In New York, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to French cuisine. Surrounded by culinary riches as we are, it can be tough to decide where to go for a fix of boudin noir and a well-paired wine. So when Eric Ripert himself begins making recommendations, you sit up and pay attention.
Les Chefs de 934, a new dinner series curated by Ripert and others at the French consulate, features emerging French winemakers and chefs in New York. The kickoff dinner held on Monday, June 2, paired dishes by Philippe Bertineau of Benoit with biodynamic wines from France’s Loire Valley.
Bertineau led diners through four courses, beginning with a rabbit porchetta lush with herbs, garlic, and vinegar. Next came unctuously moist halibut, bathed in butter and wearing a heap of spring morels. Bertineau uses local ingredients often: Snappy young asparagus popped with freshness, and an “epigram” of lamb tasted as gentle and tender as the spring grass it recently ate. The unusual dish featured several different cuts of lamb, including shoulder, rack, breast, and kidney, each prepared separately to show off its best features. And Bertineau’s still-warm madeleines almost outshone his exquisitely executed framboisier, a raspberry rendition of the spongy, creamy gateau that more often showcases strawberries.
Pascaline Lepeltier, sommelier at Rouge Tomate, paired wines from Loire Valley winemaker Damien Delecheneau of Domaine La Grange Tiphaine, who briefly joined the event via Skype. The fifth generation to make wines on his family’s land, Delecheneau switched to organic and biodynamic processes in 2002. The result is a collection of wines that show off the region’s characteristic crisp fruitiness and balanced acidity, including the 2012 “Clef de Sol Blanc,” a 100 percent Chenin Blanc with notes of apricots, honey, and a lingering finish. Cabernet Franc and Côt (the local word for Malbec) grapes blend to create the peppery, plummy 2011 “Clef de Sol Rouge.” Delecheneau makes two kinds of sparkling wine — “Les Bulles,” a dry sparkling white, and “Rosa, Rose, Rosam,” a rosé made via the méthode ancestrale. Rather than adding yeast and sugars to spur secondary fermentation (the technique used to make most sparkling wines), this method calls for bottling the liquid while it’s still fermenting naturally, leading to a bone-dry, lightly bubbly wine.
The dinner typified the craftsmanship and thoughtful touches for which French artisans are often well known. Bertineau shared with attendees the personal connections and memories that inspired many of the evening’s dishes, while Lepeltier explained her wine pairings by highlighting the unique characteristics of Domaine La Grange Tiphaine’s offerings. The Consulate plans to host similar dinners three or four times a year, briefly transforming into what one guest called “the best pop-up restaurant in New York.”