Wine X Staff
Wine X magazine Online Edition
If you haven’t read our first article on food and wine pairing, read it here to get a nice idea of how to start pairing your wines with food. However, if you’re a little more advanced, then continue on to read my take on why wine and food pairing can be simultaneously incredibly frustrating and also very invigorating and delicious.
Here’s the key takeaway if you’re not feeling like reading the whole article: wine and food pairing is awesome, TO AN EXTENT. It will not change your life. I have read so, so many articles where some wine industry pundit, writer, or personality has *that moment* where they tried this-wine and that-food and how it completely changed their mindset, or maybe even convinced them to get into wine in the first place. And I’m convinced that they are feeding us all a big ol’ spoonful of bullshit.
I have been to many, many highly rated restaurants (read: Michelin 3-star) and paid top dollar for wine-and-food pairings with beverage directors who are on point when it comes to serving customers delicious wines with their dishes. And you know what? I can’t remember a single truly sublime pairing. I’ve had amazing experiences, perfectly aged wines that tasted delicious, and foods that are beyond incredible. But I can’t tell you one single time where a wine and food pairing blew me away. And I think that’s because people put far too much stock, time, and effort into trying to create the perfect food and wine pairings.
Often, the argument that people have for why you should pair your food with wine is because that is what they do in the old world. Go to a bistro in France or a trattoria in Italy and wine has to be on the table, it’s just a part of life there. But what we (in high-end restaurants and wine publications anyway) fail to consider is that the wine they serve with your dinner in a trattoria in Tuscany is the same damn wine year-round, no matter what’s in season or what goes into the dish. The same regional red and/or white is on the table every time, whether you order Bolognese or artichokes on your pasta. Just because truffles aren’t in season doesn’t mean they switch from Barolo to Barbera, or heaven forbid start importing some Chianti.
With that in mind, here’s my advice on wine pairings. Like many things in life, KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Ever heard that you should pair red meat with red wine and fish with white wine? Just stick to that. How about “what goes together grows together”? Do that too. Will you get that sublime pairing? No. Does it exist? Not if you buy into the premise of this article. Most of the “rules” when pairing food and wine exist because someone got burned at a dinner party trying to break the norms by pairing a Pinot with a Salmon Dish, and everyone thought it was weird and/or gross. Do you really want to be that person? I don’t.
That being said, am I saying Pinot can never pair with Salmon or that you shouldn’t experiment? Of course not, you can do whatever you want. But therein lies my next point. I pair just about every meal I drink wine with, and that means I pair a hell of a lot of wine and food. I also do it for a living when I work as a Sommelier for events. I don’t pick Sauvignon Blanc to have on Friday nights with my steak frites. I don’t lean towards pouring Amarone with a client’s salad Niçoise. I don’t tend to stray too far from what has always worked well, and you know what? I’m never disappointed, and neither are my clients.
And I never feel like I’m missing anything because I’ve paid $300 for a wine pairing and been disappointed by how boring it was. So as much as it pains me to say this, rules exist for a reason, and that is not always for them to be broken.
Sometimes, the rules exist because they are good rules, that should be followed.
Wine X Staff
Not everyone has the luxury of living in Nashville and having access to all the Nashville Hot Chicken (NHC) you can eat. There’s a few more of you (y’all..lol) that might live in the South and can at least get your hands on a reasonable facsimile. The rest of us, well, we gotta make do.
Making do usually means something like crossing your fingers and hoping that one of a handful of hot chicken restaurant chains will find its way to your area and then become rooted. Neither seems to be that easy. We don’t live in the most deep-fried-friendly American era, so there’s that. And there there’s the hit-or-miss nature of spicey foods. Wine X happens to deeply believe that All That Burns The Lips, Frees the Soul…… so we say to all those spice-o-holic, cheers!
We checked out several of the best Hot Chicken hot spots in N-ville, and you can find our recommendations here. So go…. You should. A chicken pilgrimage should be in your future. Hattie B’s, Adele’s, Biscuit Love, and Josephine all helped us fall in love.
It’s not out of the question that you have no idea what NHC is. My last drive through Napa netted no NHC look-a-likes on the menu. What it is is something like this….. the garden variety NHC is just fried chicken with an ample amount of cayenne and other southern spices, served on white beard with pickles. Lots of variations are out there, but they all center around the hero, the chicken.
Most recipes follow a similar pattern. First, you do a marinade with a fair amount of cajun-style hot sauce, cayenne, and such, plus a penetrating liquid like a pickle juice. If you have the luxury of a full day or even a half-day to let the chicken marinade, you’ll be happy that you made the time to prep. When it’s go time, you’ll have a dry mixture flour dredge and a buttermilk binder that you’ll want to do at least twice. Fry up what you’ve got, and after it’s out, you’ll brush on a hot glaze that blends cayenne, red pepper, paprika, and brown sugar with a little oil. Serve it hot. As if that isn’t possible, but you know what I mean.
There’s a lot you can do right here and a little you can do wrong. In part, you can follow the strength-on-strength formula, and that will get you part of the way. But I struggled with dry wines that were heavily oaked, whether white or red. And there is the matter of time of day that comes into play as well. Hot chicken is as much a brunch staple as it is a lunch/dinner dish. Bunch hot chicken with a little spicey honey on the side, paired with a dry or off-dry prosecco is simply heavenly.
As I tasted my way through N-Ville, I found these wines to be really friendly with NHC:
XR DIY NHC FTW
X Rated Do it yourself, Nashville Hot Chicken, for the win…..
If you’re not in the Middle Tennessee area and you don’t have access to a reasonable facsimile, we’ve got you covered. Do what we say…. Let us alpha you through this dish the first time and then you can take the training wheels off on your second attempt
For roughly seven or eight servings (you’ll want leftovers)
Untoasted White bread and sliced pickles (for serving)
Prep (the night before)
Wine X Staff
Wine X Online
If you watch or read enough of the bohemian foodporn stuff out there, you know that Texas-style brisket is a thing. And because it’s a thing, basically all BBQ is a thing. Ribs, Pork butt, whatever you can smoke is a bridge drug to taking a ride on the brisket train. Wooo Wooooo
So, here’s the thing, I’m not going to pretend to tell you how to smoke anything. If you want to learn, go find Aaron Franklin’s or Meat Church’s YouTube videos as a start. No, what I wanna do is bring it all back to what we love…. Vino….. And a little practical help dealing with all of your leftovers
Let’s get right to it. The wine part. Pairing wine with BBQ requires a little check sheet o’ questions first before we can boogie on down to business…… when we say Texas brisket or Texas BBQ, what you’re really talking about is meat smoked low-n-slow, seasoned primarily with coarse salt and black pepper, and NOT SAUCED….. Like, you can get sauced later, and I don’t mind helping with that, but the non-sauce thing on Texas BBQ is a big dog deal. It also really impacts what you drink with it.
Most BBQ sauces are some sort of molasses & ketchup mixture with someone’s secret additions. If your meat is slathered in some sort of sauce, then you really need to go google “What wine goes with super sweet candy” or something like that. If you’re still on board, keep reading.
What distinguishes Texas BBQ to me is its high-fat, and high spice combo….. plus the impact of the wood that turns to smoke. Most people, off-the-cuff, are gonna go STRONG-versus- STRONG on this little conundrum…… and pick a Zin or a Viognier….. but I’m not so sure either is really a good pick. Here’s the thing, fighting the strong-vs-strong battle on the spice and oak is a losing battle. You cant….. It won’t be awful, but I think you’ll find that your glass simply & honestly doesn’t stand up well to the protein.
Take a lil’ think on this….. What if, when making your wine pick, you try to attack the fat and salt? That kinda opens up a whole world of bottles you might have immediately passed over.
Think about it. You know I’m right.
So here’s what I’m suggesting…… punch the high fat in the mouth with a medium to high acid wine….. And kick the salt in the jewels with something super crisp and fruity. That takes you in a whole different direction than Zin.
Some Chenin Blancs
So….. now that we knocked out the BIG stuff, let’s talk about the almost as big…. Which is of course the leftover brisket…. Unless you invited ALL of your friends, chances are that you have a few pounds of brisket leftover. And chances are you that you ate so much that you need to do something else other than just a reheat.
Two quick up-cycles…. Both are purdy darned good.
Quick descrip’: you’re gonna cook up a slurry of beef and green chillis, and serve on warm corn tortillas. This one is so easy, my cat could do it
One small sweet yellow onion
Two cups beef broth
One cup of roasted green chilis (fresh if you can get ‘em, canned if you cant)
2 Tbls corn oil
3 Tbls flour
1-2 lbs leftover brisket, trimmed
Tortillas – I prefer white corn
A mild cheese
The path to Nirvana starts here……
So, it’s not really pozole, and I don’t know that I can really claim it’s close, but it’s a decent attempt. If I get hate mail, I am just gonna cut and paste the prior sentence as my reply
3 lb. of whatever ‘Que you’ve got… brisket, ribs, pork, etc.
Kosher salt – to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large sweet yellow onion, course cut
1 tsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp. whole clove
1/2 bag o slices carrots
4 sc. low-sodium chicken broth
2 dried ancho chiles, de-stemmed
2 dried guajillo chiles, de-stemmed
2 dried chiles de arbol, de-stemmed
3 (13-16-oz.) cans hominy, drained
Thinly sliced radishes, for garnish
Thinly sliced green cabbage, for garnish
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish
Now… here’s where it gets real
Wine X Magazine Online Edition
Life in Manhattan ain’t cheap. Those of you who live there, man, I don’t know how you do it. I’m not sure what’s worse: the prices or the fact there are so many delicious and interesting things to spend your money on. Walk down just about any street and you’ll find storefront after storefront that beckons your senses.
It has been told to me more than once that it takes two or three visits to NYC to get your bearings. Think: Sensory overload meets expansiveness – in a way that no travel pub can possibly prepare you for. My first visit was about survival, Naked & Afraid style. It was on my follow up visits that simple strolls in one direction or another revealed one familiar piece of pop culture after another. A little more confidence allowed me to take more in. When you do that, what you’ll see that the modern American narrative was written with Manhattan as its backdrop.
If you dig going old school, let me tell you about date night, OG style.
What is “touristy date night” in Manhattan? Come on, let’s all say this together. 1…2….3: Dinner & the Theater. Duh. You don’t even have to like the live arts to enjoy Broadway. No matter the year, there are always a series of shows that appeal to EVERYONE. I’m Serious…… Not sure where to start? Just go watch Phantom or Chicago. You won’t be disappointed. And of course, plan a bite before.
Yeah, that second part isn’t super hard, but a little advance planning helps. Most shows on and off-Broadway start 8p sharp with no late entry. It’s also worth noting that life smiles on those that dine within walking distance because traffic slows to a near crawl as showtime starts. While there are a number of famous restaurants that cater to theaters goers, a reservation really helps. REALLY helps. Just for giggles, go to Open Table now and search for reso’s at Carmine’s tonight. You’ll see stuff before 5p and after 7p….. But the magical 6p-6:30p window that will get you to your seats in time is POOF. Do not… I repeat, DO NOT test the gods of time by sitting down at 7p or after…. Unless you’re doing pizza by the slice, and even then, that might be standing up….or outside on the sidewalk.
Life rewards the flexible and so it’s not out of the question that you can go prospect for an open table. Be willing to walk past a lot of booked places, though. It’s all good, though.
So speaking of OpenTable, I patted myself on the back for three straight days after scoring seats at one of Manhattan’s most famous restaurants: 21 Club. The OG-yist of the OG. More about 21 in a moment. But first: Did you know that there is a 21 in England? Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, to be specific. Go search OpenTable for 21 & Manhattan and you’ll find it. It comes up first. Thanks, OpenTable…yeah, you guessed it, my precious reso’s were NOT around the corner at my bucket list restaurant but instead exactly 3.329 miles away,
I know machine learning and robots are going to rule the world one day, but it ain’t happening yet. Know what I mean?
Sooooo 5:45 in Time Square, 8p Jersey Boys tickets in my hands, and now checking out the street vendor hot dogs as my dinner fall back. We walked a block or two just to see if there was anything that looked both good and open. Notsomuch……but sometimes you get lucky….I did the wholly un-male thing…..I called 21… And after apologizing upfront for the stupid question, I was A-MAZE-ED to find out they could get us in….. I’m not normally this lucky, not sure what to say other than….ILL TAKE IT!
21 Club has been a Manhattan mainstay for nearly 90 years. First as a speakeasy, and then later as a restaurant and legit bar. Over the years, the restaurant has become the favorite haunt of U.S. Presidents, CEO’s, movie stars, and sports celebs. When you go, ask your host whose table you’re at. Our table was jointly owned” by John McEnroe and an airline CEO. Often, above each table are toys once owned by a VIP, but today hovering over a favored table as if it is animistically marking space.
21 plays its theater role marvelously, offering a well-time-managed experience and dinner option that include a prix fixe menu that is guaranteed to get you fed, smiling, and out-the-door on time. Paired with a well-curated by-the-glass wine list and a larger marvelous roster of bottles. We got in & out in under $200, including gratuity. That’s not cheap, but it’s surprisingly reasonable for the experience.
As an aside, Jersey Boys, it strikes me, is like the story of Bon Jovi but set some thirty years earlier. I can see it now, “Livin on a Prayer” opening on Broadway in 2032. J/K. I had not previously seen the Jersey Boys movie or the traveling production, and so it was all new to me. Loved it. Go. Do not delay!
OG Broadway night out gets a XXX rating. No doubt. Add it to your bucket list, and thank us later.
Lesson learned – Don’t be bashful. Make the call. Sometimes you strike gold.
America’s Sunday Binge Drinking Mess Evolves
By The Wine Bae
I’m told that brunch and beautiful people have always been a thing in Manhattan. I had a chance to add my signature to the infamous history of the Ladies Who Brunch a few years ago when living in New York City. Sunday brunch was always a thing, and always accompanied by large sunglasses and multiple beverages. Usually in this order: a coffee, a blood mary, a mimosa, then more mimosa(s), and then finally the biggest glass of water possible.
I remember these brunches being long waits at cozy cafes, or bustling brasseries. The Gen X crowd that joined us often spoke of a different scene, and talked with covered mouths and whispered voices about “The Unlimiteds.” These were THOSE places that had this wild thing called “unlimited mimosa brunch” and walking past those infamous locales required dodging no-shame, blacked out early twenty-somethings, sprawled out on the sidewalk waiting for a cab at 1pm. Imagine this scene set to the soundtrack of loud club music thumping from behind a blackout curtain door. No one ever admitted to actually going to those brunches, although all who listened did so with some skepticism. It sounded it like being at the bar after the lights came on at 4am, not a cute scene. Audrey Hepburn would scowl disapprovingly.
Ok, none of the Millennials at the table ever had the heart to say that the unlimited mimosa lunch is still alive and kicking. Sure, it has moved well down the exclusivity scale, mostly reserved for new or struggling cafes, but the #winedrunk crowd can sniff them out like bloodhounds. Some things have changed though. Insta and tagging has uped the ante quite a bit and I’d submit that today’s brunchers are better off for it.
When our X’ers were unlimiting, restauranteurs were just looking for volume. You know… butts in seats. There was no incentive to appeal to a sense of foodie goodness. Just serve the cheapest sparkling schwag mixed with colorful sugary fruit juice, on demand like a broken fire hydrant. The goal was to savor some Italian bubbly while providing a bit of hair of the dog. Or maybe it was to get completely smashed as fast a possible while simultaneously harassing a server to “keep em’ coming” until they pass out in the bathroom. Who cares, no one is looking.
Today, with millions of foodie influencers roaming the dining rooms and patios tables of restaurants everywhere, everything has to be picture perfect. Plastic flutes and trash-can-punch-with-bubbles has been replaced with a decent cava served in style. #SundayFunday anyone? I’m not complaining. Snap. Flash. Hash.
Wine X Staff
This past week, the 2019 class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was inducted. It’s a pretty eclectic group. I have one of each one of the songs on my iTunes list – not sure what that says about me.
When the founders of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame decided to situate the museum in Cleveland, the only people that weren’t surprised were Northern Ohioans. Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, and many other cities claim a piece of Rock’s birth but Cleveland has a unique story to tell with its role in the mainstream acceptance of Rock. Betcha didn’t know that?
OK, let’s be honest, the popular opinion on the Hall’s location is less about history and more about “CLEVELAND?????” I mean, NYC didn’t have crap to do with the Space Shuttle but there’s a reason why the Space Shuttle is on display there and not Houston, home to Mission Control.
Here’s the rub though. Cleveland Rocks. Seriously. It’s cool as shit. The food is amazing & unique to the area’s heritage, the bar scene and nightlife are vibrant, and when the weather is good there are way more than a week’s worth of cool places to explore.
Cleveland is a city of neighborhoods, as is typical with pre-1900 urban development. And what that means is that you get a different vibe in each of about a dozen boroughs (except Parma…. which has no vibe 😉 Lakewood is, well, like bohemia preppy. Liberally clean and cleanly liberal if you know what I mean. Cleveland Heights to Shaker Heights is old school middle class meets old school big money, with rolling green spaces and cool walkable locally-owned shopping. A little further south are places like Chagrin Falls and Hudson. If reincarnation is real, I want to come back to life as a Hudson-area golden retriever. Chill life among the BMW’s, the sidewalk cafes, boutiques and parks.
The Cleveland food scene has been underrated for years, but Iron Chef Michael Symon has done much to bring a lot more notoriety to the area. The ethnic blend of basically all of Europe, African-American & now Eastern cultures makes for an amazing mosaic. What you can’t deny though is that the magnitude of Eastern European influence here is rarely seen in any other part of the US. Even though the Polish, Hungarian, and other middle European neighborhoods are mostly gone, the influence on the cuisine is everywhere. Fried cabbage and dumplings is a foodgasm dish to all bacon lovers, yet nearly wholly undiscovered by most Americans. You can find it often on Cleveland menus.
Want to cook at home? Even if you don’t, any serious foodie needs a stroll through the famous West Side Market. The baked goods, sausages, fresh butter, artisanal bacon…my god….. it’s delicious just to look at. The building itself is beautiful. Imagine an upscale food market in Grand Central Station. That’s the vibe of West Side.
And steps away from the West Side market is one of my favorite places in the city and the very first microbrewery I ever visited. Great Lakes Brewing Co is no more than a hundred steps away from the front door of the West Side market and has been making legendary regional brews since the ’90s. Their Dortmunder, the beer that made them famous, is too delicious. It’s a must try. So is their food. Try the patio on a nice day.
So here’s what I want to leave you with in Part Uno of our Clevland Discourse…….. Not everyone wants to go do what everyone else goes and does. Know what I mean? No knock on Vegas or LA, but at least some of us think the travelers’ road less traveled has some merit. If you did a Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V on all that is Cleveland… you’d have something like an Austin or a Denver…… cool as shit and an awesome place to explore.
……and we haven’t even touched on the R&RHOF yet.
More to come………
In the meantime….. I know you want to try the Cabbage & Dumpings dish I mentioned earlier. So in an act of goodwill, I’ll give you my version. It’s outrageous!!!!!
Hungarian Cabbage & Dumplings (Haluski)
First the dumplings.
In no other dish that I can think of is it more imperative that you make homemade dumplings. It’s easy though. Beat two eggs until fully blended. Add one cup milk and stir until you have a nice yellow mixture. Add flour until you have a nice solid dough ball. Start with a cup of flour but don’t be surprised if you need more.
Bring to a boil a pasta pot, at least half filled with water, and liberally salted. I like to use a teaspoon to cut & drop into the boiling water dumplings that are at least the size of a quarter. Big is just fine
Next the cabbage.
Using your largest possible frying pan, heat one heaping tbs of butter along with your ten strips of bacon until the bacon is fully cooked. Set the bacon aside, and when it cools you should break it into smaller bite-sized pieces. Next, add your sausage, cut into perhaps 1/8″ segments, to the remaining liquid in the pan and just the warm the sausage. Set aside. Finally, add the chopped green cabbage to the frying pan, adding the remaining butter and cook down until soft.
The final step to Foodgasm:
When the cabbage becomes very soft and mostly translucent, and the pan on low-medium heat, add back into the pan the bacon and the sausage. Then add the drained dumplings and stir to coat them with the juicy goodness.
Serve soon and warm! Salt liberally.
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