It’s not every day that I get to cook for someone as special as Randall Grahm, the self-proclaimed “founder, winemaker, terroirist-vinarchist and prez-for-life” of Bonny Doon Vineyard.
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
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Viviane: Just found this article on your site-somehow I missed it before. However, I do have a few questions about serving in this manner. Did you serve all smaller portions of the various courses and how much time do you plan between courses? As usual, you inspire me. Thanks so much. Karen
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My word! How nervous were you on the night of the dinner. Excellent execution and the photos are wonderful. Your pairings are an inspiration.
I was there and am telling you that the brilliance of the conversation was matched or exceeded by the sheer eclat of V’s cuisine and the wines. The photos do not even begin to do the event justice. If there is to be a first salon in Rockland County, my vote is that we start in Piermont at Chez Viviane. V gets the Hostess of the Year Award. What an utterly enchanting evening! I did not mind getting home at 2:00 in the morning and wished it could have gone on all night.
Thats soo awesome Randall G is legendary! Glad you enjoyed yourself. If your interested in French wine I would check out this Seminar going on tomorrow if your free. Check this out when you get a chance :]
Thanks again for sharing your story and I love the pictures!
Beautiful… such an amazing menu.. surely you must have slaved for hours!
This is an epic dinner and that picture of the table from the day after illustrates it well.
Viviane, beautiful write up. I have been a huge Randall Graham fan for years, to be exact, the first time I sipped his Le Cigare Volant. I had the pleasure of enjoying his wines at a wine/dinner pairing last fall and it was fantastic to be able to experience even more of them especially the addition of 2006 Le Vol des Anges.
Denise! Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been a fan of Randall Grahm for many years too. His wines are exceptional and his vision entirely unique. So you can imagine our very special it was for me to host this dinner for him. I’ll remember this night for the rest of my days and, I’m sure, beyond.
a michelin red guide reviewer would have given you at least one star and said that “the creative menu and the wine pairing was superb”. I agree wholeheartedly! Although I can’t say that I’m not jealous for not being part of the experience. 🙂
Vincent & Dana! Thank you both for your very kind words that totally touch my heart. I certainly hope that one of these days I would have the chance to make a feast for you…
Viviane, you are an inspiration. What a gorgeous and incredibly thoughtful menu. I can’t even imagine what a treat this was for each and every person seated at your table. You give vegetarian food and terrific and very sophisticated name. I can’t wait to be a guest at your table someday.
What an accomplished menu! I’m picturing all of it, and dreaming of how wonderful it must have been with sips of Bonny Doon wines to go along with.
Kristin & Peter, Thank you both for the wonderful words of encouragement – you are both so dear!
Blown away doesn’t quite describe the sensation I get when hearing the fabulous details of your dinner. The quality of the food and wine matched with conversation! Well, all I can say is, I also wish I had been there. Here’s wishing you the most fabulous of further opportunities to create, to share, and to enjoy.
V, This is a delight to see and read ! Bravo to you my favorite culinary artist in the world! My foodie friends are going to be blown away when they read this .Kristin
V, I am just blown away by your writing, your photography, and your genius as a culinary artist. And, I’m so thrilled that the dinner was a glorious success. Bravo and bravo!
Skye, your words go straight to my heart. And they help me to keep on course… Thank you!
Just throwing you a good old fashioned “Jewish guilt trip” Viviane.
If you think you can shamelessly console me with your biscotti…you’re right!
Currants & chocolate
I knew very well what you were up too Eli! Took notes on the biscotti flavor… But will just have to make you wait a little for your shameless guilt-tripping!
At the funeral of Baron Rothschild, a man was crying unconsolably. A member of the Rothschild family, not recognizing the man, asked him “Sir, are you a relative or close friend of the Baron” to which he replied no. The man then asked “well if you are not related or were not a close friend of the Baron, why are you crying”?
The sobbing man responded “That’s why”.
V….I feel his pain!
Oh Eli… You make me both laugh and feel bad at the same time! Don’t you know I so wish you could have been there? I’ll make it up to you with your favorite treat. Promise!
What an incredible evening you had. Your pictures are lovely and the menu looks out of this world. Thank you for sharing!
Dear, dear Markus… You are very wonderful. Thank you for your comment. It was indeed a very special night. I am still stunned myself. I mentioned to Randall that you would be coming over at the end of May… He said he would love to meet you someday. Who knows Markus, maybe one day that will come true. Meanwhile, I’m about to go to bed and you just woke up. It seems I am on Greek time!
Viviane, this article touched my heart – what a great recollection of a special night. I am stunned to silence by the power of the pictures, wonderful!