Thanks to a deadline timing fluke largely of my making, this was my birthday dinner: half a bag of supermarket French fries.
You know--those freezer burnt sticks one pops in the oven, checks after the recommended 15 minutes to find a batch of glossy, flaccid, half-baked things. So you leave them in for another 15, with similar results. Finally your only recourse is to twist the knob all the way to broil and wait for smoke to envelope the room.
I was, to some extent, heeding the advice of Goody Goody Addison's wine guy, who urged me to overcook the fries. Doing so, he implied, would make them more pairing-friendly by scorching in some character. Todd Lincicome, esteemed wine director at Al Biernat's, essentially said the same thing when he told me "fries are one of those foods that take on the flavor of a dip or seasoning."
In other words, the pairing is one of wine to salt or ketchup rather than wine to processed, oven baked potato sticks.
So which wine is best?
"I'd go with a nice, crisp sparkling wine," says Brooks Anderson at Veritas, following classic pairing lines.
"I think you could go that way," Lincicome nods, warning that many sparkling wines pack a potent finish that may be spoiled by salt. So he looks to the way sodium interacts with different varietals. "Salt will soften dry wine," he explains, "so certainly a drier white --Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre would be good.
"Just stay away from fruity wine."
On this, the experts agree. So I picked up a brut Prosecco--it's a day for celebration, right?--on sale at Goody Goody for $9.
Filipetti Prosecco gives a whiff of grapefruit and herbs under a heavy swell of must. Sipping exposes a hidden fruity sweetness--which, under the circumstances, is a little frightening. But it's also fresh and crisp, with a quick, clean finish.
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Now, for authenticity's sake, I left the fries loosely tied so they would pick up a glaze of ice crystals. After 35 or so minutes in the oven, they smack of kitchen appliances rubbed with potato. To keep things simple, I simply dusted the batch with kosher salt...seeing as I'm out of Mayo.
Oh, sorry. I mean ketchup.
The pairing works, with no damage on either end. The wine indeed softens a bit, becoming sweeter with a more noticeably mineral character.
Yet it remains clean and crisp.