Eat This, Drink That: Valentine’s Day Food and Beverage Pairings

By Caroline Potter

Sepia in Chicago

Valentine’s Day is coming — and Caviar has options. Not just for what to eat, but what to drink, too. Don’t pull out some stale bottle of wine from your apartment bar cart. Same goes for that over-hopped IPA that’s been in the back of your fridge since summer. So how should you level up the night? We chatted with Mikayla Cohen for smart food and beverage pairings for this v-day at home.

Mikayla Cohen

She’s a certified sommelier who’s worked at restaurants from The French Laundry and Dominique Crenn’s Petit Crenn to New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe. She founded GoAved, a platform to engage in virtual tastings, wine gifting, and cellar development. Here’s how to pair your Caviar order like a pro, whatever you’re eating.

SUSHI

Sushi-San in Chicago, Photo Credit: Sushi-San

When you think sushi, you’re going to think sake. Kick the night off with Sushi-San’s home sake bomb kit. The Chicago spot also offers Dassai “45” Nigori Sake, an unfiltered sake that has a creamy texture that perfectly complements richer cuts, like toro. Or, switch things up with a white Burgundy from your local wine shop — in case you didn’t know, most white Burgundies are Chardonnay, but not in that oaky, buttery California style. “Across the board, there are so many different iterations of white Burgundies, and they’re always elegant and complex,” Cohen says. “Chablis is a leaner style,” while a Mersault is “more muscular and richer.”

PIZZA

Mister 01 in Miami has two dozen unique pizzas on its menu. We’re currently crushing on The Maria with tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and Italian Parmesan. If you want to wash it back with a cold Peroni or a Chianti, that works. When Cohen has pizza, though, she has Nerello Mascalese, an affordable red from Sicily’s Mt. Etna region. “There are elevated tannins and savory elements,” she says. You can also find it in sparkling form which, she notes, “could be very interesting” with pizza.

RAMEN

Toki Underground in DC

Check out the ramen at Toki Underground in Washington, D.C. They’ve got all the pork ramen you need in your life, plus chicken and vegan picks. You’re gonna want bubbles here. “Sparkling wine is my go-to with soup. If there’s ever a dull moment with soup when you get halfway through, a sparkling wine brings the flavor back and adds a little bit of excitement to the palate. It brings a lift to it.” Don’t just settle for Prosecco, though — she recommends swinging for the fences, and getting real-deal Champagne from the French region of the same name. For beer drinkers, Toki Underground has Otaru Ale and a Kyoto Matcha IPA, but you can also go with a Kölsch or an amber ale, notes Cohen.

THAI

Michelin-starred Laut in New York, known for its Ultimate Curry Laksa, has non-alcoholic options like lychee juice (currently on Cohen’s list of pairings to try), hot and iced teh tarik (a milk tea), and iced bandung (made with milk and rose syrup). At some point, your tongue will be on fire (in a good way, we swear), and any of these will cool things down. If you’re in a cheers-y mood, though, pick up a bottle of any dry (not sweet!) Riesling. An Austrian Riesling is an especially nice choice. “They tend to be on the dry side and the acidity will cut through the spice,” she says.

MEXICAN

Gracias Madre in LA and SF, Photo Credit: Gracias Madre

The only problem we have with most Mexican restaurants is that we basically want to order the whole menu. Gracias Madre in San Francisco is like that. It’s plant-based but, trust us, you won’t miss the meat. Pair the killer burritos, enchiladas rojas, and tacos with one of their to-go cocktails like a Margarita Purista for two or a booze-free horchata. Or, plot twist, do a Corpse Reviver №2 at home. Made with Absinthe, dry gin, Lillet Blanc, orange liqueur, and fresh lemon juice, Cohen says, “It’s a really fun stand-in for a traditional margarita and it has some similar things happening in the glass.”

BURGERS

Au Cheval in Chicago

Order a next-level burger like the one at Au Cheval in Chicago. They’ve got singles and doubles and, while you’re at it, don’t forget to put an egg on it. Au Cheval has a solid list of beer and wine, but they had us at Pickleback Kit, which includes a 375 ml bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and 14 ounces of housemade pickle juice. Or shake something up at home. Cohen is vibing with a Scotch Negroni with a burger. Sub out the gin for “smokiness, sweetness, and a hit of bitter that will make you go back for another bite of your burger.”

MEDITERRANEAN

Avra in LA, Photo Credit: Avra

We heart Mediterannean food, especially from Avra Beverly Hills. They keep things fresh and clean with spreads, salads, Bronzino for two, and horta or steamed wild greens. Get the Mykonos Breeze or large-format End of Juniper cocktail. The Juniper serves four, but that’s your business. Dip into the wine list, or uncork your own bottle of orange wine or a Provence rosé for something more floral. Don’t overlook pairing it with Madeira, either. “It’s got a nutty component, a salty component that would be really interesting with Mediterranean,” according to Cohen.

KOREAN

If you’re ordering Korean cuisine from a spot like Cho Dang Gol in New York, you’re gonna want a pairing that can keep up with bulgogi and bossam. Check out CDG’s makgeolli list. Makgeolli is like a rice wine but not exactly. It’s a spirit made from rice, water, and yeast that dates back thousands of years. If you’re not ordering from a spot that offers makgeoolli, or farmer liquor as it’s also called, snag a California Zinfandel. “You get that traditional spice. You get a sort of sweet tobacco meets blackberry meets dark chocolate and clove and cinnamon and cardamom. It’s structured and you get those developed flavors that are happening in Korean food,” says Cohen.

ITALIAN

Eataly in LA, Chicago and NYC, Photo Credit: Eataly

One of our go-to pasta spots is EATALY, the Los Angeles all-things-Italian-food mecca. We’re currently obsessed with the lasagna, tagliatelle alla Bolognese and pasticcini pastries. The beer and wine lists, obviously, have a lot of spot-on Italian picks. But, Cohen also recommends looking at Greek red wines, like a Xinomavro. “It’s got Sangiovese-esque qualities; it’s full-bodied, it’s smokey, it’s irony, it’s savory, it’s meaty. And it’s going to be a little more gentle on your wallet.”

INDIAN

Amber India in San Francisco offers crowd-pleasing food. Get the butter chicken for the carnivores, a veggie curry like Balgan Bharta, and the Dal Amber (IT’S. SO. GOOD.) and everyone’s happy. A dry Grüner Veltliner from Austria is on the menu and will balance their richness. But Cohen thinks you can add another level to things if you brew up a pot of tea — but not just any tea. “Alcoholic beverages are just not that common [with this cuisine], so I would encourage people to try a Chinese Oolong tea. Chinese Oolong teas can have beautiful sweetened condensed milk, almondy, peachy components that present with lots of mouth-feel. They can be super complex, and with the richness of Indian food overall, a tea is a bit gentler [than alcohol].”

STEAK

The Polo Bar in NYC, Photo Credit: The Polo Bar

Making a perfectly cooked steak is hard. Ordering The Polo Bar’s classic NY strip steak on Caviar? Not so much. Don’t forget a slice of their five-layer chocolate cake and you have a meal fit for a king. Pair this with what is the king of Italian wines: Nebbiolo. New York’s The Polo Bar has two fantastic Barolos on their to-go menu. Or grab a Barbaresco at a store near you. “It’s an approachable wine with great ageability; it’s the picture of elegance and complexity and steeped in tradition,” Cohen says.

VEGETARIAN

Chloe in Washington, D.C. is veg-forward, but they still have proteins. Caramelized cauliflower and potato gnocchi hang alongside spiced roasted chicken and a Norwegian salmon. Chloe’s somm will handpick a bottle or two for you to pair with your order. Or you can choose wines by the bottle yourself along with large-format cocktails, like the La Lavande. Don’t forget beer as an option. Cohen recommends a saison style. “You get all those florals and earthy components, It’s herbal and complex. And, beer will offer additional sustenance to a meal that’s typically on the lighter side.”

Check out the Valentine Guide in our app for more options on what to eat and drink this v-day.

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