Cold weather combos: Local chefs and farmers offer their favorite fall food and drink pairings

Cold weather combos 
Local chefs and farmers offer their favorite fall food and drink pairings. Photo: Elli Williams Cold weather combos Local chefs and farmers offer their favorite fall food and drink pairings. Photo: Elli Williams

Crisp fall air thick with lingering wood smoke. Unbeatable mountain views as the leaves change. Pumpkin beer. There are plenty of reasons to love this time of year, and as the days shorten into darker evenings, the motivation to linger over the stove increases in proportion. Family meals once again exude the aromas of the crock-pot, piquing the urge to sip red wine and other soul-succoring libations. Restaurant menus shift focus to hard-skinned root vegetables, thick, hearty stews, and slow-cooked meats to fortify us during the impending cold months.

Our town is filled with professionals capable of guiding us through this annual transition, so we asked a few friends to offer up their favorite fall food and drink pairings as inspiration.

Pasta + dry cider 

Ivy Inn’s chef Angelo Vangelopoulos looks forward to making his signature fall dish of pumpkin agnolotti every year. A roasted medley of pumpkins and seasonal squash is mixed with mascarpone, Parmigiano, and sage, and stuffed into thinly rolled pasta sheets folded into little pillows. He blends brown butter, diced pumpkin, chopped kale, pumpkin seeds, and pecans into a sauce and serves the whole concoction on a velvety bed of pureed parsnips. Albemarle Ciderworks Old Virginia Winesap, with its dry, slightly effervescent profile, balances the dish perfectly.

“The flavors and textures of this pairing really scream ‘fall!’ in my mouth,” Vangelopoulos said.

Braised meat + barleywine 

Maya’s chef Christian Kelly’s favorite meal to dig into when the leaves turn and the temperature drops is the restaurant’s braised Rock Barn pork cheeks with housemade ricotta dumplings. He pairs the dish with the Anniversary Barley wine at South Street Brewery—a beer with bitter hops and notes of pine, resin, and caramel—to round out this tender, flavorful, and often overlooked delicacy.

Rabbit stew + crianza

Over at Mas, chef Tomas Rahal favors his rendition of a traditional Spanish cacerola—literally meaning “stew pot”—of local duck, pork, and “wabbit.” Most complementary to the dish, he said, is a glass of Elias Mora crianza from Ribera del Duero, which exhibits rich notes of black fruit, licorice, tobacco, and a spicy finish perfect for this hearty stew on a chilly evening. Both are currently available at the restaurant.

Venison + cabernet franc 

Grace Estates Vineyard winemaker Jake Bushing has specific tastes and very little time to cook during harvest. But when he does sit down for a hearty dinner, his favorite fall dish consists of a venison loin marinated in red wine and lees—the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the tank or barrel after fermentation is finished. He grills it rare and serves it alongside butternut squash, date risotto, and cooked greens. Bushing prefers to pair it with the 2007 Pollak Cabernet Franc which, unfortunately, is no longer available in the retail market. The next best thing is a mid-weight Virginia red wine like the Glen Manor Hodder Hill 2010, a ripe blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot—if you’re lucky, you might be able to dig up a bottle at Market Street Wineshop.

“Smoke hangs heavy in the fall air, and a medium Honduran cigar with Connecticut wrap leaf and a glass of tannat port cap the meal,” Bushing said.

This time of year is all about traditions, but don’t be afraid to test out new flavor combinations, and share your favorites with us! Follow @eatdrinkcville on Instagram and tag us in your photos. 

Other fall favorites

  • Former Glass Haus Kitchen chef Ian Boden favors the old French classic cassoulet—slow-cooked meats like pork sausage or goose—paired with Foggy Ridge First Fruit cider, available at Feast!.
  • Chef Aaron Cross of Keswick Hall loves crock-pot chicken thighs with sauerkraut and caraway dumplings, with a glass of the 2011 King Family Meritage, which you can pick up at Foods of all Nations.
  • Free Union Grass Farm’s Erica Hellen’s go-to fall dinner is roasted chicken marinated in apple cider with roasted sweet potatoes, garden-picked kale salad, and a bubbly glass of Potter’s Craft Cider, available at Beer Run.