French Wines Meet French Fries
With Bastille Day here and the Tour wending its way across France, it’s time to eat and drink French. Or, in this case, drink wine and eat pommes frites.
Walter's hot dog stand is, yes, an institution. While everyone else is sucking down shakes, consider wrapping your beverage of choice in a paper bag and settling down for your own kind of picnic in the seating out back.
The Frites: The first thing you taste when you taste Walter's fries is a sort of breath of sweetness, as if the fries have gone into hot, oily bath alongside some donuts. That essence of sweetness disappears, though, upon biting into the crispy potatoes, when you get a crispy exterior and a light, cooked interior.
Pair With: Beaujolais. Let's be honest here: As much as you like, you're probably not eating these frites by their lonesome. Most likely, one of Walter's pork-and-beefy, slightly salty hotdogs will be riding shotgun. For this reason, a cru Beaujolais — not Beaujolais nouveau but crus level and still Gamay — makes a great pairing. In the town of Morgon, these Gamays are grown in multiple different microclimates, on soil that’s a mix of rock and schist. The result is wines that are more intense than many other cru Beaujolais (those from Saint Amour, for example, tend to be lighter, with violets and even peach fruit notes.) In Morgon, the wines typically have floral fragrances and red and black fruit. Take, for example, the Georges Duboeuf Jean Ernest Descombes. While light enough fruited to pair with potatoes, it also has enough ripeness and tannins to stand up nicely to the fat and salt of fries and dog alike.
Georges Duboeuf, Morgon Jean Descombes, $19.99, Varmax
Technically, moules et frites — mussels and fries — are a Belgian invention (as, really, are French fries) but the dish is also widely embraced in France, and in Westchester restaurants such as Le Jardin du Roi in Chappaqua, Red Hat on the River in Irvington, and at Le Provençal Bistro in Mamaroneck.
The Frites: At Le Provençal in Mamaroneck the frites in the moules et frites come shoestring thin and potato chip-crispy.
Pair With: Chablis. The by-the-glass selection is a bit limited at Le Provencal, as at many serving up moules et frites, so go straight for Chablis. With a nice line of chalky minerality, Chablis can work well with mussels (if those are coming with your frites) and lack of oak aging prevents the wine from acquiring a kind of summer corn-and-potato salad richness.
If, however, you're going all out DIY at home, you’re just looking for an excuse to drink something not on the menu, something made for pairing with shellfish — or, rather, shellfish and fries.
The Frites: Those with a home fryer can make their own frites, the rest of us are getting takeout. From there, making the mussels is easy: barely sauté chunks of garlic in butter, add a cup of white wine to the pot, lay down the mussels, cover and steam away. Once the mussels open, you're in business.
Pair With: In this version, you want to drink Muscadet, the dry wine made from the melon de Bourgogne grape. Made well, it’s light in body and practically designed for seafood (and the salty goodness of French fries.)
You can guess the soil that the Domaine de l’Ecu Granite, from Muscadet Sévre et Maine in the Loire Valley, grows on. The wine itself offers up an awesome nose of stone fruit, citrus, and Meyer lemon. On the palate, it's more stone fruit and Meyer lemon atop a nice, crisp, sharp through line. Good fruit and good acid means wine stands up perfectly against the potatoes while the minerality offers great balance to the shellfish.
Domaine de l’Ecu, Granite, $22, RiverMarket Wine and Spirits
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