Fried chicken wine pairing, part two

You probably knew we couldn't just leave it alone. There were too many unanswered questions in the wake of the July 4th Fried Chicken Wine Tasting. So many promising wines left out of the first tasting, and an intriguing minority opinion on which chicken is best. With short notice and scientific curiosity, we went at it again this week. Two chickens, three wines, four guests, hours of fun.

The Birds:

Popeyes: the incumbent. The chain with soul. As before, we chose mild.

Coast Soul Cafe : the local star. Soul is their middle name. Just one option: chicken.

The Beverages:

Can Feixes Blanc Seleccio 2006: The upstart. A dry Spanish white in a tall bottle.

Huber Hugo Grüner Veltliner 2006: The house favorite. A fresh lower Austrian with a mod label.

Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2005: The curveball. Alsatian sweetie recommended by a true Southerner.

The Business:

After a relaxing tour of host chef J's garden, chef P, teacher J, photographer E and yours truly got down to the business at hand. We tasted the two dry wines with the two chickens, then ventured into the Gewürztraminer with the dessert chickens. OK, they were the same as the dinner chickens, but you get the idea.

First the chickens. Coast is a local place in Cambridge, a tiny, fragrant spot with just two stools and a little space to stand while waiting for a takeout order. Well-regarded by Yelpsters and others, Coast is a carryout destination for people from all over town. The chicken is cooked to order, and took 20 minutes for my order of four pieces to come from the kitchen, each one individually wrapped in foil. The menu includes chicken, beef, pork, fish and even some BBQ. The sides list shows off the place's soul credentials: mac & cheese, collard greens, candied yams, cabbage, corn, black eyed peas, jag (a Cape Verdean dish), and more.

We put all the chicken in the oven to bring it back to eating temperature, and served it up. There was an immediately visible difference.

Popeye's chicken (top) was the color and texture we've come to expect of fast-food fried chicken, but Coast's was several shades darker. Was there some dark spice in the batter or was it just cooked longer or somehow differently? We don't have a sure answer, but the pictures on Coast's web site suggest that we might have gotten an abnormal batch. It didn't taste burnt, but it did seem to be overcooked. Inside, Coast's chicken was less moist than Popeye's, in both dark and white meats. (As an aside, it's worth noting that Coast servers only breasts and thighs as by the piece fried chicken, with wings available in some configurations; Popeye's has all four traditional chicken parts.) Most surprisingly, Coast's chicken was not even as spicy as Popeye's mild. Bland is too strong a word, but it could have used salt. It would be fair to say that Popeye's has too much salt for some people, but certainly not for me. Coast was less oily, too.

To be fair to Coast, we might have to place another order, but for now, Popeye's retains the top spot for fried chicken. On to the question of wine pairings.

First, we tried the Spanish Can Feixes. Bright and dry with a bit of apple, we quickly deemed it agreeable with the chickens, and pleasant if not particularly exciting on its own merits. Hard to go wrong for about $10-12. The Huber Hugo Grüner Veltliner is J's current house white (after a long reign by Pinot Grigio) so our expectations were high. Initially similar to the Spaniard, this wine was a little more complex with some additional citrusy things going on. As in the past tasting, the additional acidity served well in pairing with the chickens. For the dry wines, we declared the Grüner winner by a nose. Highly recommended for about the same very reasonable $10-12.

Based on a tip from a friend with some knowledge of things Southern, I also picked up a bottle of Gewürztraminer, a 2005 Trimbach for $20, to be precise. It's not a dessert wine by any means, but it was a great deal sweeter than anything else we had paired with fried chicken. With a lot of honeydew and a little spice, I suspect it might have worked better with spicier chicken, and we agreed that it was delicious but not the right pairing. E added some raspberries from the garden, gotta try that.

Neither as scientific nor as conclusive as last time, this test again reaffirms the need for more research. Perhaps it will become a monthly symposium. Chef P threatened to someday show us how fried chicken is really done, apparently with an overnight buttermilk bath and a cast iron skillet.

As the conversation careened from the perils of lending out your apartment out for the making of a film (Tip: run the contract by your lawyer) to the benefits of separate bedrooms for spouses (Consensus: separate everything else with common bedroom might be better) to the taste of wooden shoes (I swear, it never happened, and if it did, the shoe was clean), we noticed that the sunset was turning the sky a very interesting color and I snapped a quick picture.

Stay hungry. Stay curious. Stay in touch.

4 Responses

  1. Gee, I don't recall serving the chicken on those plates. Did you go out for round 3 without telling anyone? Great sunset photo!
  2. Ellen
    Hey.... good times. That sunset photo is great! Yeah J is right. Where did that comparison photo come from? Nice job on the lighting. The crunch is really visible. Till next time.... E
  3. Sharp eyes, ladies. I guess there's no way I was going to put one over on the food stylist and the food photographer. Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it: First, somebody forced me to take the extra chicken home. Second, when I (finally) got to writing the post, I discovered that there were no photos of the Coast chicken in my camera. So, I pulled the leftovers from the fridge and shot them cold on the telltale plate.
  4. Teacher J
    In my humble opinion the diet coke, with the twist of lemon, was delightful with the Coast Cafe chicken, over cooked and under salted as it was. Regardless of the outcome, I must add that the company was delightful, and I can't wait to continue the experiment.

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