Midwest Living Review
Jaclyn Stuart, coauthor (with Jeanette Hurt) of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine and Food Pairing," says people are getting excited about pairing wine and food. Book in hand, we headed to Balzac, determined to follow the authors' advice on wine-and-food tasting. Amid charmingly mismatched chairs, cherubs and taxidermy, the sampling began. The wine list was extensive, so we decided to take recommendations from our bartender, who also happened to be the manager. First, creamy Roth Grand Cru Gruyere was matched with a sparkling Gruet Blanc de Noir -- light, dry and understated. Then an off-dry Five H White Riesling was served with crispy firecracker shrimp and sirracha sauce. The Riesling's acidity cut through the fiery flavor, although the light body got a little lost in the pepper's powerful punch. A fruity Shiraz with a hint of cloves squared off with robust lamb, skewered and served with olives, feta and marinated veggies; and a spicy Pinot Noir paired perfectly with garlicky crimini, shiitake and portobellas. We liked the first taste of wine, but loved it after sampling the mushrooms. Finally, peach Foster, a delightful concoction of peaches, vanilla bean ice cream and a bourbon-caramel sauce, did a swing dance with Pineau D'Orignac, a deliciously sweet and dense dessert wine. Ask about wine specials that aren't on the list. If you're lucky, you can score a table on the sidewalk and take in the Brady Street neighborhood vibe -- it's an eclectic mixture of shops, restaurants, coffee houses and residences in historic buildings.