Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hex-Avor (a.k.a the Hexagon of Flavor)

I like to ease into my day...much like someone approaching a cold swimming pool or a scalding hot cup of coffee.  I can think of no reason why anyone would want to leap out of bed and rush straight into his or her day.  I will admit that I spend a few minutes every morning just reading various articles from around the web before I jump into the day's tasks.  

So today I found myself perusing the food page of www.huffingtonpost.com, when the headline "Western-Asian Flavor Differences Revealed By New Study," grabbed my attention. As it turns out, science has now confirmed what serious foodies have known for years... Western cuisine embraces the subtle nuances of similar flavors, while Asian culinary traditions build upon contrasting flavors and textures (duh?).  (for the complete article please see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/western-asian-flavor_n_1152211.html?ref=food)

What truly fascinated me in this piece wasn't the profound "revelations" espoused by the authors of this scientific study, but rather their accompanying graphics.  The study analyzed 1,000s of recipes from Allrecipes.com and Epicurious.com, and assigned a molecular index based on taste for all of the ingredients listed in the referenced recipe   The result of their analysis is one of the most complete comparisons of flavor profiles I have every encountered. 

In the original artwork posted below, you can see the general patterns for flavor affinities. Meats pair with well with things like bread and cheese, fruits pair remarkably well with wines, and surprisingly, but not unbelievably, aromatic herbs pair well with black tea.    
Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )

 What I found particularly interesting was the center of the chart...  All of the foods/ flavors seem to branch off from/ revolve around a hexagon of six distinct items: tea, black tea, jasmine tea, cocoa, coffee, and beer.  Of course one could make the argument that there are really only four profiles, but I couldn't think of a cleaver name for a "square of flavors." 

And so the Hexagon of Flavaors  (Hex-Avor) was born...  A unique set of ingredients that will pair well, at least in the Western sense, with just about anything.

Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )  

 Now as a lover and aficionado of all things beer, I couldn't pass up an opportunity such as this.  It turns out beer does in fact pair better with cheese than wine.  You'll note the only direct link between cheese and wine is Parmesan to white wines, while beer and cheese share almost share an indelible flavor branch.  Garret Oliver must be smiling this week!

Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )

 PS-If anyone knows where I can purchase the full size version of this chart or find an interactive digital copy, please let me know.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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