At Adeptia, integration is our mantra — and not just data. We’re interested in all the fascinating and complementary intersections life has to offer. Integration as a concept means committing to harmonies in all disciplines and crafts, and we believe it is crucial to be open to unexpected combinations that can surprise, delight, and improve our industries and our lives.
For the first in our series on integrations in life, we’re digging into some flavors and ingredients that will please your taste buds and impress your friends. Some are more intriguing than others, but as a restaurant chef, I assure you that each combination has been tested and proven to be agreeable and delicious.
When composing a plate with shrimp or lobster, mushrooms are not usually the first ingredient to think of as a pairing. There’s no reason for them not to go together, but for some reason it’s not as obvious as it should be. If you’ve ever had scallops with sautéed chanterelles or crab-stuffed portabellas, you know that the perfect complement to the rich sweetness of the fish is the umami earthiness of a roasted mushroom. It’s the real surf n’ turf combo.
A lot of people complain about how overly sweet white chocolate is. It’s a valid complaint, but not a necessary one if you’re willing to eat it with something salty enough to balance it out. The best olives are marinated in brine that includes orange zest, and that citrus note is enough to put white chocolate and olive crostinis on my next hors d'oeuvre dinner party menu.
Give this one a moment to digest. If PB+Sriracha doesn’t sound like you’re idea of a kickass brown bag lunch, then take a moment to consider the last time you ate Thai chicken satay with a spicy peanut dipping sauce. I would dip just about anything into that stuff. And Panang curry? The nuttiness from the peanut makes Panang one of the most popular and complex curries in the world. This combo may take some time to get the right balance, but it’s well worth the effort.
The world is split between two types of people — those who love kimchi, and those who hate kimchi. For those who love the funky, fermented pickle, you know you’ll eat it with just about anything. Few pairings are better, though, than the spicy-sour condiment with an ooze of gooey melted cheese. It just may be that a kimchi grilled cheese or kimchi quesadilla could change your life.
You’re invited over to the house of your vegan friend, and you’re responsible for bringing the dessert. Yes, there is much more to do with avocados than make guacamole. There are natural oils in avocados that easily replace butter in both baked and whipped recipes. But the combination of avocado and dark chocolate is no desperate vegan downgrade. The mild creaminess of the avocado and the bittersweet richness of dark chocolate is a perfect pairing for any brownie, mousse, or ice cream.
You probably balked when your Russian friend from college poured you a shot with a chaser of pickle juice, but trusting him on the combo turned out to be one of your better decisions that month. There’s something so surprisingly refreshing about the way the acidity of the brine softens the harshness of the alcohol without neutralizing the flavor of the whiskey. Conceptually, it’s not far from a dirty Martini or Bloody Mary. Of course, you can’t just go with any supermarket pickle brine; McClure’s is a good place to start. With a glass of whiskey, forget the lemon wedge — I’ll take a pickle.
Obvious to some but not others, a shaving of nutmeg into a milk or cream-based sauce is exactly the missing ingredient in your Alfredo. When heated, cream begins to take on a natural nuttiness, and grated nutmeg enhances this nuttiness in both aroma and flavor. Even better, this combination transcends savory and sweet distinctions. Grate nutmeg into your cream-based sauces and gravies but also into your whipped cream or again…nutmeg ice cream? Sounds like the perfect complement to an apple walnut strudel.
Okay, so the surprise here isn’t the unexpected combination of ingredients but how universally applicable the combination truly is. Salt and Vinegar is not just a potato chip flavor; it’s an essential pairing that is necessary in everything from roasted potatoes and sautéed mushrooms to a beet salad or lobster bisque. Ask any chef worth their salt; a pinch of it and a splash of vinegar is a fundamental principle of seasoning for pretty much every recipe.
Everyone loves tried-and-true recipes, but it’s the inventive plates of food with surprising combinations that really get us excited. It’s those experiences that inspire us to think more broadly about combinations and possibilities, and this is what we want to explore as we continue with our series on good integrations in life.
For more articles in this series, check out:
Unexpectedly Good Integrations In Life: 11 Movie Scenes with Brilliant Song Pairings
Unexpectedly Good Integrations In Life: Artists Use Medical Technology For New Perspectives On Life