Pairing Off: Triscuits And Cream Cheese

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Tomorrow night Florida meets, those other college football's finale. This weekend, the NFL playoffs continue as the clock winds inexorably toward the Super Bowl.

In other words, it's that time of the year when party snacks creep into the food pyramid.

Now, most people resort to plebeian suds when gathering with friends for pretzels, cheese cubes and football. But, as you know, Pairing Off seeks to show that wine (which, by the way, packs a greater alcoholic punch than beer) works just as well when it comes to everyday fare--such as one of our favorite gameday snacks: Triscuits and cream cheese.

Triscuits are one of the great culinary marvels of our time. Packed with sodium, a little on the greasy side, but so damn reliable. Of course, the confluence of a fat-based spread and salty processed crackers creates a few rather demanding obstacles. "You need fruit for the cream cheese," explains Phil Natale, general manager of Bob's Steak & Chop House in Grapevine. "For the Triscuits, you want something refreshing."

Hmm...guess it's not so tricky after all.

Natale prefers a Chateau de Capitoul (sorry, the link is in French) Cru Beaujolais, readily available in area wine shops, more for the party aspect than the food itself. Meanwhile, James Whitley of Sigel's Quadrangle location urges something "clean and easy."

His choice: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. "There's enough citrus and acidity to deal with the salt," he points out, adding "it's good with or without the food."

And he's right: by itself, the wine is a little soapy...until you rinse out the glass a few more times; then it becomes brisk and pleasant, easy drinking. When set against this week's menu item the wine is amazingly resilient, refusing to yield to the Triscuit's oily salinity or the rich cream cheese. The flavors wrap up quickly, whether sipped on its own or paired to crackers--but the finish pulls the salty, booming taste of Triscuits and Philadelphia Brand spread along with it, leaving behind a faint and pleasant trace of tinned fruit and wet hay. This last seems to tame the salt problem while the wine's crisp and lightly fruity character finds a nice bell pepper taste in the cream cheese.

Admittedly I chose Philadelphia Brand's vegetable spread. I get stuck with the leftovers, after all.

Doesn't matter--at $10, its worth trying Joel Gott with the regular stuff. Now how 'bout them Nittany Lio...never mind.
--Dave Faries