The first time I heard the expression uttered out loud, it was by the legendary New York restaurateur Danny Meyer who was giving a talk on Italian wines at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic.
“If it grows with, it goes with it,” he said referring to the undisputed fact that some of the best pairings for any given wine are the foods typically eaten by the people who grow and make the wine.
There’s just something ineffably delicious about pairing wines when they are made from grapes farmed a stone’s throw from fields where the foods are raised and pastures where the cattle grazes.
Some would note that these are pairings that have been developed literally over centuries, hence their brilliance.
Others would point to the terroir: The unique confluence of climate, exposure, soil, and human tradition that give foods and wines unique aromas, flavors, and textures depending on their geography. When wines and foods are grown and then served together, they sometimes achieve a sensorial magic that transcends the sum of their parts.
Back when I last visited the Amistà farm just outside of Nizza village in December 2022, the winery hosted my colleague and me for a traditional Piedmontese lunch.
The obligatory first course was the battuta di fassona, finely chopped and just lightly seasoned raw beef from Piedmont’s famous fassona breed of cow. (Technically the name is battuta a coltello because the meat is never ground but rather finely chopped by hand; coltello means knife in Italian.)
Don’t confuse this dish with tartare. The only condiments are extra-virgin olive oil and optional salt.
Fassona is incredibly lean and flavorful and the best battuta is where the flavor of the meat is not eclipsed. The pairing of the battuta and Nizza DOCG was — excuse the cliché but it fits here — divine.
The battuta was followed by an insalata di pollo alla piemontese (left), Piedmontese “chicken salad,” with a salt-cured anchovy dressing. Other ingredients can vary but they are typically Piedmontese, in this case, roast bell peppers. So good.
Next came insalata russa, “Russian salad” (second from left), a dish possibly related in its origins to Russia’s imperial salad. Here, potatoes, carrots, peas, and hard-boiled egg dance in a handmade mayonnaise dressing (prepared by beating egg yolks with extra-virgin olive oil).
Lastly, insalata di tomo, sedano, e noci (upper right) was served, “tomo, celery, and walnut salad.” The cheese is a semi-hard cow’s milk. I love this dish, another Piedmontese classic.
Of course, no Nizza lunch would be complete without agnolotti al plin, the classic ravioli shape of Piedmont, here stuffed with braised meat (pork, veal, rabbit are typically used), cheese, and a leafy green like spinach or escarole, all ground together.
What a lunch! We all left sated and happy. But there’s no surprise there: If it grows with it, it goes with it!
Thank you, Massimiliano and Simona, for an unforgettable meal. Looking forward to seeing you later this month.