It was cute and quirky at the time, but now the National Pork Board's ad campaign for "the other white meat" is so last century.
Pork currently takes pride of place in many meals, with the versatility to serve as an elegant appetizer or finger-licking tailgate food, on the finest porcelain or out of a cardboard box.
Ross' choiceCarneros Chardonnay
Ÿ Suggested retail and availability: About $17 at wine shops and specialty grocers (distributed by Midwest Wine & Spirits, Elmhurst)
To this palate, Chardonnay says apples: green, yellow and red. Reata's Chardonnay, grown in cool, sunny Carneros, ripens to juicy flavors of yellow apples fresh from the tree and maintains bright acidity. Judicious oak maturation and malo-lactic fermentation add silky texture and flavors not unlike creme brulee. Rich and refreshing with appealing complexity, Reata Chardonnay makes a satisfying cocktail and complement to a wide range of dishes -- sauteed seafood, salads with creamy dressing and Mom's pork chops -- especially when prepared with butter and/or apples.
Whether your pork dish involves the flavors of home or a culinary excursion, here are three basic pork preparations, with delicious wine complements:
Jamon Iberico de Bellota de Jabugo: Spain's classic entreme (appetizer) is a favorite throughout the wine world: tiny plates of Marcona almonds, manchego cheese, Manzanilla olives, true Spanish sherry and jamon iberico -- Spanish cured ham. The finest jamon is thanks to the black Iberian pigs that graze freely on sweet acorns falling around the village of Jabugo. Serve sliced, paper-thin.
Sherry's driest style is Fino, with bracing mineral and raw nut flavors to attract jamon's nuttiness. Freshness is an issue: purchase only from retailers with fresh stock; check that your fino is crystal-clear when poured; else it's over the hill.
For a richer course, serve Amontillado, fino that is barrell-aged for golden hues, roasted nut aroma and flavors combining roasted nuts, coffee and spice.
If a reliable Sherry source is unavailable, serve cured pork with the minerally nutty flavors of true French Champagne, certain to turn even bacon and eggs into a special occasion.
Grilled Pork Chops with Apple Sauce: With fruit glazes, sauces and condiments, calibrate wine flavors to the dish's specific fruit and sweetness. Be certain wine is a pinch sweeter than your dish; otherwise the wine will reflect as sour and hot.
In general, serve sauces of red/blue fruit (as pork tenderloin with blueberry sauce) with red wines like Pinot Noir, Chianti Classico or the uniquely blueberry-esque South African Pinotage.
Echo apple, pear and tropical sauces (Jamaican chops with fruit salsa) with white wine, including estate-bottled German Riesling or a balanced, fruit-forward California Chardonnay (see Ross' Choice).
Three-alarm Ribs: Every cuisine has a taste for spice: India has her curry, Italy has pepperoni, the Caribbean has spice rubs and jerk, America has Cajun andouille, Texas chili, and Chicago-style barbecue sauce can bring tears to the eyes.
In all cases, pair fiery dishes with wine that is high in fruit extract, which acts like asbestos to protect the palate against the singe of spice. Whenever possible, avoid high alcohol and tannin that only ignite spicy heat.
For benignly spicy dishes, choose Italian Chianti Classico, Greek Naoussa, Spanish Crianza, French Beaujolais, a lighter Australian Shiraz or dry-ish Rose.
As spicy heat rises, look for wines with chewy fruit, especially Zinfandel.
Pork has even edged out steak as Chicago's chicest meat, being served in a seemingly endless rotation from breakfast and lunch to dinner and beyond. With tremendous versatility, pork can be the center of any number of exciting wine combinations.
When it comes to bacon ice cream, however, you're on your own.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.