Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.
OK, much of what I know about Hanukkah and its traditions comes from Adam Sandler. But I'm also a big fan of the potato pancakes served in some Jewish homes this time of year.
There are couple ways to prepare potato pancakes. Some people first create mashed potatoes, making for a light, fluffy texture inside. My ex, who was a native of Lithuania, preferred the other method. This involved hours of grating potatoes into a fine, wet dough--which she then used to like a bunker buster bomb.
Of course, there is a third option.
For this week's pairing, I picked up a 'just add egg and water' box from Walmart, one that came with a "kosher for Hanukkah" assurance. Now, as for the wine...
"Are you using any cream sauce?" asked Justin Fritz of PK's Fine Wines on Midway when I approached him. "Nothing? Just pancakes?"
Yeah, why not. The box promised to mimic the most common latke profile, meaning a solid background of onion.
"You'll want a white wine," Fritz then said. "But I'd stay away from Chardonnay." The buttery, oaky character of so many Chards would overpower simple potato pancakes--at least that was his concern.
He directed me toward Honig's Sauvignon Blanc, explaining that the brand carried "just a little vanilla and cream--and the acidity will complement the potato." Of course, he told me this in a phone conversation. By the time I made it to Goody Goody, "Honig" had become "Hogue" and "Sauvignon Blanc" somehow ended up in my mind as "Fume Blanc."
Don't know why this happened. Excessive alcohol is supposed to kill only the unused brain cells, right?
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Anyway, I ended up with a 2007 Fume Blanc steeped in green apple and blond wood, with just a touch of vanilla on the nose. When tasted, a more vibrant wine emerged: spiced apple, pear and a lot of lemon.
I can't be sure, but this may be a step up from the Honig--at least as far as pairing with boxed latke mix is concerned. The pancakes packed an unexpected sodium punch, one the Hogue easily fended off. In fact, the Fume refused to bend at all, stripping the heavy taste of fried potato with each sip.
At the same time, it doesn't wipe the slate clean. You could still feel the sting of onion and creamy residue.
So it worked reasonably well.