A food and water pairing may sound bizarre in theory, but in tried and tested actuality, it is bizarrely good. After all, water was an essential element found on every dining table long before the wine pairing trend was even born. Frankly, water is the ultimate accompaniment to any fare.
And yet when we talk about mineral waters — both still and sparkling — two names stand out. Long a part of Italian culture, both Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino by San Pellegrino Group date all the way back to 1899. Their quality and balanced character are known to highlight the taste of food and wine, and their cultivation from Italian mineral springs has made them renowned for being fine dining waters, found in countless five-starred restaurants, hotels, and even households across the world.
But now back to the subject: pairing drinks with food can either ruin or elevate the dish, which makes it a tricky task. And whilst there is no denying the pleasure of matching alcohol with different types of food, elevating your dining experience with a mineral water pairing too can be very exhilarating.
S.Pellegrino is sparkling mineral water, and features long-lived bubbles with a slight acidity and saltiness. The water is rich in mineral concentration, and its thirst-quenching quality explains its popularity. It pairs marvellously well with red meats and rich foods. Acqua Panna, on the other hand, is a still mineral water. It boasts a velvet-y mouthfeel, with a light-bodied texture and subtle yet lightly sweet flavour notes. This makes it a perfect accompaniment to fish, seafood, pasta, sushi, or any more delicate pairings.
Yet how do we pair the likes of S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna with food? To learn how to best do this, we kept the pairing true to originality, and matched the Italian water with fine dining Italian food. We steered toward the Italian food enclave of the city, Sukhumvit 31, and navigated to Enoteca, a wine oasis and Italian haven where they serve up great vino and Italian fare enriched beautifully with modern flair.
We paired some of Enoteca’s best signature dishes with S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. Keeping in mind that a water pairing can either break or enhance the dish, we saw for ourselves what type of dish matched best with either still or sparkling water. Read all about what we think below.
Amuse bouche: Liquid Bruschetta and Caesar Salad
Both bruschetta and Caesar salad get a refreshed cool status here at Enoteca, and as an amuse bouche, make for a pretty divine opening to the meal. Consisting of deep-fried chicken skin bejewelled with pearls of mayo and dry-cured ham, the playful salad is just as much fun as the bright, slightly acidic bruschetta served in a liquid form next to it. From a visual, this dish can either go with still or sparkling, but we particularly like the sharp cut from a slightly acidic sip of S. Pellegrino. The sparkling water helps to smoothen out the slightly salty and sour situation, and creates a clean and crisp mouthfeel to get your palate prepped for the coming courses.
Spaghetti Mancini in Tomato Water and Burrata Cheese
Cooked in concentrated tomato broth, this unusual yet surprisingly delicious 2.2-millimetre spaghetti (usually 1.8 millimetres thick) soaks up every bit of the summery tomato flavour, perfect for seasoning the milky burrata cheese hidden underneath. Once mixed, the bundle of tomato pasta gets coated throughout with stringy cheese. Without a doubt, the dish hums in its humble tangs of cheese and tomato, making it perfect for a delicate pairing with the light-bodied Acqua Panna, which perfectly rounds out and maintains the integrity of the dish.
Golden Onion cooked in Salt with Braised Quails
Let’s be real: onions rarely get any respect. The multi-layer underground vegetable is often under-appreciated without regard to the fact that it is almost always a base for many a sumptuous dish — from onion soup to bolognese. At Enoteca, however, the root vegetable gets all the limelight it deserves in this dish. Stuffed with juicy braised quails, the onion is coated with salt crust and baked long and slow for an hour. The outer layer of the salt keeps the components inside moist and evenly cooked. The bird which was braised entirely with bones is attached for a more toothsome flavour, which lends itself to the succulency of the juicy, sweet onion. Intensely rich, the bold flavours of this dish should be paired with the even bolder and bubbly water of S. Pellegrino. The sparkling water stands up greatly to the strong, umami-packed characteristics of the quail.
Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine with Mashed Potato
Leisurely braised in red wine for hours on end, the fork-tender beef shank is as luscious as a pudding — and appears so too in shape. Beefy, fruity and fleshy, S. Pellegrino is a perfect mirroring match, since it adds that refreshing oomph to complement the meatiness of this dish.
Dark Chocolate Parfait with Crunchy Hazelnut
Although Enoteca makes a mean tiramisu, we recommend you go off the beaten track and try this Dark Chocolate Parfait. An indulgent cross between chocolate pudding, chocolate cake, and chocolate ice cream, this cocoa-loaded dessert with a hint of nuttiness gives off a blast of pleasantly bittersweet tastes that cater beautifully to dessert devourers. Pair it with Acqua Panna to really highlight the charming characteristics and richness of the cacao.
Enoteca, Soi Sukhumvit 27, Bangkok, +662 258 4386; Open Mon-Sun, 6 pm – 12 am.