How many pages do you think have been written on pairing food and wine?
Google returns 2,140,000 results for "food and wine matching" and another 299,000 for "food and wine pairing".
To my surprise, "food and beer matching" does even better with more than 37 million hits, though I strongly suspect a quirk of the search terms on that one.
But it seems far less people are talking about how to match food with soft drinks.
Given how many of us choose not to drink alcohol with every meal, this is a real shame, especially as the current availability of what I'd describe as grown up soft drinks means there's far more choice than Coca Cola or fruit juice. (I'm not criticising either).
You might remember that Pete and I were sent a range of soft drinks from Luscombe to welcome us gently into the new year. Early in February, we arranged to meet Gabriel David, the owner of Luscombe Drinks, to find out more about the drinks and talk about matching them with food.
Gabriel took us to the Duke of Cambridge pub – which we totally loved; a wonderful space, shabby chic style, great food and drink and friendly service and the UK's first fully organic gastropub – so that we could experiment with matching some of the Luscombe drinks to a variety of foods. The pub didn't stock the full Luscombe range, so we played with what we had, but some of the results really opened us both up to the potential of really, really good matches between food and soft drinks.
And of course, as Gabriel said, it's far broader than encouraging you to try only Luscombe drinks with food.
There are more and more producers waking up to the fact that soft drinks aren't just for kids and making non-alcoholic drinks to suit adult palates.
As someone who doesn't drink beer and only enjoys dessert wine, I've been enjoying more sophisticated soft drinks with my meals for a while, revelling in the offerings of producers like Belvoir Fruit Farms, Bottlegreen (including Blossom Cottage), Pixley Berries, Thorncroft Drinks and Rocks Organic as well as supermarket own brand products. In fact, even the big soft drink brands have started introducing more adult-oriented products into their range.
And of course, there's an increasingly wide range of top quality fresh fruit juices and smoothies available too.
My notes about the matches that worked best during our little lunch experiment are at the bottom of this post.
I challenge you!
I'd really like to hear more about your favourite food and soft drinks matches.
For those of you who blog, would you consider writing a post about one or more pairings you'd like to share? Link back to this post in yours (with the logo above) and I'll do a round up post linking to all your suggestions on Sunday 24th April. (Let me know about blog posts via email or comments).
For those of you who don't blog, please do share your ideas in the comments.
You can give recipes for food and drink you think work well together or tell me about matches you've particularly enjoyed when eating out.
I'd really like to share some great ideas to help more of us enjoy good food without non-alcoholic drinks and I'm calling on you to help me!
My Matching Notes
Here are my thoughts on the matches that worked best during our lunch.
Pan fried pig's liver with Jerusalem artichokes and balsamic red onion
Both apples and ginger are well known favourites with pork and we all agreed that the Ginger & Apple juice was the strongest match; the meaty pig's liver was robust enough to balance out the strong flavours in the drink.
Chicken liver pate with chutney, pickles and toast
The winner with this dish was very clearly the Elderflower Bubbly. Somehow, this pairing brought out both the elderflower and the chicken liver pate.
Other drinks proved decent matches, but not as quite as mutually improving.
Smoked mackerel salad with beetroot and apple
We initially thought the Sicilian Lemonade or Lime Crush would be the most obvious choice, given the affinity of lemon and fish, especially oily fish. We were wrong, the citrus was too strong and didn't work at all.
What we picked instead was the Elderflower Bubbly, which worked with the fish and enhanced the beetroot in particular.
Cream of celeriac, mushroom and leek soup
None of us could find a great match for the soup in amongst the reduced range we had. Do let me know your suggestions. What do you think would work?
Mussels with chorizo and a dark ale sauce
No photo of this dish, I'm afraid, as we demolished it fairly quickly.
We each had a different favourite here. For me, the Lime Crush worked well against sweet mussels, spicy chorizo and beery sauce. The Ginger & Apple juice also worked.
Spaghetti with creamy mushroom, red onion sauce, ricotta and parmesan
The more acidic drinks didn't work well against the cream in the sauce. Again, the Elderflower Bubbly worked well.