A dinner in honor of celebrated winemaker Randall Grahm
Randall was in New York to attend the James Beard Award ceremonies last Sunday evening. We had planned this dinner with a few illustrious friends for the night before, Saturday May 1st.
When the idea for the dinner came up a few weeks ago, I immediately started working on the menu. Randall Grahm is known for his vins de terroir, so I wanted the food to be de terroir too. I made a list of all the spring veggies that I might be able to find at the Union Square Greenmarket, and from that list I started sketching a menu — one that would not only be seasonal but would also pair beautifully with Randall’s wines.
The only catch was that I had no idea what Randall might decide to serve that night. Still, I went to work, knowing that some of Bonny Doon’s famous varietals would be featured: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Roussane, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.
I’ve always believed that if you love something, then it’s easy to be inspired by it. And I do love Randall Grahm’s wines. So it was no surprise that the recipes almost created themselves.
It was not until a couple of weeks before the dinner that Randall sent me the list of wines he wanted to serve — 14 of them, to be precise. This could only mean one thing: we were going to have flights of wines with almost every course. A week later I received the precious box. My hands trembled slightly as I opened it and unearthed the bottles. The first one I grabbed was the 1985 Claret. “Dear God” I thought, “We are going to be tasting Randall’s journey as a winemaker.”
The evening couldn’t have been more perfect: the conversation was lively, intense, sometimes hilarious and always captivating. The wines were flowing. With each course Randall brought more glasses to the table and poured more sublime wines. The food kept on coming, too, and each time I brought a new dish to the table, my guests would pause and ask: “Viviane, what have we here…?” The conversation would then invariably get lively again as we sipped from the wine glasses that kept lining up in front of us, so that by the end of the evening, every guest was surrounded by his or her very own crystal Stonehenge.
We ended up tasting some very old and some very young wines, some well-known Bonny Doon varietals, and some lesser known wines like his Pinot Meunier (in both white and red). But each wine Randall poured was a delight, each held its own and each had a tale to tell.
“Leave everything as is on the table” I told everyone, as the evening came to a close. “I want to take photos as soon as I wake up.”
And that’s exactly what I did. As I laid eyes on the table the next morning, I could still hear the sound of glasses clicking, and echoing laughter.
Twenty-four hours after our dinner, Randall Grahm won the James Beard Award for his book Been Doon So Long.
Here’s raising a glass to you, dear Randall… and a tip of the “Chapeau” too!
Menu paired with Bonny Doon Vineyard wine
Cucumber linguini with olivade and fried capers (served in spoons)
Panisse with braised spicy baby kale and pimenton mayonnaise
Riesling Méthode Champenoise
Aïgo bouïdo soup shots with gruyère fonduta and chive infused oil
2009 Clos de Gilroy
Asparagus velouté with wild ramps
Hen of the woods panna cotta and asparagus tips
Chive oil and tarragon
1991 Le Sophiste
1995 Le Meunier Blanc
Spring vegetable, sherry-roasted carrots and wasabi microgreens
Pecorino mousse and curry emulsion
2007 Le Cigare Blanc
Wild mushroom tarts with robbiola, parsley and white truffle oil
Maple-glazed Brussels sprouts and Yukon Gold mashed potato
1985 Claret “Santa Cruz Mountains”
1990 Old Telegram
1994 Le Meunier (rouge)
1994 Le Cigare Volant
Five American artisan cheeses
Served with a two heirloom tomato jams and truffle honey
2005 Le Cigare Volant
2007 Le Cigare Volant “en demi-muid”
2007 Le Cigare Volant “en foudre”
2005 Syrah “Bien Nacido Vineyard”
Rhubarb gelato and fresh strawberries
Vin cotto with orange & cointreau
2006 Le Vol des Anges
Cucumber sorbet with Hendricks gin
Infused with Sichuan peppers, coriander and lemon-lime zest