From the moment anyone embraces the journey of cocktails, wine or beer, they are constantly “working” to match up the right food with the beverage.

It’s as if one thing at a time was not adequate and why not introduce another aspect to the festivities?

Okay, here’s my take on the whole shebang (might be a good idea to sit down): way too much effort is put into pairings when the easy solution is just to eat and drink what you like.

That being said, let me rapidly expand on the already wide-open thought. As an example, if the experts, whomever they may be, agree that Malbec from Argentina goes well with barbecue, then who should argue. I think the person who should retort is the person who does not enjoy Malbec. Or barbecue. Or both.

And there’s the point. What so-called expert has the intelligence or the moxie to tell you what to eat and with what? Then these advisors will tell you how good all the elements of the meal go together. Isn’t that the way it happens? And are you always, or even usually, convinced that they are right?

Sure sometimes they “make a love match,” and sometimes not so much. The latter to my experience is the more dominant outcome.

On the one hand, these are these same casts of characters who will tell you that everyone’s tasting mechanisms, which include more of the nose than the mouth, are different. We all have individual responses to the five items we humans can taste (salt, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami) and to the thousands of smells we can distinguish from over a trillion possible olfactory responses. Dogs, by the way, are more than 40 times more sensitive than we poor nasally inadequate humans.

Okay, we are more different from each other in our sensations and responses than the same, at least as far as the senses are concerned and yet we pursue expert one-response-fits-all opinions as to what foods go with what drinks.

Now, before I have the Sommelier and Wine Makers’ Union boycotting this column and spray painting GMO olive oil all over my statue in the foyer of the cafeteria, there is a real place for Somms and Wine Guides. Believe me, the urge to be flip and crass here is practically overwhelming. Wait, I think that moment has passed. I have not (yet) alientated all my friends in the food and beverage world. Close call.

Anyway, if we all have individual tastes, and we all are partial to our own proclivities, no matter how warped they seem to be to our fellow vacationers at Club Earth, how can we ever come to agreements? There are indeed tendencies, soft boundaries within which we all, with our common humanity, can agree.

And here is where those wonderful folks who want to expound about white wine and fish and Zinfandel and chocolate, come back into the picture. Modern meals are diverse and mixed conglomerations of proteins, vegetables, dairy products, grains, and a whole host of textures, smells, spicy tastes and cooking methods. Each process and food item changes the sensory perception of every other aspect on the plate.

It is the role of a sommelier, chef, server, and nutritionist to be an interpreter, not a grade school principal whose word is The Law. These learned experts spend more time at this sort of thing than most of us, and their guidance can be useful. Again, thanks to our individual taste, we are the best resource for us. But should these other opinions just happen to come to the fore, why not listen? It will always be up to you.

So, what have we learned today, class? We learned that when it comes to all manner of food and drink, no one knows what we like better than us. And we learned that certain bystanders can also contribute to our enjoyment but their voice is not the Holy Grail, only a signpost on the highway to nutritional and gustatory pleasures.

Class dismissed.




Read Happy Hour here on every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life" every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans.