Has anyone ever offered you a dish that made you instinctively raise an eyebrow and wonder how on earth they came up with that combination? Have you ever been hesitant to try something because you can’t imagine that the foods presented could ever taste good together? You’re not alone of course, but the interesting thing about flavor pairings is that although our eyes may fool us into thinking certain foods should never share the same plate space, our palates know better.
Flavor pairing is actually quite scientific. It all comes down to molecules harmonizing – and some odd plate-fellows harmonize quite well at the molecular level. Of course there are people who just don’t like certain foods no matter what and there’s no scientific explanation for it, but the way humans perceive flavor, in general, follows patterns and rules. All five senses are involved in eating, and just as you fall in love at first sight with someone’s physical appearance, a beautifully presented plate of food will entice you at first glance. You may not even know the flavors involved in the dish, but your eyes know it looks beautiful. But that’s where it ends with the eyes.
Logically, taste and smell are the bigger players in the palate game. The smell of food is hugely important for the human omnivore. Think of the intense pleasure of a good smell, cookies baking in the oven, a fresh pot of coffee, and many others. Smells are powerful. On the flip side, think of when you have a cold and your sense of smell is gone, with it goes your sense of taste. Eating loses its pleasure almost completely. Without smell, you’re lost when it comes to distinguishing flavor.
So if you ever encounter any of the flavor combinations below, don’t be too quick to judge. Instead, let your palate do the judging. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Pizza with Truffle
For millions of people around the world, pizza is a sacred food. Its ingredients may be simple and easily accessible, but even so, perfection can be achieved if those ingredients are put together with care and passion. Of the three main components of any pizza pie, most would argue that a good crust is what seals the deal on deliciousness.
But toppings are also a topic of much debate among pizza aficionados. So when mentioning the addition of truffle on a pizza, the reviews are bound to be mixed. Truffles are a delicacy and their flavor packs a punch. Do they risk overpowering the tried and true dance of crust, sauce, and cheese? It turns out that the combination is a slice of heaven. If you make your own crust, you can even add truffle honey and truffle oil to the dough recipe for an all over truffle experience. It's divine.
Caviar with Chocolate
Combining sweet and salty is legendary and usually works out quite well, but what about two foods that on their own are so celebrated? Interestingly, caviar and chocolate share flavor molecules, so on a food pairing scale, they make a great match.
But as always, the quality of the paired ingredients can make or break the combo. High quality caviar and the finest chocolate are a must if you are even going to attempt to put these two culinary superstars on the same plate, much less ingest them together.
But if you choose with care and put a small mother of pearl spoonful of caviar on disc of white chocolate, be ready for your taste buds to explode – in a good way. Doesn’t it make you want to become a food chemist or chef so you can discover food matches made in paradise?
Iberico Ham with Melon
We speak a lot about Spanish Iberico ham because its taste is truly unforgettable. The care that goes into raising the acorn-fed black-footed pigs and the environment in which the ham is cured are famous not only in Spain, but throughout the world. This centuries-old Italian originated antipasto combination still surprises some the first time they taste it. But after the first bite, they realize that the cool sweetness of the melon is the perfect complement to the hot saltiness of the cured ham.
Before food pairing was ever recognized as a science and the molecule combinations were studied to create the most interesting dishes, food lovers throughout history have experimented with their edibles and discovered pairings that have stood the test of time. Ham and melon is one of those.
There are many more wonderful food pairings to enjoy – the combinations are limitless, but one thing is certain. If you start with the best ingredients, you’re bound to come up with a winning bite. Oh, and opposites really do attract.