The food pairing recommendations for Volume XIII: Make Wine, Not War are coming from a gentleman who has been critical to my own recent wine education as well as to the creation of this collection of wines: Mike Tesarek. As the Southern California representative for the Blue Danube Wine Company, Mike is on a crusade to introduce the virtually unknown (yet undisputedly delicious) wines of Central Europe to the United States. And as if that weren’t enough, Mike is also a partner in Sacred Thirst Selections, from whom we have sourced some of Le Metro’s most fascinating French wines.
I’ll be sharing Mike’s culinary suggestions here on the blog next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I hope this interview helps you get to know him. (He’s a good man, and thorough.)
Aaron Epstein, Curator
AE: Tell me about that pivotal moment when you decided to dedicate your life to wine. (Come on, we’ve all got one…)
MT: When I was working as a server in the mid to late 90’s. I wanted to explore more than just the same domestic wines I served every night. I have always wanted a challenge in wine and food and I wasn’t being challenged. Yet.
AE: What food(s) did you find most comforting as a child?
MT: A tough one. The same foods over and over bored me. Shake and bake chicken, spaghetti, hamburgers were only a means to an end. I was trapped with a desire to explore and did once I left Montana.
AE: And what does “comfort food” mean to you today?
MT: Sushi, Mediterranean cuisine, and variety and nuance in food in its freshest form.
AE: Do you have a go-to “house wine” that you always have stocked at home?
MT: Not at all. I could drink a different wine in every single glass. Comfort in variety.
AE: When you’re planning a meal, do you generally develop it around the food, or the wine?
MT: I go both ways depending on the setting. For dinner parties food is usually developed around the wine. For a simple weeknight dinner I choose the appropriate pairing based on what is open already, as there is always something open.
AE: Is there a dish that you’re famous for among your friends?
MT: I rarely cook the same thing twice and love surprises in the kitchen as much as from the cellar so always expect the unexpected when coming to my house. You will have wine and food off the beaten path.
AE: How do you decide where to eat when you’re traveling?
MT: Asking the locals is always the best way to go. If language challenged I would do diligent research and pick a smaller restaurant with personality.
AE: What is your favorite place to shop for food?
MT: Farmers markets are the best for me. Having grown up on a farm I appreciate the hard work it takes to be a farmer. Tasting, conversing, feeling the honesty.
AE: Imagine yourself as a culinary ingredient or grape variety. What would you be, and why?
MT: If I could choose only one it would be tough but… Riesling. So versatile at the table with food. It can be electric and tongue tingling dry or can create the best dessert wine ever. A very transparent grape and a characteristic I try to emulate.
AE: Would you consider your approach to food & wine pairing to be more scientific or intuitive?
MT: The most exciting part of pairing for me is experimentation. Trying all the wines with each food is fun. There can be a little bit of both for me and the basis being based on the body of the food and wine being similar.