The January challenge to stop drinking alcohol has kicked off. Will you have to wait to return to the restaurant? Nay! Chefs are developing more and more – and better and better – pairings full of flavors that make you forget about the wine and go wonderfully with their plates. Demonstration.
In Valence, Anne-Sophie Pic has been working on alcohol-free offerings for three years alongside her head sommelier Paz Levinson. Distillates of flowers and aromatic herbs but also infusions or even syrups, the duo explores all the techniques to get the best aromatic benefits and highlight the delicate dishes of the three-star chef, known for her mastery of bitter flavors. Moreover, in this area, Anne-Sophie Pic does not hold back in serving one of her favorite drinks, tea. Developing a collection of blends alongside the prestigious Jugetsudo house to make it available in her grocery store, the cook is now going further with pairings between her dishes and hojicha, a roasted green tea, or even cocktails based on tea. At Maison Pic, the tasting menu can be enhanced, for example, with a preparation based on black tea and a clarification of sweet clover.
At home, you can also reproduce a pairing with teas with original options. The Grands Jardins brand is betting on serving the cold infused drink in real wine bottles, and even in a bag-in-box! Green tea from Kyushu, tea from Laos with a chocolate taste, toasted tea from China or even white tea from Nepal, this new range, which is unusual to say the least, adds neither sugar nor additives to compose its “raw” products and relies on the quality of its sourcing to serve a beverage capable of standing up to the tastes on the plate. Count between 17.50 and 24.90 euros per bottle, available at the Grande Epicerie de Paris or via an online store.
Vegetable juices and fruit lemonades
In Flanders, chef Florent Ladeyn is one of the first chefs to offer an alcohol-free pairing. In his Vert Mont inn, in Boeschepe, he optimizes pea pods to concoct a juice that he flavors with verbena. In Paris, two-star chef David Toutain launched into what is called “soft pairing” in January 2023. He thus serves kale and chard juice in combination with his dishes. For his part, Florent Ladeyn goes so far as to prepare homemade lemonades made from hibiscus or tomatoes.
For the pairing to be successful, it is necessary to rely on elixirs that have body and length. Successful effect with fermented drinks like kombucha that chef Anne-Sophie Pic does not hesitate to serve. The acidity of this tea-based preparation goes wonderfully with different dishes, such as fish or desserts. At David Toutain, we prepare a homemade kombucha that we add bitter water for a perfect balance. Faithful to his Flemish terroir that he so loves to defend and represent, Florent Ladeyn concocts an apple and hop kefir.
Alcohol-free (and sugar-free) spirits
And it’s obvious since these are the alternatives recommended above all others when we respect Dry January: alcohol-free spirits. We are not talking about the imitation recipes which are rich in sugars, but rather about this new generation of beverages which take the challenge of distilling a bunch of herbs, flowers and spices to extract the maximum of flavors, before proceeding to a de-alcoholization. For certain products, the result is stunning, such as the JNPR brand which reproduces the sensations of gin without the alcohol. The agreement works since even restaurants use it for their own agreements, such as in Paris, at Tracé, the discreet and successful restaurant of the talented young chef Clément Vergeat, who worked in the kitchens of the “Top Chef” competition.