Now with balls! (Sorry, I couldn't help it - there's something infectious about their constant balls jokes.)
Anyone who has spent time out and about the Los Angeles food scene knows that I love BYOB and low-corkage-fee restaurants. If I'm out at Red Medicine, Animal or Lazy Ox, all places with genuinely weird, curated and perfected wine lists that are reasonably priced and match the food, I'm always up to chat with the wine manager and order something fun. Like that massive, earthy Croatian red at Lazy Ox. Oh how I dream of thee!
Anyway, I'll stop drooling and continue — the reverse is also true. No one really likes paying $15 for a boring glass of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon that doesn't really match the food. And lord knows, I want a beer or a glass of wine with my dinner, dammit! (I'll cover the arcana of corkage in a separate article).
So in comes BYOB, one of the glories of restaurants. Many times people won't even know you can bring your own booze to a joint! You'll only know because someone tells you, or you sit down next to someone who opens a bottle of wine. A quick warning - every BYOB restaurant has their own policies. Be respectful if they ask you to be sneaky about it!
My first example will be Starry Kitchen — one of my favorite restaurants in town. With brilliant Vietnamese and other south east asian-inflected dishes that rotate on and off their tiny menu often in a matter of a week or so, I want to drop by just to see what's happening in the kitchen. I mean, they have had Durian Cheesecake recently! Oh so good and stinky!
And as you might expect from a restaurant that started as an illegal back-room kitchen party run by a husband and wife team, you can bring your own booze. Shhhhh! Make sure you keep it in a bag, and that you use opaque cups, that's all they ask.
But what to pair? The food here is very lithe, with a green chile edge and lots of other bright flavors. They don't crutch on fat. They don't over-salt. The dishes often have ethereal notes of flavor that subtly waft around the edges. These are all very difficult to match traditional wines with! A touch of sweetness wouldn't be bad with these dishes either to cut against the spiciness. Beverages without huge flavor of their own so that they don't drown out the clarity and nuance of the food.
You'll thank yourself for thinking outside of the box here. Mirco beers might seem like a good match, but usually they get to high in alcohol by the time they get sweet enough. Even with the uber-trendy Riesling, the low ABV + high acid ones favored around town will fight with the food. The off-dry ones, like a Spatlese, will pair almost perfectly but you have to be really careful that they don't get to bold and rich! (Cleaner wines from Mosel or more refined wines from my favorite, Rheingau, would be the best choice.)
But because of how trendy and easy a Riesling pairing is, let's consider maybe a bottle of nice Moscato d'Asti: 4% ABV, sweet and bubbly! Dogfish Head's Aprihop, a beer I don't even particularly like on it's own, will work magic here. Maybe a cherry natural lambic or a kirken (low ABV Belgian cherry ales). True sours, like the Dutchess, will be terrible with the food because they'll bury the flavor.
If you wanted to figure a way to sneak some cocktails in, you would be rewarded by drinks like a gin fizz, or even a gin-ramos fizz! Ice, citrusy, with some egg white! Blood orange mojito anyone? Any tiki drink made with light rums and fruit juices would be perfect as well, like a Tiger Shark. Pineapple and rum? Perfect with Maylasian Curry Chicken! Or just stick with a classic like a Hemmingway Daquiri.
Starry Kitchen is only open for dinner Thursday and Friday night, so make some time to go on over there with your paper bag and plastic cups!
Up next, Chego food and BYO pairings!