On a Monday night not long ago, while the rest of the world was engrossed in the college football championship, I was instead considering, with a handful of wise others, the glories of champagne and soul food. We were inside the Funk Zone’s Les Marchands, and could not have cared less about the end zone, for we were, enjoying — and that’s perhaps too mild a word — tastes of three exquisite bubblies alongside fried chicken, collards, and French fries from Foodie Award–winning chef Weston Richards of Spare Parts fame. This was just one entry in Les Marchands’s Monday Night Flight series, a weekly adventure in wining and dining.
“Monday Night Flights started as a way to liven up Mondays and gave us a reason to open up some fun wines next to each other to really dig in deep on region, producer, and varietal styles,” explained Eric Railsback, who co-owns the wine bar and bottle shop with Brian McClintic. “Also it’s a fun way to learn about different cultures and the foods that are such a huge part of who people are.”
Railsback certainly has knowledge to share, having just been named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 for Food & Wine. “I’m pretty honored to be on a list with such other great people in the industry,” said Railsback, whose knack for working with the best includes time at the Hungry Cat and the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara to his days at Osteria Mozza in L.A. and RN74 in S.F.
His partner McClintic, meanwhile, is a Master Sommelier and star of the documentary Somm, while Chef Richards runs our town’s favorite pop-up. “Weston is a big part right from the start as we really want to focus on fresh, seasonal dishes that make sense with the weather and time of year,” said Railsback. “From there, it’s just pairing the food with the culture and style of wine that goes well with those dishes. It also comes down to what we feel like eating and drinking that week as well. A little selfish, but it keeps us interested and happy.”
And while other weeks have paired uni and muscadet or burgers and Loire Valley cab franc, the fantastic high/low of champagne and fried chicken was a true education. The Vouette et Sorbée Fidéle Champagne Extra Brut NV was amazing, especially with perfectly crispy chicken and lightly vinegared collards. “Not everything needs to be super exact and precise; it just needs to taste good together,” said Railsback. “If in doubt, champagne should always be the ‘go to.’”
As for future weeks, Railsback explained, “We want to do a few game-bird pairings with Burgundy before we get to spring, but other than that, nothing is locked down.” The best way to stay tuned is via their email newsletter.
Monday Night Flights are at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, 131 Anacapa St., Suite B. Call (805) 284-0380 or see lesmarchandswine.com.