Fast Food & Fine Wine #2: Popeyes Spicebox Chicken and 2004 Dom Pérignon

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The night air was so sharp and biting that upon heading out on my journey, I considered turning back. Snow was beginning to fall, crowds of people were all over the sidewalk, and I seriously began to wonder if fried chicken and Champagne could really be worth all of this effort. But I had promised a group of hungry writers a test of one of the ultimate pairings, so I was headed to Popeyes.

In recent years Popeyes has taken on an almost mythic status among food writers. Considered the best fast-food fried chicken around, the chain can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to its food innovations. Just as popular in recent months has been the idea of pairing Champagne with fried chicken. A themed restaurant has even opened on Manhattan’s trendy Lower East Side – Birds & Bubbles – touting this, and only this, epic pairing. The food critic Adam Platt even recently sung the restaurant’s praise, where a fried chicken dinner with sides costs $65 and that’s before you even get to the cost of the Champagne.

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With the release of Popeyes’s new Spicebox Chicken, it was almost as if the company was taunting us to try this epic combo for ourselves. But the most famous fast food chicken around could not be paired with just any old Champagne. If we were to prove to ourselves that fried chicken and Champagne really do belong together, we were going to do it with a $3.99 box of Popeyes chicken, and a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

As I trudged out into the cold, I fantasized about New Orleans, the birthplace of Popeyes, and even began to believe that upon entering their location on 14th street, I’d be transported there, enveloped by the warm climate and laissez les bons temps rouler attitude. Instead I found myself among tourists and locals inside a fast food location that looked like most any other fast food location in America, except that this one was selling that delicious chicken.

After I procured the chicken for the team, I headed back to our offices, where I met up with Josh, Adam Chandler, a writer for The Atlantic who often covers fast food, and Bari Weiss, who is an editor at The Wall Street Journal. We all had high hopes for this pairing, but no real idea if it would actually work. Champagne can cut through fat and grease beautifully, but what if either the Champagne or the chicken overwhelmed the flavor of the other? Or what if the chicken just wasn’t that good? It was time to figure that all out.

We opened the boxed, dove in, and were blown away. The pairing worked. Not only did it work, it was absolutely delicious. The only thing in the entire experience that left something to be desired was the Popeyes french fries, but that’s a problem we felt they’ve been aware of for some time now – hopefully they’ll remedy it soon. The chicken, though, was incredible – juicy, flavorful and spicy. The wine cut through it beautifully, marrying it all together. It was like we were at Birds & Bubbles, we just hadn’t spent $65 for the chicken. We all agreed, the next time we wouldn’t shell out for such a pricey Champagne as well, but it was fun to drink the Dom.