Fast Food Slow Wine: THE Taco Bell

You are so welcome. I was writing this just in time for Taco Bell to announce they were bringing back their fries. So I can tell you what to pair with them. The fries have only made fleeting appearances and I’d given up doing a pairing before they came back, when miracle of miracles, they were rebirthed with a buffalo chicken option (whoops as a vegetarian cannot help with the chicken) the day before the end of the month. Again, you’re welcome. And salud! The thing with Taco Bell is it is more or less all the same base foods (beans, cheese, tortillas, etc.) combined in varying proportions and architecture. The elements I looked to most to determine a pairing were heat level and—the thing I am pickiest about in food—texture! The balance of crunch, cream and chew (the triple C) are essential to picking whether you want lightness, bubbles or body. I thought there was no way in heck there was a shower booze for this—DO NOT BURRITO BATHE. But…Uber Eats will take thirty minutes to get to you so you should pregame. Read to the end to find the shower drink! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ LE “BELLE” BELL TASTING PROGRAMME THE FOOD: Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes Your appetizer! Cheesy fiesta potatoes are nice little cubes, amply browned. If you dip in some spicy sauce (when I order from the Bell I request ALL levels of sauce) they call to mind the Spanish dish papas bravas, ergo! This calls for a garnacha . 2015 Bodegas San Valero “Particular” Old Vine Garnacha The acid cuts the cheese. The spice enlivens it. They are not, shall I say a “perfect harmony “ match so much as a match that intellectually you dig but also they are just both tasty and they don’t mess with each other. THE FOOD: 7-layer Burrito This is an OG GOAT. I ate it in STL. I eat it in LA. I will eat it in a tizzy. I won’t be eating it with a fizzy. I love the textures built up in LAYERS. This burrito has been a favorite since my young goth days of having a cohort whose mom would take us to get what we snarkily called Taco Smell. This gets cool and creamy just right. And we are pairing it with another thing honoring layers that is also perfect. 2016 J Winery STRATA Named for the layers of soils the vines dig into and aligns happily with the layers of this burrito! Even just my nose goes bonkers smelling it. Spice, red fruit, fun times. Hints of pomegranate molasses and earth and spice, which go GREAT with the burrito combining the earthy bean. Together they are acid and cream, rice and dirt. And stones….then spice that get in and…each layer unfolds together. THE FOOD: Nacho fries Glory glory hallelujah these come with a light and lightly spicy coating and a small container of nacho cheese for the dipping. They. Are. So. Good. Please Taco Bell do not take them from me again. They (of course) need bubbles. I can and I will pair the Bell with Champagne. But one that is not the driest because a hint of sweet (which you get in an extra dry Champagne) melds beautifully with the spicy. Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry Champagne Blend I would still call it dry but there is a whiff of richness and body and lusciousness that cuts through spice handsomely. Smells like a honeywheat English muffin. Bright brilliant acid. Melon and stone fruit and toast and honeysuckle all mingle in a semi-rich weighting. Not sweet but the hint of that mingles handsomely with spice. THE FOOD: Crunchwrap The flour-y tortilla component is big, but there is also the crunch of the tostada in there. Then there are the creamy beans and cheezy cheese. Something about it feels distinctly Los Angeles, but how the City of Angels plays with Mexican (for authenticity hit a truck or roadside set up). This merits a Mexican wine with the term “L.A.” in the title. 2017 L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc The lanolin fat. The tangerine ripe. It has honeyed undertones and ripe citrus and a hint of spiced pear. Enough acid and body to hold its own against the wrap’s strumph (the heartiest way to say strength?). THE FOOD: Black Bean Quesarito The quesarito is hearty and savory. Basically there is a quesadilla womb carrying your burrito child. And rather than birthing this burrito, like Cronus you will happily eat your children, quesa-womba and all. I hear there’s a placenta-eating trend (a chum of mine put hers in a smoothie) so, why not go all in? It is a quesadilla-burrito mashup so we need a wine that is a grape blend. Also! It is a Southwest-styled food so gets a Southwest France wine. 2016 Chateau Lastours Gaillac The blend here is Syrah, Braucol, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They share the stage and altogether do well showing spice and earth. And the quesarito cheese cuts the tannins nicely. This has the right amount of earth to complement black beans. It has a black olive smell that totally goes with southwest food. Oh hey, then violets hit you as it opens up. Put some flowers on your table with your Taco Hell n vino. THE FOOD: Cheese Quesadilla OR Cheesy Wrap (one dollar!) Cheese-laden simplicity. This gets rash drunk drinks. Hard liquor because you don’t care. But a drink for when you wanna pretend you care. If you are already too boozed, take the food to a tiki bar IF it is a bar that makes good tiki cocktails sans the racist paraphernalia some of those places showcase. Or if you aren’t too boozed to slice limes, you need to just make a tiki drink at home. Wild night booze for crunk night food. JUNGLE BIRD (loosely adapted from “Tiki Drinks” by Nicole Westin and Robert Sharp 1 ¼ oz. Campari 1 oz. dark Jamaican rum 1 oz. lime juice ½ oz. Cointreau ¼ oz. spiced Simple Syrup (I just use allspice dram) Shake it all with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. THE FOOD: Cinnamon Twists The deep-fried cinnamon goodness calls to mind churros! So I wanted something chocolate-y but also a little trashy. This was a perfect pairing. Red Velvet Bailey’s Ugh I couldn’t help it. Red. Velvet. Bailey’s. Red Velvet. Cocoa-liscious. My dudes. It is. Cake in a glass. The first Spanish textbook I used was called “Churros y Chocolate so I dunno I thought I’d strive for it now…ever so many years after 7th grade…but booze-infused. It is creamy and fun and yum AF plus somewhat chocolate-y and sugary for sure and it is the icing to a churros cake. I recommend dipping the twists into the Bailey’s. Is that so wrong? Okay so it’s wrong-ish. But it sparks joy so I won’t toss the idea out. TATER TALLY: Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes: 7.1/10 They are a lot of fun, especially with sauce but the texture can…vary. They will fill your fried potato hole but could be more reliable. Fries: 10 squared! Especially as they come dusted in some sort of spicy dust with queso to dip into. JEEZ Taco Bell. SHOWER DRINK A cocktail it is! Make a…okay I am gonna say pour Deep Eddy’s Grapefruit Vodka into a narrow mouthed glass and add ginger ale (my fave is Vernor’s) whilst you wash. So trashy good. Or go forth with the recipe for the Jungle Bird if you have cheesy wraps or quesadillas a-coming. It is a cocktail to make for drinking food before you’ve had too much. Because I advocate lime-slicing sober. Make this for your shower so you can drink, get clean, and be lubed up enough to chow those cheesy wraps that will ground you for the rest of the feast and opening one of the wines. Partay (comes before Part B). And B is for Bell. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Oscars Gold Wine Winter Rosé Wonderland Winter Comes: Solstice Libations Super Natural: RAW WINE More Than Green Grapes Ellen in LalaLand Take One: Nighttime at Wally’s Wine Wine is Virgo, Virgo Wine You can also listen to Ellen's podcast with Shaughn Buchholz, The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Ronnie Pessin Wine Situation Final Five! With Dana Farner Wine Situation Final Five! With Caroline Liem

Gilbeys of Ireland

Baileys Red Velvet Irish Cream

It does indeed have notes of cake! Red velvet or more like cocoa which makes sense as that’s a classic red velvet ingredient. Also very...well, Bailey’s-like. Which I love because I think Bailey’s is a delicious treat. — 6 months ago

Eric, Paul and 6 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

I hope you added some vodka to that,
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Paul T- Huntington Beach noooo. But I have a sweet tooth. It’s certainly a guilty pleasure thing to sip but...well I think my Taco Bell column should be out soon and you’ll see why I was drinking it. Brilliant accompaniment to the cinnamon twists...😬

Campari

Milano Bitters

Doesn’t quite pass as amaro but it’s my true love. Possibly a desert island thing. Orange. Bitter as all get out. Syrupy which works because the bitter. This is the friend who is a jerk but somehow their jerkiness plays off their good-human-magnitude and you love them even more. I’d marry Campari. — 2 years ago

A, Severn and 9 others liked this

Bodegas San Valero

Particular Old Vine Garnacha 2015

This is whaaaaa the wha so scrumptious. So juicy. So I don’t even know. It initially pours some spice n tannin n fruit then just—the juice abounds and the slight spice and it is a wonderland I can’t keep away from. So a good match for potato-y things. I can’t with this wine seriously someone else get it and tell me what they think but the juice on it does. not. quit — 8 months ago

Sharon, Jaime and 10 others liked this

Piper-Heidsieck

Extra Dry Champagne Blend

Verily enjoying. Not bad for a grocery store wine and quite nice for a fast food pairing. Live mas. — 6 months ago

Paul, Daniel P. and 21 others liked this
Jaime Parlade

Jaime Parlade

I wanna learn more about Champagne. Ever drink red Bordeaux?
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Jaime Parlade not a lot! I do sometimes enjoy them though. And Champagne is thoroughly worth learning about!
Jaime Parlade

Jaime Parlade

👍🏻 Thanks! Will do!

J Vineyards & Winery

Strata Pinot Noir 2016

I contain multitudes and so does J. Especially the STRATA a wine as layered as the soil it comes from but way more elegant than dirt. It’s more like one of those patterned sand gardens someone raked. Berry rich but light, fills your mouth without coating it. Finish goes onnnnn. Also pairs with a certain favorite layered food tbd. — 8 months ago

Paul, Tyler and 15 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

I love wine thats more elegant than dirt, actually prefer it

L.A. Cetto

Chenin Blanc 2017

I like. It is soft in a friendly way with enough acid to not be mad if (omg) you are drinking with some spicy thangs. Also if you aren’t gonna numb yourself with heat go ahead and take note of the melon, wet stones and myriad citrus going onnnnn. — 7 months ago

Severn, Daniel P. and 11 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@MICHAEL COOPER i can and I will! Cheers 🥂
Jaime Parlade

Jaime Parlade

Bring on the Blanc!!!