On Monday, July 9th, over 300 sommeliers, chefs, journalists and other industry luminaries descended on New York City’s Ousia restaurant to celebrate Wine Enthusiast’s August issue featuring America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2018.
This year’s list has more geographic spread than ever before. Winners came from all over the country including Chicago’s Oriole; Boston’s Taberna de Haro; Detroit’s Prime + Proper; Compère Lapin in New Orleans; Pico in Los Alamos, California; Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg, Texas; and Fleurie in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The evening kicked off with a panel at the Landmark at 57 West, where Wine Enthusiast Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa moderated a discussion. The panel included Lauren Friel, wine director at New York City’s Dirt Candy; Alexandra Cherniavsky, beverage manager at Philadelphia’s The Love; Christopher Gross, chef at Phoenix’s Geordie’s at the Wrigley Mansion; and Matthew Kudry, wine director at New York City’s Flora Bar.
When asked of trends arising in their respective restaurants, Gross said, simply, “People are drinking better,” a sentiment echoed by the other panelists. Guests have more knowledge and passion for wine than ever before.
Cherniavsky said people are increasingly interested in local wines, while Kudry said more people want to carefully match the wine with their meal, and Friel observed more young people are getting into wine in a serious way, whether as a guest or wanting to pursue it professionally.
On the #MeToo movement, and the importance of diversity and representation in wine and food, Friel said that Dirt Candy’s list—which features exclusively female winemakers—was not just ideological but practical. In the U.S., women-owned businesses receive less than 5% of the financing capital available for small businesses. “We live in a capitalist society, and women need more access to capital,” she said. “Supporting female winemakers financially gives them more power in the industry, and the ability to support other women.”
After the panel, Ousia—a two-time recipient of the Top 100 honors—hosted a lively bash. Cape Classics poured wines from France and South Africa, from Loire sparklers to sweet Shiraz from the Western Cape, at six wine stations.
Passed appetizers from Ousia’s Executive Chef Carlos Carreto included such Greek-inspired Mediterranean dishes as beet ravioli with kale and myzithra cheese, grilled octopus with fava purée, and loukanikopita (Greek sausage wrapped in shredded phyllo). Guests participated on social media with the hashtag #WE100BestRestos.
One table featured three rich and elegant South African reds. Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, Kanonkop Pinotage and a Bordeaux blend from De Toren were paired with Cretan flatbread with tomato and sausage, beef and lamb meatballs in a cumin tomato sauce, and steamed lamb shoulder buns with chili aioli and tzatziki.
It was a night of seeing old friends and making new ones, while celebrating how great restaurants bring people together.