Weird Holiday Wine Pairing with Le Pigeon

From yule logs to Jell-O to creamy meat salad, the gang at Portland's Le Pigeon offers wine pairings for nine creepy holiday foods.

Andy Fortgang is part owner and sommelier at Le Pigeon. He’s a New Yorker who has transplanted to Portland, OR. And, in a way, that shift is analogous to the wine list he has worked on since (nearly) opening LP: It’s quirky but not too esoteric, and if you WANT to throw down, you have options.

When approaching booze in the Le Pigeon cookbook we either wanted to do something unique or not even go near it. Hence the “Pigeon Pours”: Andy’s little thought nuggets that are meant to be read, giggled to and maybe (hopefully?) applied. There are gems about what to drink with squab (obviously), selling madeira by the glass (“not cheap, but how often do we get to drink something from the Coolidge administration?”) and “The Wine Sharing Compromise” aka singular wines that work with big groups and different dishes.

In the introduction he even says “call me at the restaurant and I’ll give you a suggestion. I mean it.”

Our friends at PUNCH decided to take him up on that offer. And it being the festive season, they asked me to choose a few of the weirdest traditional holidays foods to flummox Andy (spoiler alert: no flummoxing; he straight-laced them all) with help from Le Pigeon’s chef Gabriel Rucker.



Meredith: Creamy meat salad. I love this stuff.

Andy: Bologna, pickles and mayo. Hmm. Well since this sounds like a gross lunch for kids, and since grownups don’t drink apple juice, I would go with a hard sparkling cider. This “dish” needs something to cut the richness, but nothing too pretty, because frankly, it isn’t pretty. A Norman cider, like one from Etienne Dupont would fit the bill.

Gabe: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is one of my all time faves: PALE DRY SHERRY. From Paul Mason to be exact. This shit sounds gnarly so I would put the sherry in a spritzer bottle and charge it with a bunch of CO2 and shoot it right into my mouth. That being said I don’t need fleischsalat to enjoy sherry; or PDS, as it’s known.

[Photo: Flickr/michaelkortshagen]



Meredith: I have puked from this. Twice. The first time I was seven or eight and it was Christmas Eve. We were at my aunt and uncle’s house and I was on the top bunk in my cousin’s room. I woke up with that singular feeling of nausea and sweaty dread. Knowing I wouldn’t make it down the ladder I jumped from the bunk, sprained my ankle and limped like a Vietnam vet to the bathroom. It was the yule log. I had the evidence. Living in Montreal you’re suppose to love a good bûche. People often give them as presents. It’s not a gift, it’s a fucking nightmare.

Andy: A classic dessert needs a classic pairing, so I’d go tawny port. Two favorites of ours are Quinta do Noval 10 Year, as well as the Quinta de Ervamoira 10 Year from Ramos Pinto.

Gabriel: Eggnog minus the egg and the nog. So, just whiskey and lots of it.

[Photo: Flickr/Caitlin Childs]



Andy: You shouldn’t eat Turkey Spam. If you must, drink some Alsatian pinot gris. It will help balance the sweet, salty, chem-y notes of the Spam and, if you are lucky, mask it a bit. Leon Beyer or Trimbach are good ways to go.

Meredith: I’ve never had Turkey Spam, just regular Spam. And I didn’t mind it at all. Love it fried with french fries and a coke. This is salty, salty stuff.

Gabriel: For me Spam = Hawaii. So, something tropical in a coconut with rum, please.

[Photo: Flickr/Darron Birgenheier]



Andy: You have to drink stout with haggis. Guinness or Murphy’s would be fine. That said, a really elegant stout that we serve at Le Pigeon is Moa Imperial Stout from New Zealand. It’s toasty and dark, but with a bit of brightness to finish.

Gabriel: Grog! Definitely grog.

[Photo: Flickr/Bernt Rostad]



Andy: This is intense stuff. I have never tried it, but upon reading up, I’ve gathered that it’s gelatinous in texture and, depending on the preparation, either mild or intensely odorous. What should you drink with it? In Scandinavia it would be aquavit and beer, so that is probably a good way to go. If you wanted to dress it up, try a slightly funky crémant du Jura.

Gabriel: This looks like a good ingredient to use in the creation of the dirtiest of dirty Martinis. One jigger of Bombay gin, one jigger of dry vermouth, half-ounce of lutefisk. Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a Martini glass and buckle the fuck up.

Meredith: I’m a Swede and so it’s O.P. Anderson Aquavit all the way.

[Photo: Flickr/Magne Alvheim]



Andy: This is an easy one. Look for a passito wine, which is a white dessert wine made from dried grapes. The most obvious choice would be a Vin Santo from Tuscany, but you could opt for Commandaria St. John, which is from Cyprus and will save you a few bucks.

Gabriel: I have a special place in my heart for flavored vodka, especially blueberry. When shaken and served cold as a shot it is referred to as a “Chilly Billy,” the most popular drink of Melbourne, Australia. This is pure fiction, of course. By this time I’m sure you are starting to see what kind of chapter “The Pigeon Pour” would have been if it were written by me.

[Photo: Flickr/Matthew Bietz]



Andy: I won’t get too esoteric here. Sweet, light, bubbly wine is what’s called for here. Moscato d’Asti from Saracco, please.

Meredith: Fuck it, Krug Rosé.

Gabriel: This is a no brainer. One of my fave summer drinks. A nice riesling from the Mosel mixed with lemon-lime Gatorade. I feel like the petrol notes when mixed with the perfect balance of lemon and lime and yellow-green dye will cut through the richness of the marshmallow.

[Photo: Flickr/Little Miss Go Go]



Meredith: Mmm! Herring marinated in juniper berries, stuffed with dill pickled and served cold. A German tradition that I’ve come to love, but I can see how most think it’s straight up disgusting.

Andy: One wine comes right to mind: manzanilla. At Le Pigeon we usually have one from La Cigarrera around. Just imagine this as a sardine stuffed with a pickled pepper. Tapas!

Gabriel: Germans treating herring like we would olives? How about some pimento cheese or a jalapeño?

[Photo: Flickr/Chrisinplymouth]



Andy: We make a big party each year where we serve mountains of latkes, multiple kinds of smoked and pickled fish and lots of pickles. There is only one beverage offered and it’s served in little Fabergé glasses. The party is called Latke Vodka. Pick a vodka that you love, ice it down and let rip.

Gabriel: Manischewitz. The good stuff. Like a 1973 vintage.

[Photo: Flickr/Joey Rozier]

Meredith Erickson has written for the New York Times, Elle, The National Post, enRoute and Lucky Peach. She is the co-author of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef and The Le Pigeon Cookbook, as well as the project editor of Ferran Adria’s The Family Meal, an international bestseller. She splits her time between Montreal and London.