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He Said Beer, She Said Wine    by Marnie Old & Sam Calagione order for
He Said Beer, She Said Wine
by Marnie Old
Order:  USA  Can
DK Publishing, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Reading He Said Beer, She Said Wine is like eavesdropping on a lively debate between two friends equally passionate in presenting - and supporting with food and beverage pairings to make you salivate - their viewpoint on the subject. Authors Marnie Old (a sommelier) and brewer Sam Calagione tell us in their Introduction that they've argued this topic - 'whether beer or wine was the better beverage for pairing with food' - throughout a long friendship. But after years of informal gatherings - and later public competitive dinners - where diners were asked to vote on the better (beer versus wine) pairing selected for each course, they've agreed that 'there's room for everyone to re-evaluate their favorite drinks, and what "goes" with what.'

After introducing 'the wine woman' and 'the beer guy', each presents their favored beverage - its history, how it's made, and why they think it's superior. Comprehensive Wine Primer and Beer Basics sections are followed by the Food Debate, which delves into delicious details of pairing wine or beer with: cheese, vegetables, sandwiches, pizza & pasta, spicy food, shellfish, fish, poultry, meat, fruit desserts, and other desserts (yes, Sam does suggest beers that work well with desserts, telling us 'There is probably no pairing more perfect than a roasty stout and dark chocolate.') Each food chapter explains key characteristics of that edible with (for each of wine and beer) notes and rules of thumb on recommended pairings, including specific wines and beers and the characteristics that make such pairings successful. Even if you can't get hold of the particular bottles the author suggest, the characteristics will help identify similar ones. At the end of each food section, the authors each state their case for which they think should win.

Finally in The Great Debate at Home, Sam and Marnie share with readers how to hold a beer versus wine party (which sounds like tons of fun!) They include a dozen recipes - such as Spicy Gulf Shrimp and Chocolate Pecan Upside-Down Cake - and offer tips born of experience, like serving an odd number of courses to avoid a stalemate, and the quantity to serve to avoid inebriated guests who no longer care to vote. At the end, Marnie shares with us her conclusion that 'maybe beer's all right', while Sam concedes that 'maybe wine's okay'. As someone who enjoys both beverages, all I can add is ... Santé!

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