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Leveraging Libation

Leveraging Libation

SNIFF TEST: sommelier Josh Wesson's picks are in the new Dornenburg/ Page book.

It's a rare book that can help boost sales in your restaurant, make your waitstaff's job a lot easier and dramatically lower the odds that customers will have a negative experience. But Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page's What To Drink With What You Eat (Bulfinch Press; $35) can have these effects on your restaurant if you merely follow its tenets.

We'd like to go all the way and tell you their book ensures a peak experience for every customer—which, if you have a world-class wine list and a platinum-card clientele who'll willingly follow your every recommendation, it probably could. But full-service operators have little, if any, control over what customers choose to drink with the food you serve them. The most you can hope for is keeping the right items in stock and having a serving staff well-versed in what wine or beverage goes best with a certain dish.

Dornenburg and Page offer plenty of help on both these fronts. Their 356-page book provides 1,500 listings that specify optimal combinations of food and drink. They present this information in two pivotal chapters.

Chapter Five matches beverages to foods. What would work best if your soup of the day is Manhattan clam chowder? Beaujolais, Merlot or Rioja. Serving spring rolls? Go with beer, especially Bass ale, or Chablis, Champagne, Riesling, sake or sparkling wine. Tuna carpaccio or tartare? Have the staff push Champagne (brut or rose), Pinot Gris, Riesling (German Kabinett), Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), sparkling wine (dry), or a Viognier.

Not only is this information useful; it's easily accessible and well-organized. Chefs can take their wine list in one hand, their walk-in inventory in the other and construct daily specials that will make maximum utilization of everything that's in the house.

Chapter Six tackles the subject from the other direction, matching foods to beverages. If your objective is to drive wine and other beverage sales—and whose isn't—start by checking out the extensive list of recommendations the authors have compiled in this chapter.

We emphasize the word compiled, because the vast store of information here is the collective wisdom of many of America's top sommeliers. Which is to say, people who know their wines and other beverages, and also know how to sell all of them in restaurant settings.

Dornenburg and Page are no slouches, either: Both hold sommelier certificates and, as readers of their previous Beard Award-winning books (Culinary Artistry, et al.) are aware, they know what makes restaurants tick. A big part of their expertise as authors is their ability to get access to, and extract voluminous information from, key players on the restaurant scene. When it all comes together, as it does in this book, the result is a reference work of great depth and scope.

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