Have you met Elmwood Park Binny's Wine Consultant Mike Kiessel? Mike has been working with Binny's for seven years, and his interest in good wine and food goes a lot further back than that. Critical to this was the decade and a half he spent living in San Francisco, within striking distance of some of the world's greatest wine producing areas.   "With easy access not only to the great wines of northern California, but abundant fresh fruit and vegetables too." Mike recalls, "It was a great time to cook, eat, drink, and learn how to make flavors work together." Now he likes to share these wine and food pairings with customers on the Binny's sales floor. He has discovered over the years that some combinations are more difficult than others.   Paring asparagus and wine can be a tough proposition, but it's a challenge Mike doesn't fear.   "The key," Mike says, "is the combination of spices to enhance the flavor, the ideal method of cooking, and then the right wine to bring it all together."    
Smoky Grilled Asparagus   1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed   In a shallow dish, whisk mayonnaise with oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt and cumin. Add the asparagus and toss; let stand for 30 minutes.   Grill asparagus over moderately high heat, turning, until tender and blistered in spots, about 6 minutes; serve.
  The marinade in this recipe has great balance, with fatty mayonnaise and exotic smoky spices combining perfectly with the vegetable. Mike recommends grilling the asparagus to a point where blistering occurs, usually just a few minutes, so that the asparagus sugars start to caramelize. Then remove them from heat and let them rest for a minute.   So much for the food. Now comes the tricky part; finding the right wine to make it shine.   For this, Mike looks to a superb Austrian white, 2011 Loimer Gruner Veltliner Kamptal. Citrus and green apple undertones combine with peppery and herbaceous notes to make this a great food wine, even for asparagus!   “This wine also has a decidedly mineral dimension,” Mike says, “which compliments the caramelized sugars and smoky spices mingling already on the plate.” The Loimer is a succulent, lively wine that fits perfectly with this vegetarian dish.   Martin Moran is a wine consultant at the Elmwood Park Binny's. Asparagus image courtesy of piyato / FreeDigitalPhotos.net