Michael Stoltzfus is committing fried chicken once again. The fine dining-fried chicken savant of Coquette and the Little Bird pop up window at Barrel Proof (co-created with Meauxbar's Kristen Essig) is bringing an end of summer fried chicken family style meal to Coquette paired with Spanish wine Txakolina.
How many fried chicken dinners have you had in total?
Michael Stoltzfus: I'd say we've done at least 4 or 5 fried chicken with champagne dinners and one fried chicken and beer dinner. I think fried chicken pairs perfectly with champagne, that's why it's my favorite, but the problem with the champagne dinners is that people see a fried chicken dinner with a $100 price tag and it's tough to get them on board with that. Even though it's free flowing champagne all night long, which is why it's at that price point.
So tell me about the wine you'll be serving at the upcoming fried chicken dinner, Txakolina.
Stoltzfus: It's a wine from Spain, the Basque region, very light, with the barest hint of effervescence. We'll be serving the rosé and white. It's developed a bit of a cult following and the vineyard only makes a limited amount. It comes out in the spring and we get a fair amount then, but we horde it so it lasts through the summer. It's really a summer wine - it doesn't really age well - so we figured on the last day of summer we'd blow out all of our stash of Txakolina.
Any ideas on the side dishes you'll be serving to complement the Txakolina?
Stoltzfus: We'll be sticking to the traditional chicken preparation, with buttermilk and flour, but thought we might have some fun with the sides, maybe bring a bit of Spanish influence. I mean, in no way are we claiming to do anything traditionally Spanish, that's not our wheelhouse, but just have some fun with the flavors and spices and ingredients.
Our bartender is also doing a couple of whiskey cocktails, in case people get tired of rose, and want to move on to that. Which sounds like a pretty fun progression to me. (laughs) So it'll be the rosé and white Txakolina, which will be beautifully bright and acidic with the chicken, Ryan [Plas, Coquette's sommelier] will be pouring a cava, to go along with the whole Spanish theme, and as I said, Ashley [Danella, Coquette's new head bartender] will be creating some whiskey cocktails. All of my favorite things.
What's the format of the dinner?
Stolzfus: It'll be all you can eat, all you can drink, family style. The dinner's replacing our regular Tuesday dinner, so hopefully we'll get 60-100 people on both floors of the restaurant. We did a champagne dinner last year that had about 110 people and it was probably the most fun I've ever had at the restaurant.
What's the genesis of this fried chicken-fine dining obsession?
Stoltzfus: You know, I don't really know. I think it's a response to what we do day to day at the restaurant. The fried chicken dinners are refreshing, extremely rewarding, and very fun. That's why we keep doing them. And really, even though bad fried chicken is pretty good, there's a huge distance between average fried chicken and really, really great fried chicken. To be honest, I don't think we're quite there, which is another reason we keep working at it.
Fried chicken is something that people relate to. It's an all American food, great to serve family style, it's a finger food... I love eating fried chicken. After cooking it all day at Little Bird, I get tired of smelling like fried chicken but I never get tired of eating it.
How did Little Bird come about?
Stoltzfus: It's basically a way for Kristen and I to have some fun. In what little time we have off, all we basically do is talk about food, so we thought it would be fun to do something together. The Little Bird concept is great at Barrel Proof because fried chicken goes great with whiskey and bourbon. It's great that we get to work together, and we'e discovered that we actually work well together, which is great to know.
The response has been huge— we had no clue it would be so popular. And I'm really happy with the product we put out. It's been running for two months now, and it's just been great.
Coquette's fried chicken/Txakolina dinner will be on Tuesday, September 22. All you can eat and drink for $65, tax and tip included. Call the restaurant at (504) 265-0421 for tickets.
Little Bird serves a casual menu at Barrel Proof from 4 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday, and 4-10 p.m. on Sunday.