Most restaurants offer a menu which doesn't typically change from day to day. So in addition, they offer one choice which varies from day to day, perhaps depending on which seasonal ingredients are available. This choice can be called dish of the day, perhaps ‘fish of the day’, etc. - or simply ‘today's special is…’ or perhaps other local colloquial expressions.
So, hands up all of you who have had the pleasure to visit a licenced premise - either a café, gastropub, brasserie, restaurant or hotel - where you have been shown and seated at a table and after being given the set printed menu. You are then politely informed by the waiting staff of today’s special or specials. The staff member enthusiastically reals off from memory or from a short hand-written note on the back of their order-pad.
The main ingredient and how the dish has been carefully and respectfully cooked, and served with complementary olive oils, herbs, dressing and seasonal vegetables or salad alike. The special might be exactly what you were wanting to enjoy for lunch of dinner - or it is now the dish that all others printed on the set-menu are to be judged.
Obviously now that I am about comment on the following (which yes, I have mentioned before), it would make perfect sense - but how often does the following happen…? And the answer is - virtually never and at best very little.
Would you not think that after the chef has gone to such length to source a special ingredient. May it be seasonal, say the beginning of the oyster or wild salmon season, or a crayfish or lobster or a well-aged special cut of meat or wild game. Whatever it might be - it is fresh and generous in flavour and the cooking technique is ever so select to highlight and express the unique flavours in the special ingredient and resulting dish.
So - would it not be the natural next thought - a natural next step to think of pairing a wine with the best character and flavours. To complement this special dish and bring out the flavours in such a way that the human palate on its own is not able.
Would you think the next words to fall out of the staff members mouth after describing the special of the day (would be) - the chef and wine manager have looked at our wine list or have possibly ordered in a special wine to ideally complement and bring out the special flavours in the dish you have chosen.
The chef has thought through the best way to cook the dish - knows the unique flavours, has taken the time to described them to the manager, who has then passed onto the floor staff to memories or write down and share with all guests - they have a 'special on today'. So, choosing a wine pairing (to suggest with the special) would be the next logical step…?
The customer has not tried today’s special - they don’t know all the unique flavour combinations - would it not be a good idea to help guide and even make the decision for the customer easier by suggesting the ideal wine pairing.
This is also sometimes the ideal opportunity for the wine manager to even suggest those wines on the wine-list which are normally only available by the bottle. To offer them by the glass with the 'special of the day'. As these more expensive wines are also typically more complex in flavours and might be the ideal or best pairing suggestion with the dish.
There will be virtually no waste - so a good business decision of offer them. For example, you have 30 special fish dishes of the day for lunch or dinner. You typically get 5 glass pours from a normal wine bottle - so you need 6 bottles to pair with the dish. It’s a win-win-win... Your guests get to have the best wine with the dish, they get to try a special wine with the best food pairing (which they are now more lightly to repeat in the future from the main menu). And you get to make more money and give a better experience to your guests, which are more likely to talk about and want to repeat and share with others.
So, if you work in a licenced premise - think about suggesting a wine with the special of the day. And if you are a guest - once the special has been described - politely ask what is their wine pairing suggestion. Enjoy the journey.