Chili Cheese Fries with Wine

There's something extremely gratifying about eating with your fingers.  I was taught to set the table at a very young age.  Fork goes on the left of the plate, knife goes on the right with the edges of the blade faced towards the plate, and the spoon goes to the right of the knife.  I even learned to twirl my spaghetti with a spoon so that I wouldn't slurp as I ate.  My grandmother would always mention that someday a nice boy will to want to take me on a date and I better have some manners.  Although I enjoyed setting the table for my family, I loved evenings spent eating finger foods outside on our patio during warm summer nights.  It was on these nights that foods like chili cheese fries were laid out across the table in a large aluminum pan for us to enjoy after a day filled with swimming and splashing on our slip-n-slide.  It always felt uncomfortable how the chili and cheese dripped all over your fingers as you ate.  We would even tease each other for having a chili ring around our mouth's from stuffing our face.  I remember grinning inside as I licked my fingers clean in front of my grandmother who always wanted me to use a napkin.  Those were great summer nights!

Like meat and potatoes, Zinfandel and chili cheese fries just go together.  Finger print stains on the glass and all!  And it's no wonder that I would choose Zinfandel with this pairing since Zinfandel is also my choice with chili soup.  Zinfandel is the sweetheart red grape of California.  Most people are only familiar with white Zinfandel, which is just a lighter pink version of this wine that is slightly sweet.  True Zinfandel is red.  This wine is full of big jammy red fruits with almost always a hint of pepper or spice running through it, which is why it works so wonderfully against the bold and spicy flavors found in the dish.  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine I notice the spice intensifying in both the wine and food.  The meat flavors are also heightened while the fruit flavors in the wine aren't lost, just playing a supporting role.  The heartiness of both the food and wine feel somewhat cozy together, making for a very warm and fuzzy pairing.  Zinfandel's come in a vast array of styles, from Pinot Noir like to full bodied and tannic.  I suggest choosing a fruitier styled Zin to tame the heat from the spice.  Other wines to try with chili cheese fries are Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, Shiraz, Malbec, Chianti, dry rose, Riesling and sparkling wine.


It was the beginning of fall when I moved to sea town.  I spent two years of my life in Seattle.  It is an experience I will never forget.  I was a young girl in a new city with no immediate family or friends.  The adjustment was drastic. I went from partying the night away in Vegas nightclubs to staying home most weekends with what seemed like endless rainy nights.  I missed the comfort of home.   On lunch breaks at work I would head to a nearby café and order a bowl of chili.  It was the best chili I’ve ever had in my life.  Chunky, slightly spicy and extremely hot!  For a few short moments I would forget about being homesick and loose myself in each and every bite.

Too bad I didn’t drink on those lunch breaks! A glass of Zinfandel would have been the perfect accompaniment to Chili.  Zinfandel is inherently meaty, helping to highlight the meat in the dish.  There is also a black pepper quality to many Zin’s, which works nicely with the spiciness of the Chili.  Both the wine and food are hearty making them an excellent match.  On cold days, this pairing will make you want to grab a blanket and take a quick nap!  Other wines to try with Chili are Malbec, Shiraz and for the white wine lovers out there, Riesling.