Wine pairings are common at most mid-to-upper level restaurants.
In the past few years, with the rise of craft brewing, beer pairings have become equally commonplace.
Brown liquors like whiskey, whether Bourbon or Scotch, though they can pair with some food items, seem a little too hot and aggressive for most (though definitely not all) foods.
Rum, however, may be another story.
I had just ordered a Manhattan at Weather Mark (1503 S. Michigan) when owner Mark Stern, whose guest I was, told me that he had a 50+ collection of rums that might be fun to pair with dinner.
That sounded like an excellent idea. I put down the Manhattan, though it was one of the better ones I've had at a place I'd never been before.
Softer than whiskey, not as bloating as beer though without many of wine's subtleties, rum is actually a natural accompaniment to meats like pork, which benefit from a bit of sweetness, or spicy sausage, the flavor of which is mellowed and enhanced by rum.
Rum also pairs well with cheese, the saltiness and creaminess of which seems suitably matched with sweetness.
Stern gave me small sipping portions of a 23 year-old Ron Zacapa, a 12 year-old Flor de Cana and a few other rums from Puerto Rico, Haiti, Trinidad and Martinique. The range of flavors and textures of the world's rums is indeed remarkable.
Now, I probably wouldn't order rum with, for instance, a beefsteak, but for pork, spicy preparations and cheese, I think the possibilities of pairing with rum are considerable.
For Thanksgiving, we made a rum-cider punch that worked well with the sweet-savory offerings of the day (smoked turkey, sweet potatoes, etc.).
Rum. I have come to respect ye. Arggh.