By Megan Walsh
Originally ran on the site of our sister publication, Sip Northwest, this story comes from We Dig, our Tuesday trends column.
It’s rare to find a restaurant with a beverage menu boasting of their alternating cider selections meticulously chosen to pair well with their entrees, for wine tends to have a monopoly on this particular market. Although novel-esque wine lists are nothing to complain about, it is a shame that cider tends to ride in the sidecar—this vibrant, versatile beverage pairs deliciously with a wide array of spicy, savory or sweet snacks.
Fortunately for us, in a similar fashion to classic rock, skinny jeans and Grandma’s recipes, all good things tend to find a way back into our lives and we are currently in the midst of a cider pairing revival. With the help of industry experts well-versed in the craft, we are here to guide you in a palate-pleasing journey pairing ciders with sustenance.
Savory: Cheese slices strewn atop half-moons of Granny Smith apples either ignites nostalgic memories or remains a staple in the diet of most adults, but this simple snack can be modified into a worthwhile grown-up treat—artisan cheeses fare well with hard ciders. “Our ciders are a bit more delicate and the lower alcohol level of cider results in [the cider] not overtaking the palate and in more opportunities to pair with more cheeses,” Joel VandenBrink, founder of Seattle Cider Company, says. “Apples pair better with cheese than grapes and cider is more refreshing than wine.” A dry hard cider with a subtle sweetness, like the Seattle Cider Co. Dry Hard Cider, happily shares the palate with more savory meals, like blue cheese and red meats. The Seattle Cider Co. Semi Sweet Hard Cider also enhances the flavor of meats. “The Granny Smith green apples notes of the Semi Sweet balance really well with the mildness of pork, especially a fatty pork, rather than either flavor taking over,” VandenBrink says.
Sweet: Apples have held timeless roles in the ingredient lists of beloved desserts. Be it warm apple pie, baked apple crisp or the classic caramel-covered apple, it is no secret that this fruit tempts even those with the smallest sweet tooth. It comes as no surprise that the sweeter varieties of hard cider are impeccable compliments to sugary plates. “Dessert wines made from the fermented apple are redefining the possibilities in dessert pairing for me at present,” says Jana Daisy-Ensign, outreach sales & cider ambassador for Finnriver Farm & Cidery. “Paired with, reduced, dribbled over, or baked into, the dessert offerings growing out of the cider category are truly vast.”
Spicy: For those in need of a spirited kick, the Seattle Cider Co. Three Pepper Hard Cider will give just that. According to VandenBrink, this unique beverage is an incredible match for your favorite spicy dish. The next time you order burritos, enchiladas or nachos laden with jalapeños, take the heat to the next level with a complementary pepper-infused cider. In contrast to peppery ciders being the perfect counterpart to peppery dishes, opposites tend to attract as well. “I find that drier ciders pair well with spicy food profiles like you may find in Thai or Indian dishes,” Daisy-Ensign says. “I love the contrast of a tart, lively dry hopped cider with plenty of floral hop aroma (Finnriver Dry Hopped is my go-to) paired with tempura battered prawns or fish tacos topped with mango salsa.”
Although we have no ill feelings toward wine, beer or liquor (and we never will), give these wondrous beverages a break and allow cider to take center stage during your next meal – you won’t be disappointed by the performance.