last night at the corner pub. The Gophers unexpectedly lost, so I’m thinking my son may’ve drowned his sorrows. Therefore, I think that his positive review of my “orangerape” juice must be considered an outlier. :(

So far as beers are concerned, I’ve done equally bad, for example, by seeing what would happen if I mixed cream into it (detailed in my 1/14/07 blog “Mixing beers -- synergy of zymurgy?”). One thing I never considered pairing with beer is chocolate, but, according to this article by J.M. Hirsch of Associated Press, Boston’s brahmins attend classes on this! An obvious combo is Belgian chocolate with Belgian abbey ale. However, I prefer to continue studying only beer. Any time our chemical engineering society sponsors a brewery tour and tasting, I am there!

My favorite pairing is apples with cinnamon. For example, this applesauce recipe looks very a pealing (pun intended!), in part because it’s so amazingly simple. I once tested my Stat-Ease colleagues by asking them to rate on a 1 (worse) to 10 (best) scale their taste preference of apple, cinnamon and lemon jelly beans and combinations thereof. The results are detailed in DOE Simplified in the chapter on mixture design, but the ternary diagram *, tells the story: Pairing apple with cinnamon creates a taste sensation (over 7 on the tasting scale) –- they are synergistic. However, putting the two fruits together (apple and lemon) created a sour reaction from our sensory testers (rated less than 3 on average) -– these two ingredients interact in an antagonistic manner. The trick when pairing foods and beverages is to avoid antagonism and seek synergism.

“Look for those opposites that attract. For example, sweet and acidity, sweet and spicy, hot and cold, salty and sweet.” David Kamen, chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

*(Source of primer on ternary diagram: Lynn S. Fichter, Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.)


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