March 7, 2017
The dinner honoring Daniel Boulud at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival was a dream of a feast. Held in a private penthouse overlooking the harbor, each dish was paired with astonishing wines, starting with magnums of Krug Grande Cuvee.
The first course, by Jean-Francois Bruel, current Executive Chef at Restaurant Daniel, was even more delicious than it looks in the picture above. Not easy; it would be hard to come up with a prettier plate. Slices of citrus-marinated scallop, caviar, crisp notes of radish, a hint of wasabi… Tiny kisshu oysters were hiding somewhere, along with crunchy little bits rumored to be Budda’s hand. The scallops were served with a very amiable Trimbach Riesling, 2009 Clos Sainte Hume that made them very happy.
Kavin Kaysen (of Spoon and Stable and Bellecour in Minneapolis) concocted this little confection – a mere couple of bites – of gently cooked langoustine topped with crunchy popped rice on a puddle of charred eggplant and another of red curry. So delicious! With it we drank a 2012 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche poured out of magnums.
Andrew Carmellini has too many restaurants to list here. Should we go with The Dutch or Locanda Verde? His complex French-inflected lasagna layered gossamer sheets of pasta, delicate as flower petals, with sliced truffles and Parmesan cream. It all went whispering into the mouth before the flavors exploded. The 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin Coeur du Roy from Domaine Dugat-Py was an ideal companion.
Normand Laprise came down from Canada to cook for the event. He proudly served this rare magret of duck, the steely flavor edged with the bittersweet taste of sea buckthorn. To drink? A big bold 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Celestins from Henri Bonneau.
Clearly the wine was getting to me. By the time the fifth course rolled around – Wagyu beef with charred onions, salsify and trumpet mushrooms – we’d been at the table for hours, dozens of speeches had been made, and I neglected to take its picture. But the dish, by Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony, was a triumph. So was the 2005 Colgin IX Estate, a stately American claret.
And then dessert, this elegant little waltz of cakes, creams, confits and mousselines by Remy Funfrock of the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island served with – are you ready? – 1996 Yquem.
And so to bed. Well, almost. A final speech by Mickey Bakst, who conceived the entire affair. (Mickey himself is so beloved in the restaurant world he’s known as “America’s Maitre d’.”) A few more words from Daniel himself, perhaps the most gracious man on the planet. Each time someone rose to honor him, Daniel gave it right back, honoring the honorer. The final gift? At the door each guest was presented with Daniel’s latest book, signed with a deeply personal note.