Buttermilk fried chicken waffles – impossible wine pairing?

I recently met Doug Crowell, owner of Buttermilk Channel, a restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, that has an all-American wine list and emphasizes local food sources. He told me about an immensely popular dish on the menu: fried chicken and waffles.

I wondered how he pulls off this unlikely combination so I asked him to describe the preparation. He said that the chicken is soaked overnight in buttermilk, then floured and fried. The waffle batter is spiked with cheddar. The cole slaw is traditional; the sauce blends balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.

Sweet, savory, fat–the grand slam of flavor! Apparently so, given the popularity of the dish. As to the wine pairing, which way would you go for this dish? Or do all those flavors make it…impossible?!? Raise the degree of difficulty, if you so desire, by going with an American wine in honor of the spirit of their list.

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29 Responses to “Buttermilk fried chicken waffles – impossible wine pairing?”

  1. I think I’d either go with a Zin – I think the fruitiness could work with the spectrum of flavors; or I’d go with something white and crisp, that could cut through all those fried flavors, like a Sparkling wine or a Sauv Blanc.

  2. I think this is one of those occasions that calls for a big, bold, buttery, oaky Chardonnay from Napa Valley. You know the ones that are always $50+ and get 91-93 points despite being largely undrinkable without food. I think this is the food dish for it, especially if the chicken batter has a slight kick to it. Likewise, I presume he uses only real maple syrup which should have just enough sweetness (but not too sweet like a corn syrup based syrup) to balance the richness of the wine and the cheddar waffles.

    I’m not sure which vineyard, but I’ll bet there’s at least one on the list.

    Mmmm, good.

  3. I’m thinking a 2010 Dramamine or maybe a Zantac.

  4. “Unlikely combinaton?” Are Brooklynites so provincial that they have never heard of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles? There was even a movie made about RCaW.

  5. Only one way to go with that balsamic and the rich fat buttermilk. White with funk and plenty of acid. Maybe a 2-3 yr old Godello or a cooler climate Roussanne, possibly an older dry Grand Cru Alsatian Pinot Blanc, maybe even and older Arneis or Fiano from Italy. Regardless, round, nutty, funky, little bit of pit fruit and good acid. Then a prayer that the maple syrup is subtle enough not to kill it.

  6. I’m a big fan of chicken and waffles. Brown Sugar Kitchen does a great version with cornmeal in the waffles.
    I’d probably go with champagne or something else sparkling, to contrast the possible grease of the chicken.

  7. Kistler Chardonnay may be a good match! or something from Martinelli or Rochioli.

  8. Sparkling Pineau d’Aunis…7-10 gram dosage.

  9. Michael – Don’t take out your wrath on Brooklynites! I was the one who called it unlikely. But how likely is it to pair this dish with wine?

  10. I would pair this dish with an Iron Horse 2005 Ultra Brut sparkling wine from California(And a bottle of Maalox for good measure)

  11. I was thinking Zin or a sparkler initially, too, but on reflection, I like the Chardonnay suggestion. A fruit-forward Pinot with nice black cherry fruit might also work well, like a Loring or a Rivers-Marie.

  12. I would try a sparkling wine with a little residual sugar.

  13. how do you know which wine goes well with what?

  14. how do you know which wine goes well with what?
    i could never figure that out…

  15. We actually helped a local food journalist find wines to pair with fried chicken by eating fried chicken and pulling corks one day at our wine shop. Turns out the best match that day was a dry Torrontes from Argentina. We didn’t see that coming from all the wines we opened. Now the waffles were not part of our tasting which throws a curve ball, but I say, try a bottle of Torrontes and let us know if it still works with the dish. Thanks.

  16. The fried chicken part calls for a savory pairing and something that has undergone malolactic fermentation (low acid) so the Chardonnay suggestions for the Fried Chicken part are on target, but the balsamic and maple syrup sauce (sweet and sour) on the waffle tells me something with a hint of residual sugar and good acid would go better and still pair with the chicken part. I might try a German Riesling at the lower end of residual sugar but with some at least. For a red possibility I might try some fruity Cabernet Francs from Long island (slightly more acidic than most) but the proprietor might need to taste several examples. What fun!

  17. I on the other hand am a big fan of bubbles with anything! How about Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, a stellar producer from California? I have used fried chicken before as an example in lectures on demystifying sparkling wines and their uses with American cuisine. I think it is a classic food pairing.

  18. Oh, and by the way, I think those big oaky expensive chardonnays go just swimmingly with a bag of those crunchy neon yellow cheetos. You may laugh, but the next time your are at the gas station mart thing on the way back from a day in Napa/Sonoma give it a try.

  19. With the gobs of sweet and savory going on, I’d reach for something with a little sweetness and a dry finish: Schloss Vollrads Kabinett. Or, maybe a red, white and blue bubbly: J Vineyards Brut Rose. Everything rocks with sparkling!

  20. Given that I don’t eat fried chicken and if I did I would never eat it with waffles, I’m going to say my first choice would be Prosecco, and for the American choice: an Oregon Pinot Gris.

  21. I’ve tried both a Dashe Zin and an Oregon Pinot with this dish. The Zin picks up the spices, and the pinot brings out the waffle.I might even try a Washington Syrah with it next time.

    BTW, Doug probably has the best Pacific Northwest selection in town.

  22. Oregon Pinot Gris

  23. Sherry. Fino, or manzanilla.

  24. It goes really nicely with the Pinot Gris they have on the wine list. Also, it’s 50 feet from my house, so please tell me if you are going to check it out!

  25. Sparkling red – is my vote.

  26. This is clearly a Champagne play – it would work for a number of different reasons. Far from impossible.

  27. I’m italian, thus i just don’t wanna think of the taste of a dish like that.
    But if you still wanna eat that with a good wine the pairing is in fact quite easy.
    What are the wine’s characteristics we need: medium sweet taste, great aroma, persitence, acidity, degreasing power and tannins.
    The best pairing is an Italian traditiona method Rose Spumante, or a rose champagne if you like.

  28. It’s funny, I initially thought about a big, fat OR Pinot Gris and lo and behold, towards the bottom of the comments, others shared my view. Sticking to American wines (believe that was our charge) I would go off the reservation and find a Dolcetto or sparkling rose with a bit of RS.

  29. It matches best with a Sugar Hill Ale. But in wine paring, one must consider the syrup used. If you use the good stuff – heck yes Schrams is the ticket. But we like a Trimbach Riesling with our version if wine is insisted upon.


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