Alexandra Hayden · Fox & the Knife

By Ellen Bhang · 11/18/2019

Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a terrific bottle and recommends a food pairing—you come away a savvier sipper. 

Meet the beverage pro: Alexandra Hayden is effusive when she talks about Fox & the Knife, the South Boston enoteca of award-winning chef-owner Karen Akunowicz. The women-owned-and-operated restaurant is all about promoting good vibes. 

“The delivery guys often walk in and find people in tree pose,” says the general manager and wine director, referring to a noon yoga class for staff. (Once a week, the servers and cooks scoot aside the dining room tables and roll out their mats.) Some co-workers were hesitant at first. “But as we’ve gone on, people started trickling in,” she says. “Now it’s not so intimidating.” 

Hayden wants guests to feel equally at ease about what she’s pouring. “Wine is just delicious and fun,” says the Dorchester native, who honed her approach at The Beehive, Myers + Chang, and Barcelona Wine Bar. “It’s fluid for a social interaction. Usually there’s an emotional space where someone relates to wine, and you can see the spark when it happens.” 

One gorgeous bottle: Sparks fly in the best way when Hayden uncorks an Oregon red from Kelley Fox Wines. (It’s kismet that the winemaker’s name and that of the restaurant echo one another.) A 2017 pinot noir called “Mirabai”—named for a female poet-mystic who lived in 16th century India—expresses scents of crushed strawberries and sweet spices. “It feels like it knows exactly who it is,” says Hayden of the bottle, on offer for $90. “The palate is really clean, and it has a precise point of view.”  

Posh plate: The silky pinot noir is excellent with Pollo al Mattone. The chef tucks rosemary butter under the skin of a deboned half chicken, seasons it with lemony sumac, then weighs down the poultry with a brick before it goes in the oven. The brick’s pressure allows the meat to cook uniformly as the herbaceous butter seeps into every inch of the bird. Garlicky braised escarole rounds out the presentation. Hayden describes both the dish and the pinot noir as rich but never heavy. She’s keen to know what emotions and memories the wine evokes for guests. “Take a sip and let’s talk about it,” she enthuses. 

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