Tyler Florence on Wine, Cooking, and Why Veggies Are More Exciting Than Protein
You know Tyler Florence for his TV shows and cookbooks, but the Food Network star doesn’t just craft delicious food—he also crafts vino! Tyler Florence Wines are perfect to complement your next dinner or enjoy on their own.
Florence sat down over a glass to talk about his passion for wine, pairing misperceptions, and how to make an amazingly rich pasta sauce without butter or cream.
SHAPE: You have so much going on—TV, cookbooks, restaurants, a family—why did you decide to add wine to the mix?
Tyler Florence (TF): I’m utterly fascinated by the process, and I love the aspect of creating something that mankind’s been doing for tens of thousands of years. Wine is a time capsule. You take all this information—the varietal, the year, the terroir—and you encapsulate that and can open up and analyze it anytime you want. Wine is an organic, natural product that tells a story that will be around when we’re all gone, and I think there’s something really special about that.
SHAPE: When it comes to wine pairings, are there any misperceptions you’d like to clear up?
TF: You can absolutely pair up protein like beef with white wine if the things that are associated with the meat are more of a brighter, fresher note. Like if you had medium-rare grilled beef tenderloin that was paired with something like roasted Brussels sprouts with shaved Parmesan, olive oil, and anchovy. On the opposite side of that, a really big-bodied cab or zin would totally taste great with a piece of fish if what you’re serving with that has a bigger, earthier note to it, like a big piece of cod with chorizo mushrooms. So wine pairing isn’t so much about the protein as it is about what’s going along with that.
SHAPE: What about cooking with wine? Is it true you should buy the cheap stuff?
TF: I always finish every bottle that I open, so that’s what I cook with. I don’t buy wine to cook with, and I don’t buy cooking wine. I just cook with whatever is left over, and there’s always something left over.
SHAPE: Say a woman’s boyfriend or husband isn’t into wine, is there a way she can convince him to be more open to trying it?
TF: You have to find a reason to introduce this and not just buy wine. So if the couple knows another couple where the guy is into wine, they should go to dinner together. That way it’s a natural situation where the two guys can get a chance to bond over wine and really taste them. Or on his next birthday, buy him a nice bottle of wine. Get him something really, really great. Then you say, “Hey, it’s your birthday, I got you this amazing bottle of wine. I looked it up in Wine Spectator magazine, and it has 100 points; it’s supposed to be really fantastic.” Guys like to brag, and when he can say, “Yeah, it got a 100-point score from Wine Spectator magazine,” he’ll sound like the man at a dinner party when he opens the bottle.
SHAPE: If I saw you at a bar, what would you be drinking?
TF: Honestly, I drink three things: I drink water—and I try to drink a lot of it—and I drink coffee—and I do drink a lot of that—and I drink wine. I think red wine more than anything specifically. It’s not that I don’t appreciate bourbon or vodka, it’s just I’ve grown out of that. I don’t casually drink. I’m really picky about what I drink, so it either has to be good, or I’m not going to drink at all.
SHAPE: What’s your diet like?
TF: I really love vegetables. I actually think protein is boring. A pork chop tastes like a pork chop any time of year. Sometimes you get a nice sexy bite because where the bone starts to come out there’s a little fat cap, but there’s nothing particularly interesting from a story-telling standpoint. I think vegetables are the real driving force behind food because it lets you know what time of year it is.
SHAPE: On busy weeknight, what’s your go-to recipe?
TF: I’ll take a vegetable such as butternut squash, and I’ll peel the whole thing, take the bottom part, scoop the seeds out, and cut into a large, irregular dice. Then I’ll sauté that with a little bit of sage, julienned onion, and olive oil, and I’ll let that start to really caramelize so it has a roasted, nutty flavor to it. I’ll chop the rest of the squash and simmer it in water and a little bit of salt with some onion, olive oil, and more sage. When it’s tender and soft, I’ll take all of that and put it into a high-speed blender and puree it so it’s really a creamy, delicious sauce, and then I’ll finish it with olive or truffle oil. To serve, I’ll combine the sauce with gluten-free pasta and top it with the caramelized butternut squash. You’re eating practically entire butternut squash, and you’re getting tons of vitamin C.