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Wednesday, May 8 1996
The Color of Wine
It used to be that you served red wine with red meat and white wine with fish or poultry. Americans like rules, especially simple, rigid ones that can't easily be misinterpreted.

But rules about wine are changing; they're more subjective, says Jerry Comfort, executive chef at Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena. It's not that anything goes these days, but rather that our understanding of how wine commingles with food has become more subtle.

Sour foods, for example -- a lemon-butter sauce, or vinegar -- will mask a wine's own sourness and bitterness, making it taste "richer and more mellow," Comfort says. Sweet accents will amplify a wine's sourness and astringency and make it seem drier.

Comfort thinks that fruitier California wines are more "food friendly" and match with a wider variety of dishes than their more complex siblings (such as big cabernet sauvignons), which do better in the company of more simply prepared foods, such as grilled meats.

(This analysis came as something of a surprise to Dish, who had long understood the fruitier California style to be better suited to aperitifs, while the steelier character of French wines made them better companions to food.)

The main thing is to look to guidelines for direction rather than be bound by rules. "Never be afraid to take chances with wine and food," Comfort says. "A little experimentation can open up a whole new world of tastes."

A hamburger culture can be a lonely place for vegetarians, especially as warm weather brings out barbecues and the evening air fills with the smell of grilling burgers. But good patties don't have to be made of meat. In a new cookbook, Vegetarian Burgers (HarperPerennial, $12.50), Bharti Kirchner offers recipes made with grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and (inevitably) tofu.

She also argues for grilling the veggie burgers, although to do so with a reasonable degree of success requires a vegetable grid -- a flat nonstick metal sheet with holes that fits on the grill. Unlike burgers made of ground meat, the veggie versions don't hold together as well and are likely to fall apart if plopped straight onto the barbecue.

Thin Again
Reed Hearon, owner and chef of Lulu and Rose Pistola, offered Dish his thin-crust pizza secrets, but too late for last week's deadline.

"You roll the dough thin and put it in a very hot oven," he says simply. At Rose Pistola, that's an exceptionally hot oven: 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, the pizza bakes in a minute and a half. Fast food.

By Paul Reidinger

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Paul Reidinger


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