Category Archives: perfect pairings

Bucket of Fried Chicken and a Bottle of Wine

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This is an actual album of Latin jazz covers Colonel Sanders released in 1968 which means 1) Colonel Sanders was an unrepentant exploiter of other cultures and 2) Latin jazz makes me feel like I’m on Quaaludes.

Apparently July 6th is National Fried Chicken Day. I mean, whatever. Sure. I’m all for fried chicken. I just don’t understand all these food holidays. April 10th is literally National Cinnamon Crescent Day. I don’t even know what that means. Do they mean croissant? Because a chocolate croissant is the only specialty croissant worth its seductively airy weight. What is a crescent? Are they those Pillsbury knock off croissants that come in terrifying pressurized cylinders that pop like a gunshot? Because if that’s the case, Pigs in a Blanket should be getting the damn holiday, not some quasi-biscuit sprinkled with cinnamon. That sounds like an alcoholic mother’s bake sale contribution.

Ok. Fried chicken.

Fried chicken is widely considered the crown jewel of American cuisine. And, like most amazing things in this country, its actually the product of several cultural influences. Scottish immigrants relocated to the American south with their fritters and fricassees and Western African slaves utilized spices to make it more palatable. The New York Times actually has a fascinating article on chicken’s role in American economy. But I’m not giving you the link until you read mine first. Like a time share pitch: you can go down the pool water slide after we talk about Gulf Coast vacation clubs for 9 hours.

While beer seems the traditional pairing for a big bucket of chicken, wine may be better suited. And when deciding upon varietal, seek out a more innocent beverage for inspiration: lemonade. Lemonade’s acidity and touch of sweetness make it a compliment to fatty, salty fried chicken. Brut sparkling wine, off-dry riesling, or an Oregon pinot gris all have the requisite acidity and minerality to refresh the palate.

But its the bit of residual sugar in all these wines that really excels in the pairing as the sweetness balances out the spiciness of all 11 secret herbs and spices. Think of chicken and waffles! Its the maple syrup bridging the gap there. A sweet wine, specifically a late harvest dessert wine or ice wine, makes such a unique, strange, and amazing pairing for savory foods, you’ll swear you’re hanging out with Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx. This is literally the second time in my life I’ve said out loud, in my car, BY MYSELF ‘wait, who is Katie Holmes dating?’ We all remember 2005…

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Late harvest wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine for so long, they have ripened to a point of becoming shriveled, concentrating the sugars. Ice wine, similarly, has concentrated sugar but because the grapes actually froze before harvest. These wines are produced the world over, and have an array of quality and price. Canadian ice wines and California late harvest wines are typically going to be a little more affordable than their German and Austrian counterparts, making it an easier justification for a four piece at Popeye’s.

Give it a shot! Worst outcome: you’re full of drumsticks and buzzed up on wine that tastes like honey. Sounds like a Game of Thrones meal.

 

 

Here you go! How the Chicken Built America

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I’m Changin Grillz Errday

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Memorial Day means summer is right around the corner. And a PTO-free three day weekend (well, for people with normal jobs that don’t involve side work and hiding tips from the government) is basically a bonus drinking day over a hibachi. It also apparently is an homage to soldiers that have fallen to protect our civil liberties, but whatever! Lets do shots in Dad’s backyard!

I know the thought of outdoor grilling automatically brings to mind ice cold beers and Fireball, but do me a favor and give wine a try. Several wines offer fantastic pairing opportunities for classic BBQ fare and can still be quite refreshing. And, honestly, you can stand to be a little classier today. You’re already wearing an American flag halter, for Christ’s sake.

Grilled Veggies

Crisp California Sauvignon Blanc like whaaaaat! The sharp acidity and inherent herbacious notes are a perfect complement for veggie shish-ka-bobs and especially dishes featuring tomatoes. Its also a great pair for grilled shrimp if you’re anything like me and can’t go, like, 48 hours without shrimp. There’s pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp , pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew… I prefer versions that aren’t overly oaky, so stay away from anything saying Fume Blanc or Robert Mondavi.

My Current Jam: 2013 Ojai, McGinley Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc 

Burgers

I love a good burger. They’re about as American as Carrie Underwood’s calves. And while I can immediately think of a handful of West Coast IPAs that work wonders with a juicy burgers (Green FlashSociete The Pupil, Avery), a chilled Beaujolais can be equally refreshing without making you look 5 months pregnant two drinks in. Beaujolais hails from southern Burgundy in France and is 100% Gamay, a red fruit forward grape with silky soft tannins. A versatile people pleaser… just like your mom.

My Current Jam: 2013 Chanrion Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes, Côte-de-Brouilly, France 

Ribs & Other BBQ

Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Korean: BBQ is what this damn country is about. And for a people that are young, bold, and increasingly fruity, you need a similar wine. My vote is for Zinfandel. Write that down. You won’t see me recommend Zinfandel often because they drive me coconuts. Overblown and boozy, they’re often at best a cocktail replacement and at worst a vehicle for cougars to get enough liquid courage to yell at their husbands in public. But this is actually a great pairing, with its big ripe fruit and spicy notes. You’re welcome, Zinfandel growers of America. I know you’ve anxiously been awaiting my endorsement.

My Current Jam: 2013 Bedrock Zinfandel, Sonoma County, CA

So there you go. Three easy and affordable ways to class up your BBQ. And yes, I know all these wines are 2013.  I like my BBQ wines like I like my unpaid parking tickets: around 2 years old.

 

*In all honesty- Memorial Day is a remembrance of the many, MANY Americans who valiantly died fighting for our country. Take a moment to honor them. Personally, I think there should be a law requiring people to watch Band of Brothers in in entirety before being allowed into any rooftop pool parties today. #donniewahlberg

 

 

 

 

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Three’s Company with Lambrusco

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Lambrusco is basically the Suzanne Somers of bubbles: a sickly sweet and klutzy thing no one has really done since the 70s. But you know what? Bruno Mars is exclusively making disco songs and everyone I know is wearing bell bottoms to Coachella, so has anything really changed? Lambrusco has- its no longer a cough syrup sweet novelty. Italian winemakers have steered towards more dry, nuanced wines. Plus red bubbles hold up to a wide variety of Instagram filters. Here are three enertaining scenarios where it’ll work beautifully.

Meat

Like Queen Pen said, “Party ain’t a party till its ran all through.” And she obviously meant the charcuterie plate. I don’t care if its a baby shower, a parole celebration or an orgy. I need proscuitto or I’m out. Its like literally adding salt to the whole event. It makes people seem prettier and more interesting, as if they, too, were cured Italian meat. The zippy acidity and light effervescence of the wine cuts right through all that dank-dank fatty goodness. All but one of the Lambruscos hail from Emilia-Romanga, the Mecca of exquisite salumis such as Prosciutto di Parma, so you know this is a match made in heaven. Guiding Principle of My Life: pairing wines with its own home region’s cuisine is typically an easy way to find a real winner. They’ve been drinking the juice with their own wares for a long time. Trust ‘em. Added bonus- Emilia-Romagna is also home to Parmigiano-Reggiano in case you really want to fleece that board out…

Brunch

When restaurant’s need to make money, they look to the beverage profit margin. So you think those bottomless mimosas they’re hawking Sunday morning are premium product? Neither the bubbles nor the Sunny Delight are worth the headache you’re gonna have by noon. Mimosas aren’t really master pairings with anything other than some quiches or Excedrin Migraine anyway. Try Lambrusco next time. While its actually frizzante and not fully sparkling, that light frothiness is just bubbly enough to make you feel posh and important as you discuss your dreams squeezed between oh so many tables of graphic designers and cocktail servers in oversized sunglasses. Indoors. Much like the salumi pairing, the high acidity and berry notes make a nice contrast to breakfast meats such as bacon and sausage, not to mention greasy chorizo or beef hashes that are all the hipster rage these days. And since most Lambruscos ring in under 10% alcohol, its a little easier to justify drinking in the morning.

BBQs

Speaking of guilt-free day drinking, summer is almost here. As you scrub your grill/hibachi/George Foreman, send a do-boy to grab a bottle of Lambrusco. A combination of small market demand and a Euro that’s weaker than Denny’s coffee makes it a value buy right now. I’m talking $10-18 for a great bottle. Served slightly chilled, burgers, sausages, saucy ribs and even hearty summer veggies are going to be perfectly serviced by a glass or Red Solo cup full of Lambrusco. And let’s be honest, a chilled red bubbly wine is gonna be a total mind fuck to quite a few of your guests. And if you’re not fucking a couple minds, what’s the point of a party? This is a perfect backyard wine- something you can easily drink until the mosquitos come home.

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So what do you look for at BevMo? There are many types of Lambruscos, but for versatile food pairing I suggest you stick with either Lambrusco di Sorbrara or Lambrusco Grasparossa. And I prefer the former as its lighter and can be substituted for a dense rose in a lot of scenarios. And, always make sure you are getting a secco, which is Italian for dry, otherwise you may end up with a bottle of Dimetapp. I declare the summer of 2015 to be the return of red bubbles and the Thighmaster. I wish you all Lambrusco and thigh gaps till Labor Day.

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My Never Ending Battle

All great heroes have enemies. Peter Pan had Captain Hook. Mario had King Koopa. Hillary Duff had Lindsay Lohan. I’m no different. I, too, wage a daily battle against a wily and ruthless adversary.

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Yeah. Its artichokes. But they started it. Let me explain.

Artichokes are basically the bane of my existence. The chef I work for is obsessed with artichokes. He puts them on, in, or somewhere near what seems like every single dish. I’m surprised we don’t use them as centerpieces. I’m surprised we aren’t called ‘Chokes’. Some days I just want to march into the kitchen and ask him what’s the deal with all the artichokes. But then I remember he owns the place and is much larger than me.

The thing is, I love artichokes. And in all fairness, many great heroes harbor deep love for their antagonists. Like how Carrie loved Big. I mean, she married that piece of shit. Even after he jilted her the day of the wedding and left her in front of the NY Public Library with that dead bird on her head.  Why in the hell did it not work out with Aiden? He was just as tall and he made furniture and now he does voice overs for Applebee’s and like 9 different drug stores so you know he has money. Even that Russian ballerina guy who beat her in Paris would have been a better idea. Carrie is so dumb. Just sitting at her laptop in her little apartment, wearing boy shorts and typing out vapid narrative, making inane pop culture references…

Sorry. I just had a white girl stroke.

Artichokes. I know they are delicious and I eat them all the time. When I was little, my parents routinely steamed them with creamy, drippy, GMO-loaded cheese sauce that I would have drank out of an old Tom & Jerry Edition jelly jar had they let me. My problem with artichokes is that they are a bitch to pair with wine. They contain an acid called cynarin that actually makes wine taste sweeter. Likes 4 packets of Splenda sweeter, all artificial and Diet Rite-y.

Grilling artichokes will actually cut the cynarin levels by up to half, evening out the playing field a bit. After that, go as dry as you can. Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc come to mind. But, the princess of my little Francophile heart is the best bet here: Tavel rosé. Greanche dominant, this babe is dry enough to withstand a tad bit of sweetening. And its crisp, berry forward notes makes it a perfect BBQ wine. You can drink it while your chokes grill.

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