I confess, steak tartare is my guilty pleasure. So much that it has become my first meal every time I travel back to France. After landing in Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, I quickly Uber over to one of my favorite restaurants on Place Dauphine near Notre-Dame and cheerfully order my steak tartare. Best way to beat jet lag ; )
Steak tartare comes in many forms: ground, chopped, seared, etc… I tasted it several times at different restaurants and it turns out, I like them all! I do however prefer to make it myself and add the ingredients and seasoning at the table, as opposed to the meat being seasoned in the kitchen. Somehow yesterday, I felt like having steak tartare at home. This isn’t something I do regularly and yet I was craving it. So there I went fighting my way through the crowd on a Friday afternoon to get everything I needed.
The question then arises, “What should we drink with that?”
As a rule of thumb, steak tartare pairs nicely with Beaujolais – by which I mean red Beaujolais. It is the most French of wines, the perfect wine pairing for a picnic or bistro meal. Beaujolais is almost always a winner with French charcuterie such as patés, terrines, rillettes and saucisson sec and with white-rinded cheeses such as Brie and Camembert. It’s generally thought of as light and fruity though it can also be quite full-bodied. Foodwise it pairs with much the same ingredients and dishes as pinot noir though gamay (the grape Beaujolais is made from) doesn’t have the best pinots’ complexity or silky, sensuous texture.
So I decided to open a Bourgogne (French Burgundy). I had been aging a Pinot noir from the Gevrey-Chambertin area, one of the most sought after wine on the Route des Grands Crus of Côte de Nuits, AVA. It’s 11 years old and based my very limited notion of wine aging, I decided it was time to open it. I also really wanted to ; )
By itself, the wine was fine but it didn’t have the impact I was expecting from a grand cru. With a 13% alcohol content, the wine was nicely balanced and featured the typical black currant, fresh red fruits, earthy mushroom and spice notes, with a hint of oak, rounded off with the Burgundian signature of minerality and acidity. I really wanted this wine to be an explosion of senses, and it wasn’t. In fact, it was way more than that. It actually gave me more pleasure and satisfaction in a different way. Are you confused? Yes, I would be too. I’ll explain.
Like I said, the first sip I took was simply OK. The second one was marginally better, as my palate got used to the wine complexity. Then I took a bite of the steak tartare, quickly tasted the wine one more time, aaaaaand there it was! The explosion of senses, the expectation, the Shangri-La of taste, the epicurean delight … I had experienced an exceptional wine pairing.
It’s not always about the wine, or the food, or the people… It’s about how they are paired and enjoyed together, as a group. Finding the perfect pairing remains a difficult task – perhaps impossible – but when you have it, when it happens, and when you’re a part of it, don’t question it and enjoy every second of it because they are rare and beautiful.