A Night of Musical Pairings

Eating is one of life’s great pleasures. As such people are always trying to find new and interesting ways to enhance the flavor and enjoyment of their favorite edibles. New spices, cooking methods and ingredients seem to be discovered every year sending our taste buds on wild journeys seeking the absolutely perfect bite. Recently we discovered a way to enhance our meals without changing recipes or deep frying everything. The good people at Musical Pairings showed us how music not only changes the atmosphere, but can greatly enhance and coax flavors from some familiar dishes. We met up with Barbara Werner and her team for a dinner party and live demonstration of the musical pairing philosophy.

The dinner party was held at the highly regarded Ruth Chris Steakhouse in midtown. Guests were corralled in a small private dining room. The room was divided in two with long communal tables. Each place setting featured a large set of headphones connected to one MP3 player in the center of the table. Our amused table mates settled in and listened intently as Barbara walked us through the evening’s agenda. We were there for a five course family style dinner. Each course would be accompanied by a piece of music which was selected to enhance our enjoyment of that course. It sounded simple enough, but the selection process is part of a complex scientific equation in which the flavors and textures of each course are used to find the right balance of melody tempo and rhythm in a specific piece of music.

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Understandably most in the room were skeptical, but by the end of the night everyone had an “Aha! Moment” which according to Barbara is that amazing moment when you finally get it, when it finally sinks in and you feel the difference for the very first time. The evening started with vanilla ice cream, Werner explained that everyone has had vanilla ice cream so in theory we would all see the significant difference once she added the musical component. We all sampled the creamy vanilla confection without the music and it tasted like every premium vanilla ice cream we have experienced. There was no big change. Then we put on our headphones and had another spoonful while listening to two classical pieces. The first piece, Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major (Pachelbel Orchestra), somehow made the ice cream sweeter. I can’t explain it, it just tasted sweeter. Not different at all but somehow changed. We continued having ice cream and listened to a second piece, Carmen Suite: Les Toreadors by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, this song made it creamier. The bowl’s contents hadn’t changed but somehow the ice cream was richer and creamier after a few short measures. Our meal continued with occasional pauses to enjoy the assortment of delicious food and listen to anecdotes from our hostess.

One of our favorite dishes from the evening was the Herb and cheese stuffed chicken with sweet potato casserole. The chicken was moist and tender without the music but once the music of Cream hit our ears the herbaceous notes of the filling were more pronounced and the chicken even juicer. The beverage paired with the chicken was a Makers Mark Manhattan with extra cherry juice.

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The Manhattan was also served with the next course, Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes ad asparagus. The cocktail’s flavor changed with the music of Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessum Dorma. When it was paired with the chicken and “White Room” by Cream the flavor was smooth and sweet but with the filet and Pavarotti the cherry was more pronounced adding a fruity element.

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We had an amazing time with Musical Pairings, the food was incredible but more than that the experience was unforgettable. In addition to dinner parties like the one we attended, Barbara has also penned a book offering a more detailed analysis of her system and the science behind it. Musical Pairings also has an app. The app allows users to find the right music for their meals with a selection of songs stretching several genres and decades. For more information on this phenomenal company please visit MusicalPairing.com