Jun 252010

In our never-ending quest to imbibe in just about every wine-bar known to man, last night we began Donna’s (Mrs. Bacchus and Beery) birthday weekend at Max’s Wine Dive in Austin, TX. Max’s is a small chain with locations in Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

This ain’t your momma’s wine bar. Think rock-n-roll wine bar. Loud but not overwhelming music, southern comfort food and fine wine drew in a large 25 to 50 year old crowd. Sounds weird…but it works.  The T-shirt I purchased said it all. “Fried Chicken & Champagne…Why the Hell Not!”

We sat at the bar that overlooks an busy open kitchen. Table and booth seating is also available. Our waiter, Clint, looked like Sammy Hagar’s younger brother and took very good care of us and showed an excellent wine knowledge. The wine by the glass list was extensive and this week focused on wines from countries participating in the World Cup. The bottle selections were even better. I understand they will open just about any bottle if you order at least two glasses…a nice touch; more wine-bars should do this.

With Clint’s help, we created our own little tasting menu. First, was a piece of their highly regarded fried chicken. It was some of the best fried chicken I’ve eaten in a restaurant. (note to Mom…yours is still better). Next up, gator beignets with jalapeno aioli… sounds weird but they were great.

Then came a ½ dozen Nacho Momma’s Oysters (fried oysters on fried wontons with habanero salsa). These were a real standout. I’m sure by now you are seeing “fried” as a reoccurring theme. While many of the small plates are fried, many of the entrees are not, including salmon and halibut dishes. I’m not usually one to eat fried food but to be honest, it was fun to fall off the wagon for one night.

Wines, you ask…We were pleased to see one of our favorite California Pinots on the list, Orogeny. One other wine reviewer called this a “sexy-ass” wine. I can’t improve on that description, so I won’t try. Orogeny (isn’t that fun to say…sounds like erotic) was on the list for $60 which is about double retail. Believe it or not; it paired wonderfully with our sampling menu.

We finished in true celebratory fashion with a glass of Shramsberg Brut and chicken livers with onions. The livers were sautéed in brown gravy and served with Texas Toast. While the flavors were yummy, the dish could have used more chicken livers (they’re cheap) and less gravy.

We had a blast and will be going back soon….who would have thought that rock-n-roll, fried oysters and a “sexy-ass” pinot would be so great together.

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