Perfect Vegetarian Pairings and TOAST CARS to Boot

Perfect Vegetarian Pairings and TOAST CARS to Boot

Are you looking for a few great food and wine pairing suggestions? Vegetarians and carnivores alike will enjoy the suggestions found in the September 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. The magazine highlights cutting-edge, unconventional vegetarian food and wine pairings, which I think you will really enjoy. The magazine quizzed a few experts, including myself, on which foods they would serve to enhance and highlight the complex flavors of a variety of wines.

The recommendations are not the ordinary fish + white, steak + red suggestions, which bore the heck out of those who enjoy a great pairing. Think more on the lines of Cabernet Franc + endive petals with rosemary chèvre or Grüner Veltliner + collard green phyllo triangles, each accompanied with the hors d’oeuvres recipe.

Also included in the September issue  are some incredible parings from colleagues Jacob Kiel and Steven Kolpan. I bought my copy of the magazine at New Seasons market, which is similar to a Whole Foods market—and if you are thinking about going vegetarian, surf the magazine’s website for a cool little starter kit to kick start your vegetarian lifestyle.

A few additional recommendations that didn’t make the magazine’s final cut (but are equally tasty and place you ahead of the curve for more flavorsome treats) are Marsanne with roasted root vegetables, and Chenin Blanc with rutabagas. The sweetness of the roasted root vegetables bring out the honey characteristics of the Marsanne while the dense textures of the vegetables contrast the smooth Gruner Veltliner + Collard Greenstextures found in the wine. Another great match is an off-dry Chenin Blanc with rutabagas. The delicate sweetness of the rutabagas enhances the implied sweetness of the wine and the light freshness of the vegetable brings out the minerality while it heightens the acidity of the Chenin Blanc.

For reds, try a Torrontes with a plum sauce. The sweet and tart flavors of the sauce enhance the perceived sweetness of the Torrontes while the acidity cuts through the richness of the sauce. Do you love morels? Then try Mouvedre with morels, another flavorful pairing, which will become your new fast and furious favorite—the sweet earthy flavors of the morel mushrooms play up the earthiness of the wine while the nuttiness enhances the stone, spice and black pepper profile of the Mouvedre. Do you love eggplant? Try matching it with Carmenère. This is a great match as the spicy, smoky essence of the wine and the earthiness of the vegetable brings out the black tea leaf and herbal characteristics of the Carmenere.

So the next time you are preparing a dinner party, experiment and liven up the party by having some fun with interesting combinations, flavors and textures.  Just as chefs like to contrast and compliment flavors and textures, the secret to finding your next great match is to contrast and  compliment the flavors and textures of the food with the flavors and textures of the wine.

Equipped with my quick reference TOAST CARS food and wine pairing guideline, you will be ready to amaze and delight your dinner guests. There is nothing official about this reference, its simply an acronym I created years ago to remember some pairing guidelines while planning parties and remembering facts for wine exams I’ve taken over the years.  Use it the next time you need a little help:

Tannins: Pair highly tannic wine with chewy red meats; low tannic wine with white meats

Oak: Pair oaky wine with foods that have been caramelized, grilled, blackened, etc

Alcohol: Avoid salty, peppery or spicy foods with high alcohol wine, which accentuates the heat

Salt: Pair salty food with high acid wine or sweet wine

Taste: Pair food flavor intensity with the flavor intensity of the wine

Contrast or Match flavors of the food with flavors of the wine

Acidity: Pair acidic food with acidic wine

Richness & Weight: Pair rich food with rich, full flavored wine; delicate wines with strong flavored foods don’t match well

Sweetness: Pair sweet wine with sweet food

On a side note, if you are one of those folks who believe that food and wine pairing is voodoo baloney, or that wine should be served primarily as a cocktail, I think it’s a shame for you to miss out on some serious food and wine epiphanies. My first pairing encounter was with Gary Danko of the Ritz Carlton and I’ve been hooked ever since and continuously strive to find the next great food and wine pairing.  Just remove the pretentiousness of it all and I’ll show your taste buds the best damn tantalizing time it’s seen in a long time.

Hit me up with a comment on on a food and wine pairing that rocked your world.  If we get enough responses, we’ll create a book out of it and we’ll all become famous. We’ll, maybe not famous, but it would be fun anyway. Cheers and happy pairing.


About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.


  1. Lorie Perrone August 4, 2011 at 7:54 AM - Reply

    Love the TOAST CARS acronym. My own wine epiphany came during a food and wine pairing. It was a Port tasting event paired with various chocolates. I am not a chocoholic, and up until them I had enjoyed wine without giving it much thought but when I let that chocolate just melt on my tongue and added a little Tawny Port I was hooked. My favorite aspect of enjoying wine and learning about wine is connected to the magic that can ocurr with the right combination of food and wine. Wine was never intended to be enjoyed as just a cocktail or adult beverage. For centuries old world wine producers have made wine specifically to complement the foods from their own region.

    • enobytes August 4, 2011 at 4:36 PM - Reply

      mmmm… port and chocolate, it doesn’t get any better than that! Cheers Lorie!

  2. Brett V August 4, 2011 at 8:13 AM - Reply

    Congrats on the veg times mention. Awesome suggestions! My favorite pairing is champagne and oysters.

    • enobytes August 4, 2011 at 4:37 PM - Reply

      Thanks Brett, and totally agree on your suggestion!

  3. Margaret August 4, 2011 at 8:27 AM - Reply

    I remember my epiphany started with a salad of radicchio with roasted beets, pears, and walnuts with Roquefort cheese and an Australian Sauvignon Blanc. It was simply delightful.

    • enobytes August 4, 2011 at 4:43 PM - Reply

      Wow, that’s a fantastic pairing Margaret!!! I gotta try it :)

  4. Jingo August 4, 2011 at 12:24 PM - Reply

    I am soooo making those collard philo appetizers! And thanks for the acronym, it should come in handy.

    • enobytes August 4, 2011 at 4:43 PM - Reply


  5. JJCline August 5, 2011 at 9:38 AM - Reply

    I love the acronym too! Lots of great unconventional pairings, I’ll try them.

    • enobytes August 5, 2011 at 5:29 PM - Reply

      Thanks JJ, hope it comes in handy!

  6. MacDaddy Marc August 5, 2011 at 11:47 AM - Reply

    Congatulations, it is exciting to have a partner/editor who has the palate to appreciate the fine food described in the articles printed in Vegetarian Times. Further proof Pamalicious knows delicious and has the skills to take it to the edge curiousity. Bravo. I heard that guy who made the Collards might know what he is doing, and as I recall the Gruner was the perfect pairing.

    • enobytes August 5, 2011 at 5:28 PM - Reply

      Thanks for the warm congrats…

  7. Annette August 5, 2011 at 5:19 PM - Reply

    I picked up a copy of the magazine, and you are right, the recipes are awesome. Congrats on the mention! I love the recommendations!

    • enobytes August 7, 2011 at 8:24 PM - Reply

      Thanks Annette! Cheers!

  8. Candice H. August 7, 2011 at 12:34 PM - Reply

    Great review! First time reader, and I subscribed to your feed, it’s great :)

    • enobytes August 7, 2011 at 3:54 PM - Reply

      Great! Looking forward to conversing with you :)

  9. Peggy August 9, 2011 at 6:37 PM - Reply

    Glad you saw the article, I just realized the issue was out and picked up my copy this weekend! I think the pairings turned out great. My party guests loved them, and G-V is my new favorite white! Thanks again!

    • enobytes August 9, 2011 at 6:55 PM - Reply

      Hi Peggy! Yeah, by chance I walked by the magazine rack and found the September issue. It sounds like you had a great food and wine pairing party! The next time you are in Portland, let me know and we’ll do another pairing!

      Glad you like the G-V. By the way, did you ever pop open that organic Cava brut you were telling me about? How was it?


  10. Keith August 9, 2011 at 7:03 PM - Reply

    Pairing food and wine is something I struggle with all the time, so your TOAST CARS acronym is a welcome addition to my mental checklist! Keep up the great posts!

    • Pamela Heiligenthal August 9, 2011 at 8:17 PM - Reply

      I’m glad you found it useful Keith, it really does work like a charm!

      By the way, your site is very insightful and enlightening! Keep up the good work – we need more folks like to you keep wine snobbery at bay :) Cheers.

  11. Cassy W. August 14, 2011 at 3:46 AM - Reply

    Nice parings, wine and food! Cheers.

  12. Robert B. August 14, 2011 at 4:04 AM - Reply

    Great Vegetarian Pairings! Thank!

    • enobytes August 14, 2011 at 7:44 PM - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Robert! They are definitely tasty.

  13. David Beck August 23, 2011 at 6:58 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the wonderful recommendations. I’m looking forward to trying them.

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