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10 Restaurant Secrets to Creating an Incredible Meal

Break Out the Bubbly

Do you want to create a fun and festive evening? Offer your guests a cocktail when they arrive.

"A well-crafted cocktail sets the stage for an enjoyable evening," says Joey Altman.

It's an indulgence that gives the occasion a special feel and helps people relax. When the toasts are finished and it's time to dine, extend the celebration -- and enhance the flavor of the food -- by including a wine offering with the meal.

"A great food and wine pairing enhances the taste of both the food and the wine," says Greg Harrington, Master Sommelier and partner and Director of Corporate Beverage for New York based B.R. Guest Restaurants. He offers these tips to help you choose which wine to serve.

  1. Wine will either compare or contrast with the predominant elements (sweet, sour, salt and bitter) of the food. If the flavors compare, they'll blend together. If they contrast, each flavor intensifies.
  2. Match the wine with the sauce of the dish. Pair the smoky flavor of grilled chicken with the toasty oak flavors of Chardonnay, but choose a sweet wine if you cook the chicken with a sweet barbeque sauce.
  3. The wine should be more acidic than the sauce or food you serve it with. Otherwise, the wine seems dull and flabby.
  4. Keep the intensity of the wine and the food equal: pair subtle food flavors with subtle wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and strong flavors with strong wines, like Shiraz.

You can also use wine and liquors to flavor foods directly during cooking. The alcohol burns away, leaving only the taste behind. TGI Friday's uses a Jack Daniels whiskey sauce to flavor chicken, shrimp, burgers, ribs and steak.