Chef James Briscione looks at food like a scientist. And for good reason. Briscione took part in an experiment with IBM’s supercomputer ‘Watson’ to learn about pairing flavors in ways that chefs never even dreamed of. One of the results of the experiment helped identify compounds in foods that are responsible for upwards of 80% of what we recognise when we eat or drink.
For those not in the know, Briscione is kind of a big deal in the food world. He was once a sous chef at the two-Michelin-starred Daniel in New York. He spent 10 years as the culinary director at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York. He’s a two-time champion of the show Chopped on the Food Network. He runs his own amazing Italian restaurant in Pensacola, Florida. And he’s the author of two essential cookbooks, The Flavor Matrix and Flavor for All, which expounds on his science experiments to give readers the perfect flavor combinations to try at home.
Because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and because we’re all still stuck at home due to Covid-19, we thought it would be a good idea to pick James’s brain to find some essential flavor combinations to try out for a Valentine’s Day feast. We’re talking chocolates, strawberries, wines, and any number of aphrodisiacs to get you in the mood to eat and to make a more amorous evening.
James Briscione, photo by Regina Pyne
Using your methods from both The Flavor Matrix and Flavor for All, can you think of some interesting Valentine’s Day pairings?
First thing you want to think about is, what are the Valentine's Day items? What are the big hits on the day? Chocolate and berries are definitely at the top of that list. Obviously, oysters and other foods like that are in the aphrodisiac category, but people might not be inclined to make oysters for an entire Valentine’s Day meal. So, I kind of throw those off to the side, honestly.
But if we start with chocolate and berries, they’re just naturally great pairings for one another. And then wine also kind of fits in there as a great pairing as well. Specifically, in Flavor for All, I have a chocolate and red wine bread pudding that pulls it all together and is this super decadent dessert.