While hanging out in London Yossie Horwitz mentioned he was throwing a pre-KFWE dinner as well. Now I generally try to spend time with family when in the NY area and this trip had me at 2 KFWE’s, but when Yossie mentioned who was cooking, what was on the menu and some of the wines, I had a hard time saying no….
Chef Isaac (Yitz) Bernstein – until last month the Executive Chef at Pomegranate gourmet supermarket in Brooklyn and before that at Epic Bites, the catering company he founded in Cali – is well known in the upscale kosher food world for his modern spin on traditional kosher foods as well as catering these mega multi-course dinners, often with wine-pairings. As I live in Israel, I never got a chance to attend any of these events and only rarely was able to make my way to Pomegranate to pick up some of his food. My friend David Raccah has written up a couple of events that he attended or hosted where this crazy culinarian has cooked – suffice it so say I have been wanting to come to a Bernstein prepared meal for a while. I was NOT disappointed. 16 courses – 4 being things that were unplanned and put together spur of the moment . Everything was cooked perfectly. All flavors were balanced. All garnishes added to the flavor and texture of the dish! In a word PERFECTION. Really I don’ think there is another private kosher chef who cooks at this level. The inventiveness, the plating. The excellent service and attention to detail. Really. BRAVO!
Then there were the wines….. I mean if you are having a dinner party hosted by Yossie Horwitz – the wine is going to be killer. And it was. And there were over 30 different wines. I’ll be honest. With this much food and this many wines it was IMPOSSIBLE to take perfect notes. So I will post pictures and descriptions of each of the dishes and notes on many of the wines as I can highlighting the stuff that stuck out.
Prior to dinner there was a wine bar set up. Some of the highlights there were:
2009 Hajdu Brobdignagian Sonoma County Syrah – I never really get to taste the early Hajdu wines. I was already living in Israel and this greater interconnected world of RCC’s and Facebook and even blogs and newsletter was at best only in its infancy – so by the time I knew that these wines existed, they were hard to be had. Looking at the label before tasting, I couldn’t believe that someone would produce a 16.3% ABV non dessert wine that I would like – but wow! This wine is 10 years old and in wonderful shape. Dark still lively blue fruit and some cherry with a hint of meatiness. Still structured nicely though the tannin is well integrated. And none of the alcohol shows – talk about balance!
Mia Luce 2016-2017 – These are hard to find even in Israel. Distribution changed after the 2014 vintage and after inaugurating the Syrah and Stems and CSM in 2015 they all but disappeared from the market, partly due to rising popularity. Currently they can be found in a few restaurants in Jerusalem and a few small wine shops (I am pretty sure Crave in the Shuk has them). But a chance to taste through the whole line in the US is a huge treat. To be utterly up front, through the 2012 vintage I was a huge fan. The ’14 not so much and the ’15’s deteriorated early IMHO. But pretty much accross the board these wines are great. I had tasted the ’16 Syrah and Stems last year at a friend and was impressed , but it has developed depth and character while maintaining elegance. A really dark flavor profile there but not brooding at all. The acidity keeps it bright.Top notch. Certainly the best Syrah of ’16 that I have tasted. The ’17 is super young but on the same path. Needed time to open that I didn’t have but shows potential. (Same is true for each of the ’17’s) The CSM was wonderful as well. Lighter in profile than the Syrah. More red than blue for sure. But also very nice complexity there. The Marsellan was the lightest of the bunch – more floral and red berry. I likely did myself a disservice by tasting it last. As I mentioned all of the ’17’s are also excellent – but super young – with the Marsellan and CSM being far more approachable than the Syrah.
There were tons of other wines but really, I only had so much time before dinner was served and my notes don’t do them all justice.
The meal then started. The fish was all provided by Jefrey Ingber at Kosher Catch while the meat was provided by Grow and Behold. I have to say, what a difference quality ingredients make. We simply can not get this quality of fish or beef in Israel.
The first course was Fluke Ceviche with Avocado Mousse, Finger Lime & Chilies,. This was paired with the 2007 Yarden BdB very nice – which actually worked really well together. The chilies cut through the avocado beautifully while working with the lime to keep the fish super bright. Great start.
Next was Salmon Belly Tartare which was served with a nice private label Italian white. Wow! Talk about yummy. I wolfed this down. The fish was delicate yet super flavorful – but the star was kumquat!
We then had an off menu bonus dish of Tuna & Beet Tartare. Off menu? This was my favorite fish dish of the night! I love it when a Chef has the guts to just let the ingredients shine. The preparation here was simple. But all of the flavors worked sol well together. The earthiness of the beets brought out similar flavors in the tuna all kept bright by the orange. Really lovely. The reason we had this course is because of the next course which was Seared Tuna, Scrambled Tofu, Maitake Mousse, Pickled Mushrooms, and Nori. This was really well done – especially the pickled mushrooms – but was outshone by the tartare that preceded it. These dishes were accompanied by the 2013 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay which is developing nicely.
The next 2 courses were a Cod Fritter with Tomato Marmalade again off-menu and Seared King Salmon with Apple Cream, Fennel & Apple Relish and Pea Greens. The cook on the salmon was perfection wit the star here being the apple cream and relish. These were served with a private label California Riesling which was excellent!
And here we transitioned to meat – and what a way to start. You really can’t get beef tartare in Israel. Most of the meat is simply not of a quality that would lend itself to this preparation. Super fresh, with great seasoning and the Bearnaise sauce done as a custard was a revelation. The texture went SO well with the tartare. This was served with 2 wines the 2011 Moulin du Chateau La Clide ’11 and 2012 Echo de Roses Camille , both made by Christophe Bardeau. The La Clide was the superstar here, totally overshadowing the Echo. Dark fruit, some nice berry and TONS of earthiness that went super well with the Tartare. Really a joy!
Next course was Spring Chickenwith Winter Squash Jus, Butternut Squash Confit, Pickled Cranberries and Brioche Truffle Stuffing basically it was Thanksgiving on a plate. The chicken cooked perfectly – I assume sous vide – hard to get that tenderness and perfect cook any other way – really great as was every element on the plate. The pickled cranberries were busting with flavor. But the real star was the stuffing – HOLY CRAP! I could have eaten a whole pan. If I didn’t have my fill of Mia Luce at the wine bar, I got to re-up here with the off and on 2012 and the stellar 2009 uniquely Merlot based Rosso. This 2012 was on point though not as nice as the last one I had at Yossie’s about a month ago. The ’09 was great and in better shape than the last time I had this. Same profile, perhaps a little less brett evident, better structure. Still silky and elegant. Really a shame that Kobi doesn’t do Merlot anymore. This was followed by a lamb bacon stuffed date. Need I say more? Literally gone in 3 seconds. So much flavor packed into something so small…
The first uber successful pairing of the night was a classic. Foie Gras and Sauternes. You really can’t go wrong (unless you are at KFWE London where it went very wrong and they killed the liver). The cook on the Foie here was exquisite and the further classic pairing of pear of course worked well. In fact just look at the cook on that pear. Beautiful. When wine is paired well with food – something magical happens. EVERYTHING is elevated and it all comes together to create this exquisite flavor in your mouth. You have that sweet rich honeyed fruit with the buttery slightly salty meaty liver accentuated here by the pear and the fig. It was really heaven.
We moved for there to another perfectly composed plate.Duck Breast with Farrot and Cherry Jus. Perfectly executed. This was paired with a really special 1999 Peraj Habib. I think the 3rd or 4th vintage. It was also the first vintage with Jürgen Wagner as the lead winemaker. It showed really well for it’s age – let’s give it props – it’s 20 years old!!! Silky and nice. Super aged profile. Earthy blackberry. Whatever tannin is left is way in back. Still balanced with acidity hanging in too. Impressive.
Moved to another off menu quick bite – a beef stick with Guochojang glaze. This was OK. Actually very nice – but it probably could have used a sauce on the plate IMHO. We then moved to the the Lamb Loin, Lamb Panisse, Olive & Raisin Relish, Cauliflower Puree and Roasted Baby Cauliflower. – I believe that this is best looking plate of food that I have ever eaten. Really. It’s a work of art. I also happen to love lamb more than beef – so this was a knockout for me. The cook was beautiful. The Puree was silky. And the Panisse which was some sot of crazy lamb infused cake was incredible. Let’s not forget the wine which was actually a pair of Hajdu wines – 2013 Proprietary red. (still young) and 2012 Grenache (Excellent).
Moving back to beef, Chef Bernstein put out a marrow bone stuffed with seared marrow and shredded beef cheek. The pickled veggies were there to cut through the richness. Another winner. This was served with one of Covenants best regular CS releases – the 2006 – served out of a double magnum. The wine has evolved beautifully. Earth is more up front. Nice dark red fruit. Maybe a touch of herb. With a coffee and chocolate finish. Superb.
OK. Take a breadth. I was not expecting the next outcome. The next wines were poured. This time it was the 2009 Elvi Clos Mesorah and the 2014 Elvi Herenza Rioja Reserva. . The next dish was brought out – Cured Flat Iron Steak, Black Garlic Emulsion, Poached Turnips and Charred Wild Onions. Chef Isaac followed each plate and shaved truffles over each steak. I took a bite. Really nice. Had a sip of the Clos Mesorah which in general is one of my favorite wines ever. Really nice.Took another bite – this time with the Reserva. HOLY F@$#^%! I have never had a better pairing in my life. EVER. I am worried that I may never have a pairing like it again. This is the new holy grail. Now Looking over the menu in advance I though this was a missed opportunity. As classic a pairing as Foie Gras and Sauternes is Rioja and LAMB which we had two course ago. But who was I to speak up… I don’t know if Yossie knew what he had created with this pairing beforehand or if it was just chance – but this sis something that everyone should try and replicate. What’s great is the ’14 Rioja is only now being released. So you can all pick some up. Truffles might be harder to find (and expensive) but trust me, for a special occasion, this is something you want to do. This was hands down my favorite dish of the night – and how fitting for a wine dinner that a major part of its success is the wine pairing. (For straight notes on these 2 wines, click here.)
You really can’t beat that last dish – and I’m happy they didn’t try. We closed out the evening with desert which was Sticky Date Pudding with White Miso Butterscotch and 2 ports, the 2010 Netof LBV and the very hard to find 2005 Yatir Port. The Netofa showed better, but the Yatir was a first time for me so it get’s a special mention. Still drinking nicely – though I wouldn’t hold it too much longer.
And just because I think it’s the prettiest plate of food I have ever had here is the Lamb Loin from another angle:
My thanks to Yossie Horwitz for having me at this incredible meal. Not sure that I’ll ever be able to return the favor – at least on this scale. Truly it was a night to remember. And with that I was certainly primed for KFWE NY….
Previous post in this series can be found here.
Next up: KFWE NY