Two doors down from Tom Colicchio’s New York City restaurant Craft is his private dining room. The glass doors open up to a sleek modern decor and a completely exposed kitchen. A long bar was covered in empty wine glasses slowly being filled with liquid bubbles. Five tables filled the space between the bar and the kitchen. Four perfectly spaced wine glasses sat in front of each chair with a menu for the evening. “A Dinner For the Ages,” it read.
The Flatiron District event was all about Long Island wine. Colicchio has had a house on the North Fork for close to 20 years, so the region is one that is close to home.
“When I tell people about Long Island wines, the first thing I tell them is these are world class wines,” the celebrated chef said.
The first wine of the night was a Bedell Cellars Blanc de Blanc. I took a sip and found my seat back near the kitchen. I was lucky enough to be seated next to two part-time North Fork couples and a mother-daughter duo who were visiting from the West Coast.
“It’s always really thrilling when what’s local is what’s best,” said Natalie Grindstaff, beverage director for Crafted Hospitality. “The North Fork of Long Island is a relatively young wine region, but we’re getting a really rare and special opportunity to drink some wines that have some age, and I think you’re going to really see how beautifully our local wines can age.”
The first course was a venison tartare, served with huckleberries and sunchokes. The meat was lean and clean tasting and the berries added bursts of sweet freshness.
“Because we have so much red wine, I wanted to do something really meaty,” Colicchio said.
Paired with it were two Long Island wines — a cabernet franc from Lieb Cellars and Blaufränkisch from Channing Daughters Winery, both from 2010.
Following that up was a surprising roasted Monkfish Cassoulet. The fish was served on the bone and the flesh was hearty. It wasn’t the typical fish that flakes apart, but one that had body to it. Beneath it was a layer of creamy beans. Two more 2010s accompanied the dish: Macari Vineyard Bergen Road and Bedell Cellars Taste Red. At this point, my stomach was content. But the dinner was only just beginning.
“What we believe about great wine and great food is it starts with a great farm and the North Fork has some really special, beautiful farming going on,” Grindstaff said. “So we’re showcasing some Long Island products tonight on your plate and some really fantastic Long Island wines in your glass.”
The duck that came next from Crescent Farm was seared and smoky. The skin’s crispy exterior and thin layer of fat underneath reminded me of bacon. A puree made from black trumpet mushrooms acted like a dipping sauce. I sipped on two more reds with this course: Suhru Wines Red and Lenz Old Vines merlot, both from 2007.
Beef ribeye, oxtail, short rib and roasted vegetables all came to the table next, served family style. It was hard to resist their glossy, sticky exteriors and smoky aromas, so I didn’t. We took a break from two wines and got to enjoy just one — Paumanok Vineyards Assemblage from 2005.
“We think the wines marry really, really well with a lot of the bounty that we’re so fortunate to see coming in from the land and the sea that surrounds us on Eastern Long Island,” said Kareem Massoud, winemaker for both Paumanok and Palmer vineyards.
I was relieved at the end to see dessert was light — a soft cheese served with Long Island honey, apple butter and brown butter walnuts. Alongside, I sipped on two 2001 Merlots — one from Palmer and the other from Wölffer Estate.
“I have to say [the North Fork] is a place where I call home. I absolutely love not only what nature has to give, but the people out there, especially the winemakers,” Colicchio said. “They understand hospitality. At heart, they’re farmers. They understand that the only way to make a great glass of wine is to make sure that we have great soil.”