by Randy Kemner, Proprietor
I've often cautioned people about drinking wine after eating hot, spicy dishes.
Mainly, don't do it.
I have to admit I'm a bit of a puss when it comes to eating anything with a high Scoville rating. Perhaps it's part of the same Swedish genetic makeup that keeps me out of the Southern California sun, gives me an occasional craving for pickled herring and causes me to avoid any foods that cause pain. I gravitate more to the comfortable things in life. Like backrubs and mashed potatoes.
I fell in love with wine because of the pleasure it brings, not the pain. Wine pain is for winery owners.
So when people come into The Wine Country asking me for a wine that pairs with chile verde, hot and sour soup or wasabe-dosed sushi, I can only relate my own experience--when my mouth is burning, my nose is running and my eyes are tearing up, pouring wine, beer or any carbonated drinks on my tongue is like pouring iodine on an open wound. It burns like hell.
"But you've got a tender mouth," said Samantha. "Not everyone reacts that way. There are people who love spicy food and still want to drink wine. Don't piss 'em off." She went on to explain how people react to pain differently.
Yes, I've heard of them. There are also people who pull clumps of hair out of their heads.
"I can't taste anything in my wine after my mouth is on fire," I protested. "How are you able to discern anything but primal fruit flavors and acid in your wine after you've eaten chilies?" As far as I was concerned, drinking wine after eating hot sauce is a painful waste of a good wine.
"But that's you," she said. "Others aren't getting that."
I can't image that anyone would think differently than me. I gazed at our chocolate selection up near our cash registers.
"Look there," I said. "Chipotle chocolate. Jeez. Who eats this stuff? Pleasure and pain all in one wrapper?"
"People like that stuff," said Samantha patiently. "All the time."
It reminded me of a story about a woman who grimaced during sex.
"Anything wrong,?" her boyfriend asked.
"It hurts a little. But it's a good hurt. Don't stop."
A good hurt? If that isn't the oxymoron of all time, I don't know what is.
Dale and I left the store to run some errands and catch some lunch. We were next to Lola's Mexican Cuisine on 4th Street's Retro Row, a restaurant Dale had read good things about, so we dropped in.
The brightly colored walls were decorated with a combination of Day of the Dead revolutionary chic, south of the border crucifixes, and various southwestern-themed artifacts. One slender waitress looked hip with creative tats on her arms and her nape, and the one working behind the tiny bar had Katy Perry makeup and green, shiny hair. All were wearing black tee shirts with "Lola's" printed on the front and a Dia de los Muertos skull outlined in white.
Our waitress, with a sunny girl-next-door personality, greeted us warmly. When we told her it was our first visit she beamed.
"You're going to love it. All our food is made from scratch. Try the chicken mole." She also recommended the shrimp and scallop special and the pork. Dale thought the tortillas were hand made in house, but I can't confirm that.
Lola's serves beer and wine, but you don't go there for the wine. Looking at the cilantro-tomatillo sauce and the red chile sauce next to the tortilla chips, I knew what to order for my drink.
"Do you have any Sangria?" I asked.
"Yes we do. We make it ourselves."
I dug my tortilla chips into the chunky guacamole and the two sauces. My mouth began to flare up. My lips were feeling the love.
I reached for the Sangria. The iced wine-drink was fruity, yet not too sweet. There were bits of sliced grape and orange in it. The ice and the fruit helped dilute the acidity in the wine, so I got my wine on without the burn I was now getting from the light dose of hot sauce on my puerco. The drink was delicious and just right for my dish.
I don't know why everyone doesn't drink Sangria with their Mexican food. Instead they drink Dos Equis. I don't drink Dos Equis with hot sauce because the carbonation in beer burns my mouth. Same with Thai food and Singha. Same with cajun food and Dixie beer.
Sangria. Pleasure after pain.