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Perfect Pairings: Smoked Atlantic Salmon Candy from Whole Foods and the 2012 Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein Rheinhessen

Snack time on the yacht.EXPAND
Snack time on the yacht.
Photo by Kate McLean

Here’s a curveball. Oftentimes in the name of balance, we juxtapose flavors on the plate; so, for giggles, let’s pair two deliciously sweet items together. Smoked Atlantic Salmon Candy and ze’ Eiswein. And since half of you are in Ketosis, nein for you! Nein!!!

Typically produced in Germany, Austria, Canada and the United States, the 2012 Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein Rheinhessen is a great expression of Ice Wine because, hey, the Germans invented it.

Because the process is so challenging, Eiswein production is small; grapes must make it past several harvest stages in order to qualify for this distinction. Think America's Next Top Model, but sub winemakers for Tyra and grapes like Riesling and Gewürstraminer for contestants.

Trockenbeerenauslese, the best secret password in the world, is also used to describe the series of harvest stages grapes travel through on the way to Eiswein. Remember the term Spätlese?  ("Late picked," Riesling grapes that are nice and ripe.)

Trockenbeerenauslese starts after Spätlese.

Like choosing flag football teams in gym class; back and forth until the last ones are picked. “Auslese,” after Spätlese, is the beginning of the late harvest category and definitely the quarterback. “Beerenauslese,” has the beginning presence of Botrytis, a welcome fungus, and solid wide receiver. “Trockenbeerenauslese,” shows heavy amounts of Botrytis, probably can’t catch the ball, but it can get in people’s way.

And then there’s Eiswein. Which, might as well let it freeze on the vine for a few days before picking it last.

After two days of frost, workers rise early in the morn to collect the frozen grapes, working quickly to also press them before they defrost. I’d think twice before letting someone talk you into a cozy little winter of making Eiswein.

Both the fungus that sometimes shrivels the grape skin and its frozen condition allow for a syrupy, sugar packed wine. This wine, to be served cold, has a great honey finish, and according to wine rep Richard Sanchez, bright notes of apple.

So, in the end, Eiswein gets her braces off, grows up to be a total smoke show and everyone wants a piece.

(Technically speaking, Eiswein doesn’t have to have Botrytis, and can be picked at the sweetness level of Beerenauslese.)

Smoked Atlantic Salmon Candy is completely worth its Whole Foods pricing. Made from Farm Raised Atlantic Salmon, Whole Foods brines the skin-on belly with salt, maple syrup and brown sugar before smoking it with hickory wood for about an hour and a half. Thankfully, the hickory flavor doesn't overpower everything.

Using the skin-on belly is key, it’s the fattiest part of the fish, and with the skin attached to it, the flavor is maximized. As it’s brined and smoked, the fat melts, basting the rest of the fish in flavor. And then there's this secret part between fish and skin that is so decadent. Exactly like that gelatinous bit you find when cleaning cooked Turbot. (Use your teeth to get it.) When picking your Salmon Candy from the store window, choose the darkest pieces, they have the best flavor.

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No one's watching, use your teeth.EXPAND
No one's watching, use your teeth.
Photo by Kate McLean

Together, oh my, they got it going on for real. Rich, lightly sweetened salmon belly and bright, honeyed Eiswein. Both sweet, at different volumes, and more than content to swim upstream together.

You can find 2016 Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein Rheinhessen on the shelves of Spec’s Midtown for $28.79, but if you can score a 2012 vintage, it’s really exceptional. The Whole Foods Market located on 4004 Bellaire Blvd. almost always carries Smoked Atlantic Salmon Candy for $24.99 a pound.

The Houston Press is searching for perfect food pairings and where they can be found. We welcome reader suggestions and ask you to send them to dish@houstonpress.com.

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