The Botulist – how to match wine with chlorinated chicken

Chicken pic: James, Flickr

In my ongoing quest to experience a subliminal wine and food pairing, recently I’ve been pondering the subject of chlorinated chicken.  Let’s be honest: is washing chickens in chlorine to neutralise poor hygiene standards in processing plants really such a bad thing?  Perhaps all it needs is a decent Albariño to elevate its bleached, withered flesh to culinary greatness? 

Well, no one else was going to bother finding out, and that’s what brought me to Louisville, Kentucky, armed only with a case of wine, an assault rifle (when in Rome etc), and a plan to dine with the only man who might know the answer, Colonel Sanders himself.

Colonel of truth

My quest to meet the Colonel hit an obstacle when I was unceremoniously dumped in the parking lot of a biker bar by my Uber driver.  Rather than express himself with words, he angrily pointed at the sign in his cab which read ‘Thank you for not eating in this taxi’. 

In any case, I had almost finished the bucket of chicken I purchased at the airport in the name of research, so I threw the remains of my Zinger Tower burger at him, grabbed my case of wine, and made my way into the bar to enquire where the Colonel lived. 

Imagine my surprise, when I learned from a handlebar-moustachioed gentleman who was pounding whiskies at the bar, that the Colonel died in 1980.  This is exactly the kind of thing that my PA ought to have researched for me. (Note to self: get a PA). 

However, by a stroke of luck, the gentleman revealed that he was the Colonel’s grandson Eddie, and on learning of my predicament, he offered to take me for a slap-up chlorinated chicken meal I would never forget. 

I saw no reason to doubt his story.  I mean, who would lie to a woman travelling alone who was armed only with a case of wine?  (Note to self: don’t leave the assault rifle in the taxi next time.)

Spatchcock Charlie’s

I assumed Eddie would take me to one of his grandfather’s restaurants, but the establishment we arrived at, Spatchcock Charlie’s Breasts and Thighs, could not have been further removed.  And I must admit, I have never been in a restaurant with so many naked women dancing on tables. 

Nonetheless, I dived in and ordered something called ‘Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!’ whose name implied it was the most poultry-inspired dish on the menu. ‘With extra chlorine,’ I insisted to the waiter. 

Meanwhile, Eddie had reached into my case of wine and pulled out a rather nice Grüner Veltliner.  My eyes lit up at his impeccable taste; I had been looking forward to seeing if its grapefruit and nectarine notes would harmonise well with the masked hints of salmonella and campylobacter. 

Sadly, I would not get to find out, as Eddie chugged the whole bottle in one, before smashing it on the table.  Just as I was wondering if he had heard about the tradition of smashing First Growth bottles after tastings, so they don’t get fraudulently re-used, and was trying to impress me, our meal arrived.

I dug into the chicken as I tasted the remaining wines. Riesling didn’t work.  White Burgundy was a non-starter – even robust Puligny-Montrachet was no match for what I assume was a poor imitation of the Colonel’s secret recipe. 

I tried to surprise the chicken with a Gewurztraminer, but it responded by administering a bad case of the poultry sweats that left me with a feeling of existentialist angst I seldom encounter as a gonzo wine and food writer. 

Harslevelu-ing up

I turned, finally, to the last bottle in my case – a long-shot Hungarian Hárslevelű that I couldn’t pronounce even before necking four bottles at lunchtime.

And then, something interesting happened.  The faint tang of swimming pool water from the chicken briefly flirted with the wine’s acidity, while the slightly anaemic, flavourless nature of the meat acted as a blank canvas for the rising bile that refused to retreat. 

Eventually though, the swimming pool notes began to overwhelm the wine, pushing the memory of sunbathing by a private pool in Marbella from my mind, and instead waking a forgotten memory of the pandemonium at the pool in my local leisure centre during Toddlers Splash Hour in the moments after the turd alarm has sounded.

Perhaps I was high from the cologne Eddie had apparently bathed in during a tactical chunder trip to the gents’, but I suddenly had a moment of clarity that I hadn’t experienced since arriving in the US. 

And I knew, suddenly, that it was time to leave. I distracted Eddie with a hastily improvised yet seductive interpretive dance based on vine training techniques, and when his eyes glazed over, I made my escape.

Did I find a transcendent wine and food pairing for chlorinated chicken?  Probably not, but, dear reader, I learned something.  

And as soon as my hangover, jet-lag and brutal meat-sweats, subside, I’ll let you know what it is.

Click here to read the Botulist’s first Fake Booze column, and to learn why ‘Madam you’re being a nuisance’ is her mantra…

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