The nineteenth century French gastrome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin would have choked on his foie gras had he known that tipplers today drink wine with frozen dinners. Is this the beginning of the end for the fine art of food and wine pairing? Are we losing our ability to appreciate the finer things of life?
Not according to Katie Morton who launched Stouffer’s Complete Dinner Stir-Kits with wine suggestions on the package. Morton has taken on the Quixotic quest of making frozen dinners a more “exotic meal experience.” The meal line has sold well since its launch in 1998, particularly since more people are now eating frozen meals.
In fact, sales of all frozen dinners have tripled over the last six years, with 67 percent of us partaking of these frozen repasts. According to the market research firm ACNeilsen, we eat an average of 18 “centre of plate frozen units” annually (can dinner sound any less appetizing than when stated in market research terms?). The heavy users among us are chowing down on roughly one frozen dinner weekly. Such growth is not surprising considering the evolution of the frozen meal over the last 45 years; frozen no longer means bland. Making wine suggestions on the package is another step in positioning these meals as gourmet-to-go.
The most popular dishes, chicken and pasta, are also those that go well with many wines. For its chicken primavera, Stouffer’s recommends a pinot grigio or chardonnay while szechuan beef goes well with a chilled beer, an Australian shiraz or zinfandel. For seafood paella, try a chilled Spanish white Rioja wine or chilled dry rose, while gewurztraminer or beer are appropriate for both spicy shanghai chicken or thai beef.
Morton notes that the meals are aimed at aimed at couples who want an alternative to dining out. The company researched the concept with customers extensively and then worked with a consultant to develop the wine recommendations.
While some frozen meals in the U.K. also include wine suggestions on the package, Stouffer’s seems to be the only producer in Canada so far. Here are some suggestions to jazz up your mac & cheese, or whatever you may be pulling out of the freezer tonight.