this article was first published in The Art of Living Beautifully magazine, September 2017
On Monday, July 17, I arrived at Gregory’s Bistro a touch early to take a few pictures prior to dinner. Lydia Moreaux, who co-owns the Bistro with Executive Chef and husband Gregory, sat at a table with her staff informing them of the menu details. As she spoke, some of them rolled silverware, others took notes, and all listened intently. Lydia welcomed me into her culinary haven, seating me at a table in the corner, near a window, as I had requested. I was allowed access to the kitchen where I found Gregory busy and happy, singing the same verse of Despacito over and over again, while he checked the pork, stirred the mushroom ragout and sampled bits here and there. The mood in the kitchen was calm, but I sensed excitement among the staff as they prepped for the evening’s Latin Wine dinner. They knew the evening ahead would be something special.
This was not my first time attending one of the famed wine dinners at the bright and airy bistro overlooking Riva Harbor in Adriatica, but this would soon be remembered as one of my favorites. Mirella Velazquez–former owner and executive chef at Bien Salsa Latin Kitchen–was asked to join Gregory as a guest chef. This would prove to be a wise move by the Moreauxs. Mirella’s creativity and Latin flair complemented Gregory’s modern take on traditional French cuisine beautifully.
The wine dinners at Gregory’s are a sublime combination of French cuisine and purposefully paired wine supplied by Andy Doyle, owner of McKinney Wine Merchant. Typically, six courses are served at the wine dinners. Prior to each course, the Chef and Andy—acting Sommelier for the evening–provide details about the food and wine pairing. With over sixty years of experience between them, the vast amount of knowledge these two bring to dinner is stunning.
As 6:30 approached, the dining room filled and the restaurant, once full of quiet anticipation, now buzzed with chatter and laughter. I took my seat, camera and notebook in hand, and waited.
The Amuse Bouche arrived and I found myself gazing down upon delicate bites of escargot and salmon toast which was paired with an Aligoté. The escargot had a soft texture and a delicious, meaty flavor accented with basil and wrapped in flaky pastry. The salmon was flavorful–without any hint of fishiness and the microgreens added a fresh contrast. This was my first time tasting an Aligoté and it reminded me of a soft Chardonnay. It was also one of the few wines I’ve tried that had an actual grape flavor.
In my opinion the first course was the most phenomenal pairing of the evening. A beef empanada was served with Torrentés, which I learned from Andy has a flavor combination of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Initially, Torrentés had a bit of a soapy aftertaste; however, the flavor was completely transformed when paired with a bite of spicy empanada. A sliced, roasted pepper lay near the empanada and was filled with an acidic chimichurri sauce which was meant to be poured over the empanada—a typical Latin American dish made French by simply adding a “dressing”. The resulting combination of flavors was astounding.
Our second course, the pan-seared Branzino was a fish I look forward to having again, especially when served with tangy queso fresco and mushroom ragout. A barely discernable touch of chocolate in the mushroom ragout is an element that is fantastic when paired with the rust-colored Misión ‘13 Vino Tinto. Surprisingly, a red wine paired exceptionally well with fish, probably because of the green apple freshness I tasted at first sip.
“Lobster can be paired with any wine,” Gregory explained as we began the third course: Lobster Tail served over grilled romaine and drenched in a warm Mexican chorizo vinaigrette. It was a site to behold and was a delightful surprise for the taste buds. By elevating the temperature of the vinaigrette, the flavor of the lobster was completely changed to a bold and spicy seafood with substantial flavor. It was paired with a dark amethyst color Bouza Tannat Reserva that had a bold nose and left our wine glasses stained purple.
By the 4th course stomach space was limited, however the notion of conceding defeat was quickly ignored when a giant Chilean rubbed bone-in pork chop was served to me. It was piled high with gorgeous purple potato wedges, and covered with foie gras and black truffle sauce. I can do this, I thought as I took that first bite. The pork was cooked to perfection, and the fois gras sauce was hearty. The nose of the Pérez Cruz Carmenere was my favorite of the night: green, sage, earthy, and meaty. (Interesting fact: this grape was thought to be completely extinct until just a few years ago.)
If I haven’t mentioned the artistry involved in plating these courses, may I speak about it now? For the sweet finale of the Latin Wine Dinner at Gregory’s, Chef Mirella outdid herself on creativity. House-made fig ice cream with an indigo blueberry sauce was served on ice, more specifically inside an oversized fig made of ice. A purple dendrobium orchid, tiny edible flowers and a dusting of powdered sugar accented the edible art. All the guests stared in amazement, wondering where to begin. Tall, elegant flutes of bubbly pink Rosé were served, and everyone took that first bite in awe, probably wondering how on earth we were so fortunate to have the opportunity to eat something so exquisitely beautiful.
The bright white walls had shifted to mauve gray by the end of the evening. The noticeable candle-flickers and almost-empty wine glasses signaled the night’s end; not to mention the irony of our protesting stomachs and longing looks at to-go boxes. (I wonder how many of us opened them up when we arrived home for a quick pre-bed snack.)
If you have never experienced a wine dinner at Gregory’s Bistro, may I suggest you treat yourself to the next one? They take place monthly and always sell out. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to their mailing list by visiting their website. You will never be disappointed with anything brought to you by Gregory, Lydia and Andy.