Before she started making kimchi, Lauryn Chun made a living as a marketing consultant in the wine business. While those professions wouldn’t seem to occupy much common ground, teaching people about wine gave Chun excellent training for educating customers about the Korean fermented and spiced vegetables she sells under her Mother in Law’s Kimchi label. “It gave me a fresh perspective on how you market ethnic food to a mainstream audience,” she says — as with wine, she talks about kimchi in terms of its complexity and versatility. While most New Yorkers are familiar with kimchi, there are plenty who can’t conceive of it as anything other than an accompaniment to bulgogi or bibimbop. But if Chun has anything to do with it, that’s about to change. Specifically, it’ll change this Saturday, November 7, when Chun will host a wine and kimchi pairing at Bowery & Vine, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
At first blush, wine and kimchi would seem to pair as harmoniously as milk chocolate and broccoli or tilapia and cheddar cheese. But Chun begs to differ. “Thinking more creatively makes it fun,” she says. “How many times can you have wine and cheese tastings? Why not wine and kimchi, or wine and burritos?” The biggest challenge of pairing kimchi and wine, she says, is matching a high acid with a high acid. The wines that go best with the pungent, fiery vegetables, she says, “are definitely white. Anytime you get red, there’s tannins in the grapes which really fight with kimchi.” And while flavor profile plays an important role in pairings, so does the texture of the food. So for Saturday’s wine pairing, look for Chun to marry her kimchi with a 2007 Cooper’s Creek new Zealand Viognier, G Joy Junmai Ginjo Genshu Sake, and Ewald Gruber “Punkt Genau” Sparkling Gruner Veltliner.
Wine pairings aside, Chun’s been accumulating a growing army of kimchi faithful since she started selling her wares at Best Produce in the Essex Street Market in September. Her recipe comes from her mother, who’s been making kimchi for years at her Garden Grove, Calif., restaurant, Jang Mo Gip (which translates to “mother-in-law’s house”). Chun, who works out of a shared kitchen on Manhattan’s West side, had her official launch at International Pickle Day in early October, and recently added Marlow & Daughters to her list of purveyors.
Chun’s early success has brought speculation: a Lower East Side blog recently printed a rumor that Chun would be taking over the Gus’s Pickles space on Orchard Street after Gus’s moves to Brooklyn. That rumor, Chun says, is inaccurate and unsubstantiated. But regardless of where she ends up, Chun can guarantee she’ll be at Bowery & Vine on Saturday, ready to welcome kimchi enthusiasts — and to convert the skeptics.