If you’ve yet to experience the magical high-brow-low-brow match-up that is Champagne and fried chicken — or you’ve only experienced it via, say, a bucket of Popeyes chicken and a bottle of Veuve that just happened to be stashed in your fridge — you should make it a point to head into just opened Birds & Bubbles (100B Forsyth Street, 646-368-9240), where City Grit’s Sarah Simmons is paying homage to this pairing via a pretty spectacular Champagne list and buttermilk-battered bird.
Simmons brines her poultry for up to 48 hours pre-fry, which makes it juicy and savory beneath its crispy golden crust, and it’s got just a hint of black pepper-like zip. You can order it three different ways: half bird, whole bird with three sides, or half bird with a split of Champagne. We had it with a chalky blanc de blancs, which served as a nice cleansing counterpoint. We suspect the chicken would be really nice with something a bit fuller, with yeasty underpinnings, but you should go with whatever it is that you spiritually identify with when it comes to Champagne — the list is divided by tasting note, and the sommelier mentioned that the team worked hard to make sure all wines pair well with the food.
All of the food: “Champagne is actually one of the best pairings for food overall,” the chef says. “It’s especially good for Southern food – like fried chicken – because the bubbles and the higher level of acidity offer a great counterbalance to what are often rich dishes.”
And her list comprises far more than fried chicken. You’ll find a slew of Southern specialties, like pimento cheese croquettes, tomato pie, crawfish etoufee, and a basket of biscuits, and a half-dozen sides, like macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, and a tart, crisp slaw that makes an excellent sidecar to whatever else you go in for. Don’t skip the carrot and avocado salad, either — it’s a simple marriage made golden by feta and dill.
Vegetarians should note the ‘Chicken Scratch’ section, which deals vegetable curry and rice grits risotto. And have a little birthday cake for dessert — it comes layered in a mason jar and covered with rainbow sprinkles, and it’s going to remind you of those cakes that’d get you good and sugared up at the skating rink or playground during the birthday parties of your youth. In the spirit of high-brow-low-brow pairings, you should know that it goes well with the ‘Old Smoke,’ a blend of Scotch, vermouth, and Chartreuse.
This is a good spot for an intimate dinner, by the way — Birds & Bubbles is tucked into the old Grotto space, a maze-like collection of narrow rooms beneath Forsyth. We sat in the romantically lit Champagne room, where banquettes line the walls and tables feel like private alcoves, despite the fact that they’re very close together.
Birds & Bubbles is open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.