Celebrate The Feast Of The Seven Fishes On Christmas Eve

For many, the holiday season is full wonderful meals shared around the dinner table. One of our favorite traditions to partake in is the Feast of the Seven Fishes which is celebrated on Christmas Eve.  Although this tradition has Southern Italian roots, it is widely celebrated by Italian Americans.  The original feast is known in Italy as The Vigil (La Vigilia) Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. In Roman Catholic tradition, meat is forbidden on the day before Christmas, so observant Catholics eat fish on the eve of the holiday.

Anthony Merlino, Bar Manager at Chefs Club, hails from Salerno, Italy explains,”In the South where I am from, it is all about fish as our main tradition for La Vigilia. For me with wine, it is all going to white with high acid; light and bright.  We will start with a bottle of Prosecco before the meal as we enjoy snacks and little dishes before main dinner starts. We typically stick to whites throughout the entire meal. Until we get to the dessert, we do a Limoncello where I am from and a  Finocchietto which is made with fennel flowers.  This year, I made my family’s Limoncello at Chefs Club for our guests and they loved it!”

This year, Saxon + Parole is offering their version of Feast of the Seven Fishes at Saxon + Parole and got to speak with Chef Brad Farmerie about his thoughts on pairing his menu this year.

Here is what Chef Brad had to say about beverage pairings at Saxon’s more American style version of this treasured meal … see below:

Pairing Ideas for The Feast of the Seven Fishes

Photo by Jessie Gibson

“When I am looking to pair wines with dishes or dinners, the general practice is to either match the richness/decadence of the dish or contrast it to provide a counter to the dishes weight, texture, and level of indulgence. With seafood dishes such as the feast of the fishes, I usually try to generalize as to whether the dish seems to want a squeeze of lemon or could work with a butter sauce. Shellfish like lobster, crab, sea urchin, and mussels all do well with butter, and any seafood with a creamy sauce needs a wine with some richness, barrel aging, and/or medium to full body texture to work nicely and increase the luxury that you are offering. Wines like oaked Chardonnay, older vintage Champagne, aged Semillon from Australia, a Pinot Gris from Oregon or New Zealand, a dry Furmint from Hungary (try it!), and the often overlooked amazing-value grapes like Marsanne and Rousanne (which also make up the white wines of the Rhone Valley). Non wine options could be a Belgian Dubbel or Hefeweizen beer.

On the other side of the coin are the dishes that scream out for a squeeze of lemon like raw oysters and raw fish, simply prepared fish dishes, and an array of grilled sea creatures like octopus, squid, white fish, etc. The “squeeze of lemon” acidity can come from the acidity found in Riesling (especially Australian), Prosecco, Chablis, French Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, non vintage Champagne, or super affordable Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain. A sour ale or blond ale are good beer matches.

The white wines that walk the line between these two options could be rose, an un-oaked Chardonnay, an older vintage Riesling from Alsace, Gruner Veltliner, and for the ever-adventurous person, a Manzanilla sherry. The Ryme Cellars 2016 Vermentino Carneros is one of our go-to choices. At Saxon, Sara Reardon assists me in overseeing our wine program and her description of it is “notes of quince and lemon zest on this wine complement richer fish dishes such as the lobster and the crab-stuffed twice-baked potato while upholding depth and texture to beautifully contrast the kick of acid and heat in the other lovely dishes.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Photo by Jessie Gibson

Seafood and red wines are a little tougher to pair, but that’s also where you can have some fun. The general rule is lighter body, lower tannin wines are best, and chilling them slightly makes them pair more fluidly. I always first think of Beajoulais, but lighter body Pinot Noir or an Austrian Zweigelt are also good partners. At Saxon + Parole we like to surprise and delight with tough pairings like this so an easy gateway into red wine and fish would be the Elena Walch 2016 Schiava from Alto Adige, Italy. The Schiava grape produces a fruity and elegant red with enough acidity to stand up to spice, fat and richness without overwhelming the nuanced flavors of the featured dishes. It’s also low in tannins, which makes it a refreshing, seafood-friendly red.”

For the full details on the Feast of the Seven Fishes at Saxon + Parole, visit HERE

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