On Monday, June 27, more than 200 sommeliers, restaurateurs, journalists and other wine and food professionals gathered at The Redbury Hotel in Manhattan—home to restaurant Marta, one of the evening’s honorees—to celebrate Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s America’s Best 100 Wine Restaurants of 2016.
To kick off the evening, WE Food Editor Nils Bernstein served as moderator for a panel discussion about restaurant trends. He was joined by Jordan Salcito, beverage director of The Momofuku Group, Jack Mason, wine director of Marta, and Eric Ziebold, chef and owner of Kinship and Métier in Washington, D.C. In a conversation showing the passion and knowledge that have made their restaurants winners, each expressed great optimism about the wide-ranging state of wine and food.
“Just because a somm is wearing blue jeans doesn’t mean he doesn’t care,” said Salcito, in discussing the high level of wine service and knowledge even as dining rooms become increasingly informal. Mason, who cited his “strict Champagne and pizza diet,” added, “Sometimes you don’t want to sit for 4-and-a-half hours but you still want a nice meal.”
Each panelist mentioned that many customers used to the hottest new wine trends are looking to learn about the classics.
“One of the things I love about wine is being able to capture a moment in time,” said Ziebold, about his restaurants’s extensive range of back-vintage wines.
The panelists also agreed that for all the valid science behind wine and food pairing, it’s ultimately about pleasing the customer. “There’s a human factor,” said Ziebold. “We always try to connect with what people like.”
Following the panel, guests mingled in the Redbury Hotel’s reception hall and on a breezy terrace, which Market Street Spirits turned into an Italian beer garden, offering Brùton Bianca (a witbier) and Brùton Lilith (an American pale ale). At the Market Street Spirits cocktail bar, the Marta team created three signature cocktails—their takes on the Boulevardier, piña colada and shandy—highlighting Rebellion Bourbon, Meletti 1870 bitter, and Brinley Gold Shipwreck coconut rum.
Opici Wines served LaLuca Prosecco (paired with the arctic char tartare, one of many passed snacks) and a range of wines from Cesari, Carpineto, Vivanco, and Domaine Fouassier. Complementing the drinks were risotto croquettes, fingerling potatoes with trout caviar, gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in speck, pigs in a blanket, salumi and cheese platters and, of course, Marta’s famed pizzas.
In addition to the honorees from the New York area, representatives from dozens of winning restaurants from around the country came for the event as well, making new friends (and dinner reservations) with their colleagues.
Later, Mason unveiled Jeroboams of Champagne at the after-party. As Ziebold said, great wine captures a moment in time, and this was a memorable evening indeed.