Tartare. Just the word makes my mouth water. I must admit, today’s article was inspired by yesterday’s lunch. I sat for a lunch meeting at Toronto’s iconic French resto Auberge du Pommier, and it’s one of the few places I don’t even open the menu; not because there aren’t a collection of inspired and inspiring dishes to choose from, but because there are few things in life I enjoy more than a well-made steak tartare – and they make a bloody good one!
In the modern world of tartare – from beef to tuna, and from salmon to bison – there are an increasing number of tasty raw meat and fish vehicles delivering bigger and bolder flavours than ever. And how can this be anything but exciting delicious news for us wine lovers? Tartare is a wonderfully delicate dish that offers up rich, unctuous and complex flavours with which to match wines of equal distinction.
For me, tartare in an indulgence; a special treat I bestow upon myself in better eating establishments; when surrounded by my best friends; as celebration on the best days – and a place to wash away my sorrows on days that aren’t so good. I literally haven’t come across an occasion or emotion or meal time (brunch, lunch or dinner – take your choice!) that a great tartare can’t make tastier.
So how can we take this raw hedonistic indulgence and make it even better?
By pairing it with wines that are every bit as craving-worthy, satisfying and delicious – that’s how.
So, here we go – our definitive guide to pairing flavourful, delicious vinous treasures with tartare; 4 of the most interesting and tasty recipes we could find, and the wines we think you’ll find to be their match made in heaven!
1.) Anthony Bourdain’s Classic Beef Tartare – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Champagne
Given the extent to which I treasure this classic dish, I wanted to offer up a recipe and pairing that reflects my appreciation for simplicity and understated elegance. This iconic recipe demands a partner in crime (wine pairing) every bit as effervescent and divine. Now there are few foods on earth that aren’t elevated by a glass of Champagne, but there is something about this particular pairing that just rocks my world. Pinot Nor dominated Champagne offers up an earthy, mushroom-y profile that not only refreshes the palate between bites, but that draws out the best flavours of the dish. If you don’t like this recipe or pairing, I’m ok with that – because I was kind of hoping I’d get to eat yours too!
2.) Salmon Tartare w/ Mango & Avocado – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc
Perhaps the trickiest of the four recipes included today to match wine with, as salmon’s inherently fatty and oily nature tends to interact with many wines in unpleasant ways – highlighting the “fishiness” of the salmon, rather than its lovely sweet richness. To overcome this challenge, we need to find a white wine with sufficient acidity to cleanse the palate – and in addition, with this particular recipe featuring awesome sweet fresh mango, we need a wine with oodles of aromatic intensity and fruit. My mind immediately jumped to Sauvignon Blanc, particularly ripe more aromatically intense examples, even perhaps with a bit of oak – like a white Bordeaux or California Fume Blanc. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, I’d encourage you to also consider the fine dry white wines of the Loire made from Chenin Blanc, particularly in Vouvray or Saumur. These bracingly fresh and acidic white wines showcase a veritable fireworks display of exotic tropical fruit flavours perfectly matched to this preparation.
3.) Tuna Tartare w/ Guacamole – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir
Next to beef tartare, Tuna preparations are probably my next favourite. There is something inherently “meat-like” about this fish; firm, flavourful and savoury, and when served along with amazing rich and creamy mashed avocado, it becomes a next-level eating experience. With the richness of this particular preparation, I appreciate the bright red berry fruit and refreshing nature of a good Pinot Noir. From red Burgundy to cool climate bottlings from coastal California, or pacific northwest selections, the so-called “heart-break” grape sings a song I like to hum along to, when served with this tasty uncooked tuna.
4.) Bison Tartare w/ Truffle Mustard & White Beets – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Sparkling Rose
With red meat bookends to our recipe ideas today, it seems right to showcase a sparkling wine with this Bison preparation, much like we did with the beef to get started, to create some symmetry – not to mention a vibrant and delicious food and wine match. Bison tends to have a bit more flavour and “gaminess” than beef, so we need a wine with a bit more stuffing and body than simply and old sparkling wine; this dish screams for dry pink bubbly. My recommendation? Why not try a quality rose Cava alongside this leaner but flavourful twist on the classic beef tartare.