Our Vice President and Wine Director Brett Vankoski is here to share a special restaurant experience he had the privilege of experiencing – and contibutining wine to – just last week.
“Savory Meat Satchel,” exclaimed Chef Brian Rae of Rialto describing the staff’s alternate name for the Smoked Lamb Mezzaluna he and sous chef Peter McKenzie prepared for us. Delivered to our table was an impeccably flaky pastry filled with a mixture of braised lamb, oven dried tomatoes, pecorino and ricotta cheeses combined with shallots, ginger, garlic and mint. Safe to say, it was probably the most scrumptious savory satchel ever created.
On a frigid afternoon (which happened to be the first day of Spring), a small gathering of foodies sat comfortably in the dining room of Rialto in Cambridge while Chef Jody Adams and her staff delighted them with a lamb inspired lunch and a cooking class. North Star Farms of Maine brought the meat. We brought the refreshments.
Next on the menu, a homemade lamb sausage with mustard and savory slaw (see above). The German stateman Otto Von Bismark once said, “Laws are like sausages, it’s better not to see them being made.” After watching Peter and Brian grind and wind links of lamb like ninja chefs with sausage nunchakus, we had to disagree. It was borderline hypnotic. I’d watch these guys make sausage anytime, but please don’t make me watch C-SPAN.
For the finale, Chef Adams served a rack of lamb marinated with chopped garlic, basil, rosemary and lemon zest, and roasted with a layer of dijon mustard and bread crumbs. The mustard and bread crumb combination was like icing on a cake of tender, juicy meat. I wanted to stick a candle in it and sing happy birthday to Spring.
It’s no surprise that the James Beard Award winning chef and her team would turn out an impeccably prepared food that afternoon. Rialto has been delighting guests for years with it’s thoughtfully planned menu featuring cuisine from a different region of Italy each season. However, seated on a comfy lemon-yellow cushioned banquette and sipping on our Rosso Toscana, it occurred to me that food is only a part of this restaurant’s wonderful story.
These folks didn’t have to offer their time to prepare a complementary cooking class and three-course lunch for a group of strangers, and it reminded me that this wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered their generosity. At fundraising events for the Greater Boston Food Bank, Pan Mass Challenge, One Fund Boston, and others where we’ve poured 90+ Cellars, Jody and her team have been there. Her time and effort to personally contribute to organizations in the community doing good has provided inspiration for our own young company.
What’s more, the moment each guest walked into the restaurant that day they were greeted by every member of her team. I had the pleasure of meeting Ivan, Jacki, Cesar, Peter, Brian and Jody not because I sought them out to introduce myself, but because every one of them approached me to offer a handshake and a hearty welcome. As a person who sells wine I usually get a luke-warm vibe in most restaurants I visit, so this greeting was refreshing to say the least. Not many big-name chefs would approach you in their own restaurant and introduce themselves as if you were their first guest. At Rialto this appears to be business as usual.
All of us expected to eat well that afternoon but perhaps few of us were prepared for the lesson that was also packed into that Savory Meat Satchel. Excelling at your craft is only half the equation. Dedicating yourself to making others truly happy is quite another. In the daily grind of the food and beverage business, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the amount of work it takes just to put a dish on a table or bottle of wine on the shelf. I’m grateful there are folks like Brian, Peter, Ivan, Jacki, Cesar and Jody reminding us that bringing people together to share a bite, a sip and a smile is really what it’s all about.
Need some ideas for wines to pair with your lamb recipes? Check out our recommendations:
- Lot 91 Zinfandel, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
- Lot 50 Prosecco, Veneto DOC, Italy
- Lot 90 Rosso Toscana, Tuscany, Italy
- Lot 76 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
Are you a lamb fan? How important is it to you to receive a more personal restaurant experience? Let us know in the comments!