6 April 2011

The Kavey Eats Food & Soft Drinks Challenge

A few weeks ago fellow food blogger Kavey, who writes the rather excellent blog Kavey Eats, set an interesting challenge. Much has been written about the matching of food and wine, but it seems there's a dearth of information on how to best match food with non-alcoholic drinks. Kavey's challenge, therefore, was to come up with some interesting food and soft drink pairings.

Beyond the typical non-alcoholic trinity of coke/water/juice, it’s unusual to find much more on offer in a restaurant. There are of course a few notable exceptions, and some restaurants (mostly high-end) have concocted soft drinks to win over the hearts of the most committed oenophiles.

When I ate at Noma last year I was offered the option of a matching juice menu that included Nordic exotics such as apple pine and sea buckthorn juices. Instead, I opted for the matching booze, but part of me still thinks that the juices would have been far more exciting. The two-Michelin starred Chicago restaurant Charlie Trotter's is also noted for its matching soft drinks menu with mouth watering options like Grapefruit, Chai & Rosemary and Rhubarb, Fennel & Juniper. But these restaurants definitely remain the exception rather than the rule.

The classic marriage of fish and white wine is an obvious place to start. One popular midweek dinner in the Nibbler household is a dish of salmon and orecchiette. Norway produces some truly outstanding salmon, and I never get tired of eating it. The recipe is taken from Kiwi chef Peter Gordon's book, A World in my Kitchen. Like most of his cooking it's a fusion of East and West, and the salmon here works so well with the spinach, fresh lemon, sesame oil and zingy chillies.
Typically, I might have this dish with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, which is packed with flavours of passion fruit, peaches, and gooseberries. It's a wine that is well suited to seafood and salads. So I struck upon the idea of trying to create a soft drink with a similar flavour profile. My approach was somewhat ham-fisted and entailed a fair bit of "let's chuck it in and see if it works." In the end I came up with this concoction:
The drink has a pleasing herbaceous aroma, with a hint of tropical fruit that so often characterises a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It is simply a mix of:
  • 8 parts water
  • 2 parts elderflower cordial
  • 1 part lime cordial
  • A few drops of lime juice
  • A few drops of passion fruit juice
I used organic elderflower cordial from Danish brand Grønne Gaarden as it is not too floral. The cold-bottling process and short pasteurisation time gives it a light, but vibrant taste, so it's well suited here.

I also picked up this bottle of organic blackcurrant cordial that is made on the ancient Østre Enger Farm some 40km west of Oslo. Its flavour is quite extraordinary and is a world away from something like Ribena. It's much less sweeter for a start and is bursting with an intense blackcurrant taste. It is also pleasingly dry on the palate. In sum, it crossed my mind that this might go perfectly well with foods that would typically be matched with a Cabernet Sauvignon, such as fatty red meat. A simple approach maybe, but very effective.
 So what about you? Do you have any soft drink/food pairings you'd like to share?


  1. I am bookmarking this - your elderflower concoction sounds beautiful.

    I find straight elferflower a little too pungent for my liking, but those sharp citrussy elements would work a treat.

  2. Really interesting combination of food with non-alcoholic beverages. Certainly stimulates the imagination. That sounds good.

  3. I know that some high end establishments match different of waters - eg bold carbonated water suits deep fried food, neutral still water for delicate foods like white fish etc. There are also water sommeliers. Soft drink - never heard of but why not. Red grape juice may go well with steak:)

  4. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

    Thank you, and hope some more bloggers and food lovers will be inspired to join in the challenge too!

  5. @meemalee - I think I'm going to have to name this drink elferflower juice now

    @annamaria - Indeed it does get you thinking. I see you blog too, maybe you could join in the challenge? :-)

    @Three-Cookies - Yes, I've read about water sommeliers but never seen them in action. Why not, I suppose? Water can have a variety of tastes and textures. I'll still probably stick with "eau de tap" though.

    @Kavey - You're welcome dear. Was a fun little exercise. Let's hope more will join in.