Friday, November 27, 2009

Wine + Fried Chicken = Progress

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the belly. No, wait...that doesn't make sense." -Joe Herrig

Let's call it a week ago (giving myself a 3 day cushion), Hardy of hosted the first inaugural Popeye's spicy chicken and wine pairing challenge. The premise? Five "expert pick" wines chosen to best compliment the coup de gras of crunchy, spicy, greasy, juicy, tasty picnic-time goodness: fried chicken. No sweet tea. No lemonade. Chicken, taken out of its comfort zone, as if Detective John Kimble himself- shanghaied from the mean streets of Anywheresville, USA to pose as a kindergarten teacher in Astoria, Oregon. Out of the awkward circumstances, comedy ensues, but comedy with a heartwarming message.

But my intent here is not to recap the wines or the chicken (or Kindergarten Cop, for that matter). Jolly good summation can be found here and and also Besides, let's agree that a recap ten days late is just bad journalism. Rather, I choose to emphasize the importance of this unusual pairing. As fried chicken was taken out of its familiar setting via this challenge, so was wine. Historically (at least in the States), fine wine is found upon the table of the well-heeled. It is paired with steaks, chops, and haute cuisine. To bring together blue-collar country cooking and the drink of the aristocracy is- needless to say- non-traditional. And breaking down those barriers is incredibly important.

Despite the great strides that have been made by folks like Gary Vaynerchuk and- yes- Hardy Wallace to "bring wine to the people", most folks I know are still pretty intimidated by what is essentially grape juice. Taking the unfamiliar and combining it with what is so commonplace to everyone (except silly, silly vegans), and- furthermore- making it work, well, that's just another bottle's-length towards the realization that wine is meant for everyone, from foie gras-nibbling socialites to (where I often feel more comfortable) the "chicken crowd". This movement is often referred to as the "democratization of wine", and it needs to continue. We bloggers will do our part, but a true democracy is owned by all.

What's next? Wine & Doritos? Port and Pork Rinds? We may be flirting with disaster, but dammit, it's for the greater good...

...and I'll bring the hot sauce.

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