Champagne has met its perfect match: fried chicken

Crispy chicken and Champagne are the new it couple, and restaurants across the country are serving up the twosome. Here's where you can go to get in on all the bubbly, deep-fried action.

WORDS julia rutland
October 2018
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Photo by Kevin Marple

At Max’s Wine Dive in Dallas, their mantra is “fried chicken and Champagne … why the hell not?” While Champagne and sparkling wines have long been paired with deep-fried fare, consider bubbly the bird’s best mate: The effervescent bubbles lift the mildly oily crust from your palate while bringing bright citrusy acid in order to balance the dish.

“It’s tough not to have a smile on your face when you’ve got a glass of Champagne in your hand,” says Jonathan Horowitz, chief brand officer for Max’s Wine Dive. To pair with their bird’s spicy ­jalapeño-buttermilk crust, they recommend splurging. “We love our recipe with Dom Perignon — the juxtaposition is what we’re all about,” says Horowitz. If diners aren’t ready to pair the more pricey bubbles with collard greens, mashed potatoes and Texas toast, Horowitz suggests an entry-level taste like the Moët & Chandon.

In New York City, Sarah Simmons is also dedicated to the decadent combination. The chef opened her elevated Southern restaurant, Birds & Bubbles, last year. Simmons says she got the idea while running City Grit, a culinary salon she founded in 2011, when the Sunday suppers of fried chicken would sell out. One evening, a regular customer brought in Champagne. “We were blown away by how easily it pairs with Southern food. The acidity balances and cuts through the richness,” she says. “We said we should be doing this every day.”

This homey-haute combination is popping up on menus across the country

To achieve Simmons’ mouthwatering, line-out-the-door recipe, she starts with “happy chicken”— organic birds bought whole and broken down into pieces before being dry-brined for 24 to 48 hours. Parts are then fried to a dark caramel brown in shallow cast-iron skillets. The menu favorite — “Winner, Winner, Chicken ­Dinner” includes eight pieces in a bucket ­accompanied by a choice of four homemade side dishes including crispy potato salad, baked grits and Vidalia onion soufflé. Her favorite sparkler is the Jacques Selosse Substance Blanc de Blancs, and the by-the-glass menu rotates every six to eight weeks, so regulars can always experiment with a different pour.

On the West Coast, in the middle of California’s wine country, the ultimate crispy, well-seasoned fried-chicken meal is at Chef Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc + ­Addendum restaurant in Yountville. Focusing on American comfort food, all courses at Keller’s casual-dining establishment are served family style. While the menu changes daily, Keller’s fiercely popular buttermilk-soaked fried chicken is always boxed up and served to go at ­Addendum — the garden behind Ad Hoc. While you cannot order Champs at the pickup window, you can BYOC; grab a dry or brut-style Champagne along the way and enjoy at one of the outdoor picnic tables.

From Napa to New York, this ­homey-haute combination is popping up on menus across the country.

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