Freya’s Beverage Pairings Are About ‘Making a Partnership With the Food’

Certified sommelier Catherine Kurth is the beverage director at the new Milwaukee Junction restaurant
Beverage Director Catherine Kurth uses drinks to accentuate Freya’s dishes, such as the Roasted Squab (bottom right), paired with Rayula, a non-alcoholic cocktail of castor and mango juices, turmeric honey, and lemon juice.

Beverage pairing is more of an art than a science. One typical approach is to match beverages with specific flavors, so a dish featuring cherries might get paired with a Pinot Noir. But there are other approaches that work, too — sometimes resulting in surprising combinations. 

“I have a lot of fun creating tension or drama between the food and the drink, like pairing a higher-acid or higher-tannin wine to accompany a rich or creamy dish. It’s a way of preparing the palate for the next bite,” says Catherine Kurth, certified sommelier and beverage director at Freya.

Located in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood and opened by the team behind the popular Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails, Freya offers a tasting menu-only format that draws on the seasons and nods to Scandinavia. Diners can choose from the omnivorous “I Eat Anything” menu, in addition to pescatarian and vegan menus, from chef Doug Hewitt, as well as select either an alcoholic or a nonalcoholic beverage pairing. 

“For me, beverage pairings are about making a partnership with the food. The food shouldn’t overpower the wine; the wine shouldn’t overpower the food. It’s about accentuating factors of each,” Kurth says.

Each tasting menu contains six courses, so Kurth aims to have the beverage pairings follow the progression of the meal. A light wine, like a Riesling, might accompany an early course of tuna crudo, followed by fuller, richer wines to go along with fuller, richer dishes. 

So far, Freya has featured mostly wine for the alcohol pairings, but future menus could incorporate beer, sake, or even cocktails. There is one non-wine beverage included in the pairing, however. The Black Raspberry Krydda Snaps is made exclusively for the restaurant by award-winning Michigan company Norden Aquavit and is served with dessert or at the end of the meal as a final sip.

The snaps has proved surprisingly versatile. Kurth says she expected the fruitiness of the black raspberries to complement a dessert featuring fermented blueberries and pears and served with an aniseed panna cotta and ginger meringue. But it also shone with a chocolate-focused dessert. Kurth says she marveled at how the drink expressed itself differently but beautifully across the two dishes.

The nonalcoholic beverage pairing also offers an opportunity for creativity, drawing upon a wide range of juices, teas, and nonalcoholic aperitifs for combinations that match the dishes. It also supports the restaurant’s ethos of making sure everyone — vegan or meat eater, wine fan or teetotaler — can feel welcome at Freya. 

Freya, 2929 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit; 313-351-5544;

This story is featured in the February 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.