The Timeless Appeal of Champagne and Fried Chicken

Which came first, the fried chicken or the Champagne?

The answer doesn’t matter. What’s important is that they belong in the same sentence, and on the same table.

It may seem incongruous to those who equate Champagne with frothy social events or haute cuisine, but wine lovers have long known the uncanny rapport of ethereal Champagne and crisp fried chicken.

Why not? Champagne is great with all sorts of foods, and it particularly excels with fried dishes. Try it with tempura, fried whitebait or potato chips. But something about the crackle of the crust, the snap of the bubbles and the salt, spice and rich chew of the chicken makes for an extraordinary combination. Some might want to get technical, explaining how the acidity of the wine cuts through the fattiness of the chicken, but I’m more concerned with the magic.

A new restaurant in the Flatiron district, Coqodaq, is capitalizing on this affinity. It offers superb Korean-style fried chicken and one of the greatest Champagne lists I’ve seen, with 100 bottles of sparkling wine, mostly Champagne, at $100 and under (nowadays pretty reasonable for restaurant Champagne), along with many more, including highly coveted bottles, that soar above that mark.

This magnetism between haute and humble is nothing new to the fashion and art worlds. Pairing pearls with, say, a biker jacket and jeans, might once have been transgressive. Same with the art of Takashi Murakami, who blends traditional Japanese techniques with elements of popular culture. Now, they are time-honored combinations, even if, like fried chicken and Champagne, they appear to break the rules.

That wine has rules of any sort is both unnecessary and intimidating. Many people can’t enjoy wine for fear of breaking a taboo or committing a faux pas. Others miss out on many of the pleasures of wine by never crossing the boundaries set by those so-called rules. Most of these rules aren’t even rules, but tired customs, conventional wisdom that functioned first as a general guideline but then became rigid, snobbish and exclusionary.

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