BookI don’t write very many book reviews despite the fact that several publishers have sent me several books in the past.

But, unless I really like a book and think it is worth reading, I don’t feel the need to do a write up. It’s not worth my time to write it — or your time to read it.

What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page doesn’t fall into the "not-worth-it" category. In fact, it’s the type of reference that anybody who enjoys cooking, wine and entertaining should keep in their kitchen.

Before I get into what I liked, liked best and didn’t like about the book, let me just say that I think food and wine pairing are much much easier than a lot of people think. Most of the time, if the food is good and the wine is of good quality, you’re going to have a good experience. People stress out way too much about picking the exact "right" wine for their meals. Drink what you like…and as long as it’s not riesling with char-grilled venison (or something like that) you’re in good shape.

That said, a lot of people are anxious about food and wine pairing, and for them, What to Drink with What You Eat is absolutely ideal.

Along with some basic pairing guidelines, the book has an extensive (most of the book) list of foods with good pairings listed. So say you’re serving curry chicken. You turn to that page and you’ll see that chardonnay is the most suggested pairing, but that beer, sparkling wine and gewurztraminer are other options. I like that they offer more than just a couple options. It would be fun to actually try all of them side-by-side and see which you liked best.

To give you an idea of just how extensive the food list is, Dornenburg and Page even list White Castle Hamburgers — and suggest riesling, rose or white zinfandel.

The book also allows you to start with the wine first and find suitable foods, something I’ve not seen before. As someone who often starts menu planning with the wines I want to serve, this is a great feature.
For people who are a bit more confident doing these sorts of pairings, the depth of suggestions is the best part of the book. I know that I find that I sometimes get in a rut of serving the same types of wines with the same types of food over and over again. If I cook Asian cuisine, I serve riesling. If I serve slow-smoked barbeque, I pour zinfandel. After reading this book, however, I’m going to try sauvignon blanc, viognier or 7-Up blended with congnac the next time I make stir fry. The next time I make pulled pork, I just might try rose Champagne or Barbera.

The only downside to the book, and it’s one that is easy to understand, is that the "Why?" isn’t answered for the suggestions. Why would that Barbera work with barbeque? Why is viognier a good choice for Chinese food? Of course, if they actually answered these questions, the book would probably be well over 1000 pages long.

Well done, Andrew and Karen. This is a book I know that I’ll use regularly and often. And I know that I’m excited to try some of the more esoteric pairings you suggest — like dark chocolate with single-malt scotch or lamb chops with a shandy, which is beer mixed with lemonade and a splash of soda.