Foodies like to play “what would you have for your last meal” -- a great game that usually involves your greatest dish ever. Then someone always raises the stakes to a multi-course meal, and inevitably different chefs get to show up to prepare a course each. Best is when a different chef can be assigned components of each plate. What fun, and when I get involved in it I can throw down some amazing courses, progressions, chefs and wines to accompany. Truthfully, though, if I heard, "this is your last meal, what do you want?," I would get fried chicken with fluffy, white, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese.
I am not really a comfort food guy in general (when I make meatloaf it involves veal and home made ketchup) but honestly I love fried chicken. I like good fried chicken, and I like crap-fried chicken. I like pressure-cooked just-the-skin chicken and I like battered fried chicken. I even like the chicken fried in a wok at Chinese take-out restaurants. The only fried chicken I can't stand is KFC. Moral/ethical issues aside, the moisture in the fattier parts just ruins it for me.
The best thing about fried chicken is that good fried chicken hot in a bucket is great fried chicken cold. I love cold fried chicken when tailgating with Bloody Marys. The ultimate, though, is fried chicken in the spring with a good rose wine or champagne, best during a picnic, but honestly good in the apartment in front of open windows. The salty fry on the skin of the chicken combined with the zing of good champagne, the acidity, the zesty bubbles, or the full-bodied crispness of a good rose well grounded by light tannins, makes it the kind of food-better-for-the-association-with-wine thing I live for.
The Times delivered a good bit of news last Wednesday, that Allison Vines-Rushing and her husband Slade Rushing would be opening a take-out fried chicken place in the neighborhood Monday, just in time for spring, and just in time for pink wine. I don't know if you ever made it to Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar while this duo was at the helm, but it was quite good. Unique southern touches added to the fare and made it a distinctive place and well worth visiting.
There seemed only one choice, chill down a blush, invite Bear over and walk up to the new place for some take out (they do deliver but it was a nice day). Then I got the news they hadn’t actually opened, so the pink was cold but the chicken was a no show. Then Thursday they did what they called a “soft open” in that they were serving the rotisserie chicken and the salads, but nothing was going to get me to tread fresh the turf of a place named Dirty Bird with rotisserie fowl.
So today I wandered over to the corner of 14th and 7th to pick up some fried chicken at 11:30am and of course they weren’t quite ready yet, so I left a standing order for the first fried chicken and one of each of the four sides to be delivered as soon as it was, grabbed a lemonade and started walking home. As far as it goes the lemonade was great, cold, well sugared, properly sour and with so many of the oils from the skin involved that it laid a circle in the middle of my tongue and left a kind of herbal taste in my mouth, somewhere between mint and verbena.
irst day, first bird, first delivery showed up at 1:15pm, and it is good. Nice, crunchy, flakey batter that fell off as you handled it so you could pick it up and happily crunch away. The meat was firm and juicy and well flavored. I salted both the chicken and the mac but only lightly.
There is a dilemma in organic and free range birds for fried chicken. As much as you want to eat the more flavorful, option and in a world where arsenic is showing up in conventional chickens it seems an easy choice, there is the fact that if you let things walk they develop muscle and their tendons get tight. So organic fried chicken often leaves you the work of chewing meat out of the legs. Happily that was not so much the case with this organic bird. Not sure if it was the brining or the acids in the buttermilk, but the leg was as toothsome as the breast, an accomplishment in itself. It is worth mentioning that the eight pieces, although more than enough for me and Wife, were not exactly eight parts. One of our eight pieces was half of a breast.
Like all the world’s great fried chicken, the piece I ate after letting cool for half an hour was exceptional. This is definitely the stuff to drag to the parks this summer.
Of the four sides Dirty Bird offers, mac & cheese, dirty rice, buttered snap peas and bliss potatoes, the rice was my favorite. Well spiced and rife with bits of roasted peppers, it tasted almost Spanish influenced.
This is really good fried chicken. With a start like this I am excited to see where it goes.