For too long, Americans have relegated Champagne to locker room celebrations and wedding toasts.
Well, Michael Alberty and Jesse Skiles are trying to change that with "Frank n' Fizz," a new monthly pop-up at Holdfast Dining which pairs bubbly with frankfurters.
Alberty (formerly of Storyteller Wine) and Skiles (Fausse Piste) created a mashup of high and low cultures that somehow elevates both, pairing inventive hot dogs with a selection of uncommon Champagne by the glass. They've done this party twice now, and their next event is scheduled for Monday, June 27th..
"I have always resisted the idea that sparkling wines should be a 'special occasion' only kind of thing, something you only serve with oysters or caviar," Alberty says.
The idea was inspired by a spot called Bubble Dogs in London, Alberty's genius here is to offer by the glass pours of Champagne rarely seen even in Portland's fanciest of restaurant. It's the juxtaposition that makes it fun—delicious, highly prized bubbly paired with a good ol' American hot dog.
In liberating Champagne of its fanciness by pairing it with a humble wiener, the combination grows to something greater than its contingent parts. The Champagne's acidity cuts through the fat and salt of the hot dog, while the beverage's yeastiness marries with the bun; the debutante runs off with the pool boy, and the whole thing just kind of works.
Every part of Jesse Skiles' wiener is made from scratch: half pork from Carlton Farms, half beef from Painted Hills, housed in a natural casing Skiles sources from a company in New York. He's a culinary school graduate before his winemaking days, and it shows. The result is a "a little more rustic than a storebought frank," per Skiles, who tips his cap to the excellent frankfurter at Olympic Provisions and also the good ol' Sabrett's dog for inspiration.
They taste-tested 20 different bun recipes before settling on a winner, a sort of hybrid between a burger roll and a classic hot dog bun. "I wanted a soft, tender roll with a little bit of chew and substance to support the extra toppings," Skiles says. They're baked onsite at Holdfast the day of each event.
Skiles' specialty dogs are highly inventive, with a nod in two directions: Portland's farmers market culture and the daily menu at Crif Dog in New York. My favorite is the Classic LES dog, presented with onions, mustard, and ketchup, and it's Skiles' favorite as well. At this week's event expect a surf and turf dog with crab, Oregon bay shrimp and cheddar cheese.
And then there's the wines. As befitting his status as the new PNW writer for the wine trade publication JancisRobisnon.com, Alberty's not pouring some grocery store bottle of Yellow Label Veuve here, and there's no billion dollar Champagne house marketing budget behind this event.
Instead expect a glass priced between $10 to $15 or so from small, boutique Champagne makers like L. Aubry et Fils or Marie Courtin, both deserved darlings of the "Grower Champagne" movement in France.
To enjoy something like Aubry's gorgeous, elegant Brut Rosé alongside a "Luther Dog"—foie gras, maple syrup, bacon, American cheese—well, it's a thing of excess and beauty.
To drink, there's grower champagne—Champagne, both the style and region, is culturally and economically dominated by a group of large, lavishly moneyed blending houses. Individual wine growers contribute fruit to those blending houses, but many growers also make their own tiny amount of small batch wines. There is an increasing demand for these single origin farmer Champagne wines because, again to summarize briefly, they are dope.
Frank n' Fizz is devoid of bullshit, which is high praise in Portland right now. In a city that feels like it's swimming in ungettable semisecret exclusive permapopup dinner reservations, Skiles and Alberty have instead created something simple, delicious and accessible. You don't need to sit there refreshing your screen until a new set of bookings become available for Frank n' Fizz, like some sort of thirsty trained ape.
Just go walk in on Monday, have a dang good dog, drink rare Champagne by the glass, and enjoy the very particular vision these guys are setting out for the city of Portland.