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By Tim O’Dell, Chili Dawg’s Foods of Fire

The football playoffs are fast approaching and planning the ultimate tailgate or home entertainment party is an integral part of the playoff season.

Many hosts plan for weeks, especially if they are gourmet in their thinking. Anyone worth their salt as a gourmet host will be very picky about their food selections. Most times they will choose items that are very popular and easy to prepare. Other times they will pick foods that are unusual, very flavorful and take little effort to prepare.

Spicy items have become a favorite tailgate food. Spicy hot wings are at the top of the list. Spicy dips are also a favorite with many party hosts, and they are easy to concoct.

Once the food is selected, the next logical step is to choose the libations to serve at ones party.

Many people serve beer to go with their spicy food because it is refreshing. It does not clash with the many feisty, fiery flavors of chilies, herbs, spices and sauces that are the signature of spicy dishes. However, various wines can complement a spicy dish just a well as beer. Depending upon your preferences, you can complement the spice and heat by pairing with a dry, spicy wine or try to contrast with a sweeter wine.

The wines most suited to pair with spicy dishes are those that are medium to low in alcohol content, are refreshing, and have a crisp acidity. Alcohol can sometimes negatively accentuate heat, whereas crisp acidity provides an enhancing contrast to both “heat” and “richness”, while also lifting the many layers of flavor in the dish.

Fruity, aromatic and off-dry whites are some of the best options to consider. They are already well-recognized natural allies at the fiery food table. Sweetness from the residual sugar in off-dry wines offers a contrast, and balances the heat and spicy flavors. The sweetness also serves to showcase the many different flavors in the dish.

The bottom line here is that wine can be an excellent choice to go with your fiery dishes.

The gourmet host has found the perfect place to shop for quality spicy foods and wines.

Specialty food stores are perfect as they often have hundreds of items available to select which are in relatively close proximity to one another. If products you want are not readily available, specialty food stores are nimble and act quickly to secure the products you want in time for your party. I have often said that this is one main reason for the rise in popularity of specialty stores. They cater to the needs of their consumers.

Shopping at specialty food stores is also fun. Why serve something you have never tried? Unlike big box stores or many local grocery stores, many specialty stores will let you sample whatever product you are interested in.

So reduce your stress level during the playoff season and become a gourmet host for the greatest experience in entertaining that you will ever have! And your guests, the recipients of your thoughtful planning, will never forget it!

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