"All four elements were happening in equal measure—the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level." – Charlie Trotter
Whether you're devouring an Awesome Appetizer Adventure at your local Rainforest Café or delicately dining on kaiseki, the sum of your dining experience comes down to two things: how the food tastes and how the experience feels. Hell, even Applebee's and their ziosks know just how paramount ambiance is to culinary joy. More and more, in-the-know restaurateurs are venturing outside the industry to ensure the ideal dining-room mise en scène.
So here's where the researchers step in: In the field of study called gastrophysics, one of the most prominent practitioners is studying the science of pairing food with music. And he's found out some pretty weird shit.
Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University's Crossmodal Research Laboratory told The Telegraph that he studies "how soundscapes and music come together with taste to make the whole experience more stimulating, more enjoyable, and possibly even more memorable. It is a kind of digital seasoning." He's worked with world-renowned chefs, including London's Heston Blumenthal, to enhance the dining experience in their restaurants.
Here's what he's found.
Professor Spence asked 700 volunteers to order takeout food and listen to specific songs from six different genres of music. The participants then rated the dishes on a scale of one to ten.
Turns out that Chinese food goes best with a little Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran. Participants who listened to Swift's "Blank Space" and Sheeran's "Sing" really dug their Chinese take out.
Pasta is best served with a side of Pavarotti. Actually, all kinds of classical music—including Vivaldi's The Four Seasons—enhanced Italian cuisine.
But please don't serve pasta with Bruce. Or Guns N' Roses. Classic rock—or indie rock, say the researchers—goes well with Indian. "Sweet Child O' Mine" and samosas? A match made in culinary heaven, evidently. You'll be "Dancing In The Dark" to your curry and vindaloo.
What cuisine would you expect to go best with sushi? Something zen with flutes? Wrong. The participants really enjoyed their rolls when they listened to jazz. We're talking Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra.
Professor Spence says takeaway food should be delivered along with a CD of appropriate music.
While the researchers weren't surprised by some of the results—they kind of expected the Pavarotti and pasta combo—they didn't expect chili to go well with its genre of choice: rock and roll. "Nobody has looked at spiciness and music before," Spence said. "We found that if there is music that is more alerting, more arousing, then people appreciate spicier food more." The participants reported that their food tasted, on average, 4 percent spicier when they listened to rock rather than jazz.
Wondering about hip hop and R&B? These two genres were found to have no effect whatsoever on the enjoyment of food. Bummer, right? Looks like our idea for a Bone Thugs-N-Hominy food truck will have to wait.