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Wining and Dining

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By Mark Davis

Published Apr 1, 2008 8:00 AM


As the weather warms, the palate yearns for fine food and good wine. But how to pick the perfect pairs? Two Bruin culinary experts share their favorites for perfect meals during nights on the town or quiet dining at home.

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Photos by Lisa Thompson

Business lunches, romantic dinners, quiet meals at home, picnics at the Bowl — food and drink are rarely just about eating. Partnerships, both personal and professional, can get the perfect boost from a well-chosen menu.

Interesting, surprising and delicious are the goals, but where to start? Romanian wine? Acorn-fed boar? What wine pairs well with fries?

Spring for a Picnic

Here are two who know the answers. Evan Kleiman '76, M.B.A. '80 is the acclaimed chef-owner of Los Angeles institution Angeli Caffe, cookbook author and host of KCRW's Good Food. Courtney Cochran '01, M.B.A. '05 is founder of Your Personal Sommelier, a wine consulting business, author of Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine, and publisher of a blog at www.HipTastes.com.

Recently, Kleiman and Cochran sat around the virtual kitchen table and took on that tasteful task, while UCLA Magazine took notes.

Kleiman: Spring is about reveling in the simply seasonal and fresh. And what eating experience is more natural than eating with your fingers? A picnic is the perfect place to revert to our childlike selves.

Giant green asparagus spears that have been drizzled with olive oil and lightly roasted are delicious with a bit of lemon-infused fleur de sel (a specialty French sea salt). And despite the adage that asparagus doesn't pair with wine, try a light red, like a rose or dolcetto.

Cochran: Spring is all about effervescence, and prosecco from northeastern Italy's Veneto region is the perfect bubbly for the season. The easy drinking sparkler packs lively acidity and often a hint of sweetness, which makes it perfect for salty picnic foods, since sweetness is the ultimate foil to salt. A simple prosciutto and melon appetizer is heaven with an off-dry (slightly sweet) prosecco. It will also pair beautifully with sandwiches made with cured meats, salads and even potato chips.

Kleiman: And how about a bite of a luscious, perfectly ripe farmer's market apricot? Take a few ripe apricots along with a small container of crème fraîche and a couple of amaretti cookies. Pull the apricots apart, remove the pit. You can toss them into the surroundings; maybe a tree will grow. Spoon the crème fraîche into the apricot halves and crush the cookies over. Enjoy the sweet, luscious creaminess of it all.

Cochran: And where would we be on a picnic without really good cheese? Gooey, salty-tasting cheese is actually best paired with sweet wines with a strong backbone of acidity. Acid cuts through the copious fat in the cheese, a welcome thing when you're tucking into the likes of a triple cream brie! French sweeties like those from Sauternes in southern Bordeaux or the Loire Valley's Vouvray and Quarts de Chaume regions rarely disappoint with cheese.

Kleiman: I love the idea of cheese in any form. The ascetic asparagus will pair beautifully with the extreme creaminess of an Explorateur slathered on oat crackers.

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