Pairing Off: Orange Chicken (From A Grocery Store)

Categories: Pairing Off
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Patrick Michels

When asking about dishes considered unsuitable--or at least unusual--for wine, the experts generally push me toward something fruity and acidic.

Makes sense, really: these are the two elements most capable of battling excess salt, wallowing fat and other banes of wine pairing. So when I approached the woman at Majestic on Oak Lawn looking for something to go with orange chicken from a bag picked out of a Tom Thumb frozen food aisle, she almost immediately (after the raised eyebrow and the "how much do you want to spend?" question) escorted me to a sale rack of Sauvignon Blanc.

Ventisquero Reserva 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is, clearly, a young Chilean product bottled for immediate consumption. The wine is clean and easy, with a lot of fresh pineapple up front and some whispers of mango--all of which disappears quickly. Orange chicken in a bag is, well, along with the pyramids, Apollo 11 and the '67-'68 St. Louis Cardinals, one of humankind's greatest inventions.

From a guy's point of view, anyway. I mean, just dump stuff from a bag into a pan, squeeze the diaper contents that become sauce over it, microwave some rice--it feels like cooking, without all the mess. And it's at least the equivalent, in quality, of most Chinese delivery.

For pairing wine, however, one must keep in mind the dull, artificial nature of "orange" flavor and the impressive sodium content.

Hence the Sauvignon Blanc. Wine and 'stir-fried' orange chicken in this case co-exist as equals, interacting, but refusing to threaten each other's place in the world. The wine becomes juicier and the sensation of tropical fruit develops a little more, perhaps due to the diaper-brown sauce.

But there's not much else to report. The interplay between food and wine remains at this basic, separate but equal level. So I could this pairing as a success. There's no damage, either way. And for less than $20, you've had a full meal and drinkable bottle.



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