A Culinary Chess Strategy

By Rebecca Edwardson Makowsky


I think one of the factors that lured me into loving chess was the quest to figure out the perfect drink and food to accompany the chess experience. Playing chess to me is taking a moment for yourself and a timeout from life’s chaos for a short stint. It fills a similar personal space as “cocktail hour”, the same reason to have hors d’oeuvres—both signify, “I’m taking some time for myself right now, so buzz off outside world, it’s me time.”


Chess has an undoubtedly chic and alluring aesthetic component. The sets are like art themselves, with 32 little sculptures, carefully positioned atop a checkered canvas. So of course such an inspired object would require equally inspired nibbles and cocktails. I’ve spent hours, maybe even days, imagining what type of food would be most appropriate, enticing, and innovative. In playing chess, your hands need to be free, so all food accompaniments must be easy to pick up, no trailing mess, no sticky or oily fingers. And since we’re playing a game on a veritable sculpture, the food and drink should be ever so slightly fancy pants.

An Intimate Way To Connec

My husband and I have played chess since the beginning of our relationship. It’s our go to couples hobby, and a way for us to connect. While he’s really quite accomplished at the game, I’m good at some moments, and a mess at others. But I’m always a superstar at food and drink pairings. I may bring out succulent little toast points with salty duck rillettes, carefully arranged on an elegant little platter. I decided a long time ago that my perfect chess drink is a glass of bubbly in a crystal coupe. I’m conscious of the fact that my chic little snack will be flanked by our gorgeous little chess set. I want the entire experience, every bite, sip, and move to be inspired and work together in perfect culinary and strategic gaming harmony. As I carefully pick up my little nibble, I study the board and look for an opening to slaughter my husband. My husband takes a bite, smiles at me in gratitude for the tasty morsel, completely unaware that everything I’ve curated is designed to distract and destroy.


It rarely works. But it makes the pain and suffering of losing 95% of the time, palatable and graceful.

Duck Rillettes Recipe

1 Whole Duck

1/3 bottle dry white wine

I medium onion chopped

2 Bay leafs

3 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper


Cut duck into pieces. Brown in a large heavy pot (like Le Creuset) on stovetop, over high flame.  

Add remaining ingredients.

Cover, and cook over low flame for 3 ½ hours.

Drain the juices and fat from pot. Remove skin, set aside. Remove bones and discard (or reserve to make a duck stock another time). Discard thyme twigs and bay leafs. Shred meat and reserve in pot.

Chop skin into small pieces and cook over medium flame in separate pan until crispy. Should resemble bacon bits when finished. Separate duck bits from excess oil. Discard oil (or reserve in refrigerator for another use)

Add duck bits to shredded meat. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a few tablespoons at a time of the juices and fat earlier reserved, until you’ve reached your preferred taste. (Note: a typical recipe will have you add all the fat and liquid, but this is too much fat for me).

Place in small ramekins or your favorite serving dish. Serve warm, refrigerate until cool, approx. one hour.

Distribute rillettes on toast points or another favorite, Finn Crisp crackers. Arrange on serving plate.


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