Chef Katie Button and Felix Meana on Food Pairings for Albariño
Katie Button and Felix Meana, owners of Curate, a celebrated Spanish restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, share a partnership as perfect as an ideal food and wine pairing. They met over a decade ago while working for superstar Spanish chef Jose Andres and have been together since. Now, Katie cooks delicious authentic Spanish dishes for Curate’s diners, while Felix shares with them the warmth and hospitality learned in his upbringing near Barcelona. And, of course, he pours beautiful albariño wines that accentuate the layers of flavors in his wife’s cooking.
What they both know—and practice everyday at their restaurant and at home—is how wines from Rias Baixas enhance a wide variety of dishes. Albariño wines all share a level of quality that ranks them among other world-class white wines, but they vary in their nuances, making them fantastic pairings for everything from seafood to meat.
At a recent tapas event in New York City, Katie and Felix showed off albarino’s range. Felix immediately put the crowd at ease when he kicked off the tasting by emphasizing, “I’m not going to get into technical stuff. I’m here to talk about how much I love these wines.” To prove his point, he highlighted albariño’s five main flavors, which Katie gave the tasters to smell. She arranged wheatgrass, yeast dough, preserved lemon rinds, green apple slices and seaweed on plates like interactive works of art. The respective aromas of grassiness, yeastiness, citrus, tartness, and sea-saltiness were all present in different degrees in the albariño wine flight, along with lush notes of stone fruit and crisp minerality.
Katie then explained how she pairs her dishes with those different flavors. She says, “There’s such a wide variety of albariño. When I have one that tastes of the sea, I pair it with seafood. Raw oysters are perfect for an albariño with a lot of salinity. Richer, fuller-bodied wines work really well with pork. And ones with citrus notes, I like with sauces and dishes that incorporate lemon zest, orange segments, or even grapefruit.” To drive home her point, she served oysters on the half shell, pork braised in an apricot sauce, and white asparagus with a lemon vinaigrette.
But the showcase of albariño’s versatility didn’t end there. Katie went on to set out a bar full of traditional tapas from all over Spain: tortilla española, a potato-onion egg omelet; pan con tomate, garlicky toast with tomatoes; banderillas, skewers of anchovies, manchego cheese, and guindilla peppers; pincho moruno, spiced lamb skewers; pulpo a la gallega, octopus with potatoes; and esquiexada, salt cod salad with cherry tomatoes and olives. All were enhanced by albariño, even with their wide-ranging flavor profiles.
Albariño is certainly high quality enough to sip on its own, but it’s even better when married with foods from all over Spain.