If anyone thinks that the Wine + Food Festival is for food snobs, they would have been proven wrong at the Crispy, Spicy, Crunchy Fried Chicken Dinner at Hominy Grill Saturday night. Hominy chef Robert Stehling joined forces with Xiao Bao Biscuit's Josh Walker for the dinner, which featured four fried chicken-centric courses with beer pairings, plus hors d'oeuvres and a dessert.
The guest of honor was Andre Prince Jeffries of Nashville's legendary Prince's Hot Chicken. We were lucky enough to be seated at a table with Andre and her family, who'd driven up from Alabama just for the occasion. She was delightfully humble as John T. Edge gave a little tribute speech. "I feel like I'm in Hollywood!" she said. "I'm having an out-of-body experience."
The rest of the diners at the restaurant had an out-of-body experience that night too, thanks to the finger-lickin'-good menu that combined Asian and soul food flavors and techniques. As soon as we walked in, we were offered a Cheerwine negroni cocktail (brilliant) and snacks like juicy pickled shrimp, chicken liver toast, pickled eggs, and crispy chicken hearts.
We then took our seats and prepared for the first course: Som Tum, a spicy papaya salad with fermented black bean-marinated chicken. Paired with Westbrook's Bearded Farmer #2, the subtly spicy dish got our palates revved up. Next up was KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) wings served in a paper basket with a platter of kim chi for the table to share. They were a bit dry without toppings, but once we doused them in the sweet red sauce, we were set. The next course was a tribute to Prince's signature dish, spicy fried chicken thighs with hot lard, Hawaiian bread, and sweet pickles. The dish had our lips burning, but Jeffries said at her restaurant, that would be the plain version. We can only imagine what her "hot" tastes like. The final main course was a big fat fried chicken breast with okra purloo, giblet gravy, pinto beans, and sauteed greens. We were already stuffed, but we did what we could with the full-sized entree. It was paired with Coast's Blanton's Bourbon Barrel-aged Blackbeard Stout, which tasted like a blend of soy sauce and coffee.
We wrapped up the evening with strawberry shortcake made with sweet, fluffy biscuits, paired with a Taipei Storm cocktail. Made with coconut milk, gin, and rum, the drink tasted like liquid summer.
The only downside to this dinner? That we didn't get a doggy bag for our leftovers from each course. We'd love to be eating some of that chicken right now.