the Haven’s Popeye pie & Provençal rosé

Within a quiet stretch of blocks on the Kensington side of Adams Avenue sits an airy neighborhood pizza joint called The Haven. Of the selection of specialty pies featured, a small circular feast named Popeye catches my eye and the recommendation of the employee that day. The white pizza boasts an irresistible lineup of roasted garlic topped with chicken, mushrooms, fresh spinach, mozzarella and goat cheese. Squiggly lines of sweet aromas radiate from the pizza box as a combination of baking spices and roasted garlic creep into the nostalgic territories of my senses and stir up some hunger.

The swaths of garlic, caramelized into a candied sweetness, is a welcomed fiesta instead of an intrusion on my palate. With a salty, almost briny quality to the pie, there is no want for extra cheese. Overlaying the medium-thin chewy crust, chunks of chicken and fleshy mushrooms make up the bulk of textural layout.

Chicken may at first seem to play an integral role in any dish when in actuality the protein generally bows to any sauce or strong flavor present, the same way a neutral grape varietal such as Chardonnay can showcase terroir or a winemaker’s influence with clarity. The mix of aromatic and vegetal pizza aromas allows for a dry rosé to swoop in and play hero. Our hero today is a Provence rosé, 2013 Commanderie de la Bargemone of the appellation Coteaux d’Aix en Provence.

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Provence is a region in southern France dedicated to dry styles of rosé that will quickly win over any drinker’s taste buds when paired with light cuisine or a sunny day. Don’t let those pretty hues fool you: not all rosés are sweet. Not even slightly sweet. Most styles of rosé found in the wild are dry, especially when taking on a global perspective beyond the grocery aisle. Fruity aromas in wine tend to distract from sweetness level, making it easy to confuse the ripeness of fruit detected on the palate for the sugar level of the actual juice in the glass. Similar they may seem, only the latter is referring to actual sweetness as opposed to the perception of sweeter flavors.

This particular rosé is pretty close to bone dry, keeping fairly intense notes of tart strawberries and floral rosy aromas. Provençal rosé is especially refreshing when chilled down to refrigerator temperature, a low preferable for simple and crisp beverages. The rosé beside the pizza’s earthy aromas and boisterous, tangy flavors make for an uncomplicated yet all-encompassing pairing. Come salad or ham sandwich, carpaccio or root vegetable, rosé is generally well equipped to wrangle a range of flavors into a composed pairing. It is best to keep it stocked at all times. Always.

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the perks of dating within the pizza world.

There’s nothing pizza can’t fix. Bad night? Order a pizza. Broken heart? Go eat some pizza. Broken bones? Pizza certainly can’t make it worse. Burned the roof of your mouth on lava-hot cheese? Muster up a minute’s worth of self-control, then resume eating pizza. From the first pop of the cardboard briefcase keeping warm the pizza within, all the ugliness encountered since your last slice disappears. The cure-all effect is especially potent if the pizza encounter is unexpected, which happens to me with some regularity with my SO working at URBN, a New Haven coal-fired pizza joint.

After one particularly grueling night, a surprise from the pizza gods/a dutiful boyfriend landed a few wild slices of URBN’s Gouda Garlic Alfredo on my countertop. With a fresh shipment of goodies from Hi-Time Wine Cellars, I pounced at the chance to revisit labels from the recent booze haul in order to best select a pairing.

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A boon to any wine & spirits enthusiast in Southern California, Hi-Times is an incredible resource for bottles to get excited about, both well within and way out of any normal price range. With every opportunity to do so, I gladly drain my bank account to shop their shelves and stock up on hard to find wines. San Diego can be a challenging city for us wine geeks; it’s tough enough to track down a bottle of Sherry or Barbera, but even the mildly obscure (Assyritiko, Godello or Uruguayan Tannat) are practically nonexistent. Keeping a double-entranced, multi-room cellar, Hi-Times is where to turn to satisfy wine curiosities and discover new styles yet untallied, such as the Beaujolais Blanc (Domaine Des Terres Dorées, 2011, $16) plucked for this pairing.

The southernmost region of Burgundy, Beaujolais is best known for light and fruity reds made entirely from the Gamay grape. Styles range from flirtatious, bubblegum Beaujolais Nouveau first popularized in the 1970s for its youthful attributes to more age-worthy, darker representations cultivated from the granite hillsides of Beaujolais Cru. Even those familiar with Beaujolais may not have known a white counterpart existed, and for good reason: the region is practically a monoculture of Gamay. Though a rarity, Beaujolais Blanc does exist in small quantities, requiring 100% Chardonnay.

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Owner and winemaker Jean-Paul Brun began Terres Dorées in 1979, converting his family farm into an estate. From 10 acres of vines, Brun first produced Beaujolais Blanc, eventually expanding his vinicultural repertoire as his vineyard holdings increased. The now 40-acre estate still dedicates half its plot to Chardonnay, providing a stellar representation of what the grape is capable of without the fuss of getting dolled up.

Unlike many weighty, over-oaked styles of Chardonnay especially common among cougar populations, the pristine varietal expression of this wine kept it light on its feet, dancy and alive. An attractive chalkiness on the nose was further emphasized by a wet limestone palate. Under-ripe apple and tart lemon contributed to the wine’s fresh liveliness with hints of a nutty bitterness and slight waxiness rounding out the texture.

With a name deserving to belong on an Olive Garden menu, the Gouda Garlic Alfredo is surprisingly light, with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes driving the true flavor profile. Tomato acted as the diva of the bunch, bursting with personality and juicy, concentrated musk while the gouda was shy with just a twang of nuttiness. Even the garlic was subdued by the soft vegetal tones brought on by the greens. And chicken was there being chicken, offering texture and support to all its more flavorful companions. Unfazed by any smattering of red pepper flakes or garlic undertones, the Beaujolais Blanc drove the midnight snack forward with each sip invigorating the palate for more. And so it goes, the pizza was reduced to mere crumbs and crust, concluding this pairing adventure with one momentous realization: Beaujolais Blanc is rad.