Fried Chicken

While I love the culinary delights of New York City, as a Southern transplant, I often crave foods from my home. There’s one craving, though, that seems to come up more than others, and that’s for fried chicken.

A few days ago, a fellow Southerner was over at the apartment and we got to talking about the gourmet fried chicken craze that has recently overtaken New York City. I love fried chicken, and I love that so many people in this city are perfecting it, but sometimes what I really crave isn’t the gourmet panko-crusted, truffle-dusted, matzo meal-dredged variety. Nope, sometimes I just want the mouthwatering, savory fried chicken with a buttery biscuit that can only come from one place: Popeyes.

A bunch of Popeyes have opened up in New York recently, and, having settled that we both felt they made excellent fried chicken and biscuits, we decided to set out with the goal of attaining them. We both remembered a Popeyes being not too far from my East Village apartment, but when we arrived at our destination, we found that while fried chicken was indeed being made there, the Popeyes sign had been painted over and a guy was standing behind the counter wearing a shirt that said, “Rock out with your cock out.” No thanks.

We immediately took to our phones and located a Popeyes about a half-mile away. When we arrived, we encountered the delicious smell of salt and grease, it’s that fried chicken smell that makes you crave it even more. We ordered our chicken and biscuits and I asked for them to go. When my friend balked upon hearing me request the food to-go, asking why we didn’t just gobble the chicken down at one of the plastic tables inside the restaurant, I replied, “I have a wine I want to drink with this.”

My friend has gotten used to me saying “I have a wine I want to drink with this,” so he obliged, plus he was getting to drink free wine and eat fried chicken, not things many people would complain about.

A few years ago, VinePair’s Wine Geek Keith Beavers introduced me to the pleasures of eating fried food and drinking sparkling wine. While it isn’t a combination most of us think of immediately, it actually should be pretty obvious to anyone who has enjoyed a cold pilsner with a pile of onion rings. Sparkling wine and fried food just works.

Gruet BrutWhat I had waiting back for me at my apartment — something worth jumping in a cab with the quickly cooling chicken instead of chowing down at the restaurant counter — was a cold bottle of Gruet Brut sparkling wine.

Gruet seems to have come out of nowhere over the past few years and can now be found across the country. I see it everywhere. This is real deal sparkling wine made in New Mexico by a French family who, while on vacation in the US in the 1980s, were introduced to other European winemakers who had found success making Old World style wine in New Mexico. The land was cheap and the Gruet family decided to make a go of it. The result is an incredibly affordable, high quality wine we’d gladly put against great affordable sparkling wines from France.

As soon as we got back to my apartment my friend grabbed plates and laid out the chicken as I fiddled with the cork. We poured glasses of the Gruet and dug in. The wine was perfect. The acidity of the wine cut through the fattiness of the grease, and the bubbles helped to not only cleanse our palates but also settle our full stomachs. We were euphoric.

So the next time you get a craving for fried chicken, grab a bottle of Gruet sparkling wine. Bubbly wine shouldn’t just be for wedding toasts.