A glistening glass of local wine, with a tasty little snack on the side - is there anything better? It's no coincidence that when a place produces particularly good wine and beer, a gourmet accompaniment seems to spring forth from the area to join in. Here we celebrate seven destinations that really know how to serve up those double-barrel delights:
1. Cheese: Northern California
Many destinations are synonymous with cheese - some quite literally so: Gruyere, Brie, Cheshire, Appenzell, Parma (oddly, Stilton produces no Stilton cheese) - but Northern California is a rare triple threat, scoring high marks for cheese, wine and beer making. Add in the North Coast redwood forests, the dramatic coastal and hill scenery of California wine country and you've got the makings of a perfect travel banquet. Want to make this trip happen? Check out our custom cheese itineraries for Northern California and read more about great cheese destinations in Cheese travel: tips form a cheesemonger.
Pairing: Try a Mt Tam triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery paired - well, with just about anything - but ideally a Carneros chardonnay. Farther north from Arcata, try Cypress Grove's mushroomy Truffle Tremor with a nutty amber ale like Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Boont Amber.
2. Cured meats: Cádiz
So many cured meats, so little time. If you had to pick one, it's hard to pick one better than the prized jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) made from the black Iberian pig fed largely on a diet of acorns. What does this mean for you? It means astonishing melt-in-your mouth deliciousness coupled with an equally astonishing price tag. No need to go to the pigs themselves - where better to try some than in Cádiz in the traditional heart of Spain's sherry country?
Pairing: Sample with a dry Jerez Fino sherry (although no one will shout at you if you prefer a cool Spanish lager, even in the Sherry Triangle). For another local treat, add some toasted marcona almonds to your spread.
3. Moules frites: Brussels
Garlicky mussels, salty crisp-fried chips, fragrant broth - moule frites is a staple across Belgium, and one that cries out for a local libation. When in Brussels, do as the Flemish do - that's to say, drink beer. Belgian lagers get shipped worldwide, but Belgium is perhaps more famous in the beer world for the Trappist beers made by only a handful of remaining monasteries and the countless boutique brands that have sprouted around Belgium's thriving beer scene.
Pairing: Wash down your steamy bivalves and spuds with a Duvel blonde ale, or explore one of the thousands of other beers produced in this hops-happy country. What else is Brussels known for? Chocolate (which happens to pair well with dark beers, although not quite as well with shellfish).
4. Olives: Sicily
Olives are a classic accompaniment to wine in the Mediterranean. Lately, the bright green Castelvetrano olive of Sicily has been popping up around the world as many food-lovers are being introduced to its charms for the first time. Less assertive than many of its cousins, the meaty Castelvetrano is an olive that even confirmed olive-haters might grow to love.
Pairing: A Sicilian nero d'avola, a bowl of Castelvetrano Olives and a local sheep's milk cheese like a pecorino or a saffron-infused piacentinu will never disappoint. For more mouth-watering food travel tips, see A food voyage through Sicily.
5. Pretzels: Bavaria
What's better than a salty pretzel, crisp on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle? How about a salty pretzel and a large German beer? These pretzels are making me thirsty! Every year at Oktoberfest, thousands of pretzels the size of a large frisbee are consumed to help sop up the roughly 6 million liters of beer consumed each year at the Munich festival. Can't make it to Oktoberfest? Never fear - pretzels can be found throughout Bavaria year-round.
Pairing: 1 pretzel + 1 large weissbier + 1 bockwurst = 1 happy breakfast. Or lunch.
6. Fish and chips: England
Picking the best maker of fish and chips is controversial to say the least - even picking England over other nearby countries is likely to provoke some complaints (which we welcome in the comments below) and malt-vinegar-stained hate mail (which you can send with a £50 note care of the author). Two less controversial statements: (1) the largest fish and chips in the world were made by the Wensleydale Heifer in Yorkshire, and (2) fish and chips taste best when paired with beer.
Pairing: A real ale is the way to go with fish and chips, but you don't need to go ultra-boutique: a Young's Bitter or a Samuel Smith Pale Ale will do nicely. If you must have wine, find yourself a glass of a crisp white (maybe even from an English winery).
7. Hot dog: Chicago
If fish and chips will spark controversy in the British Isles, hot dogs will do the same in the US. We may not know what's inside, but we Americans are fiercely proud of our dogs. Chicago is rightly famed for their sausage prowess - not to mention their shunning of ketchup in favor of real tomatoes. You can go crazy at local purveyors such as Hot Doug's and The Wiener's Circle, but for overall experience it's hard to top a basic dog in the stands at Wrigley Field.
Pairing: Beer - cheap, light, cold and lots of it.
This article was first published in August 2011 and was refreshed in August 2012.
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