As a general rule, I typically avoid dinners with more than five courses, because most of them tend to suck the life out of you. Any program that takes longer than the length of a Lord of the Rings movie to finish is not my cup of tea. But when the owners of Oak, Richard and Tiffanee Ellman, invited me as a media guest to their restaurant’s first formal wine dinner, there was no way I could decline. I knew it would be good. And it was.
Oak is typically closed on Sundays, but the Ellmans are planning to host fun chef dinners every six to eight weeks. Each will focus on a different region. “This is what we hope will become a habit,” said Richard, who has decided to give execuchef Jason Maddy complete creative reins. The first wine dinner was Austrian-themed, which was Maddy’s way of paying homage to Danube, the Austrian restaurant he worked for in New York City.
What surprised me about the dinner were the little details: two generous slices of thin Périgord truffle lying on top of the mache salad, the spinach puree below the sturgeon (it made me want to forget my manners and lick my plate), and the rindsuppe (beef soup) that I finished in spite of my stomach’s protests of being full.
Everyone who worked the wine dinner moved at a rapid pace on Sunday, and the nine courses flew by in far less time than I had anticipated. Guests were sipping wine and clearly enjoying themselves. Nobody felt rushed. At the same time, none of us were twiddling our thumbs in between each course. Service was just as impressive as Maddy’s art, which these photos don’t do justice. Take a look at what Jason Maddy likes to do when the Ellmans give him permission to cook whatever he wants. Pretty impressive, I’d say.
“This was inspired by the Austrian farmer’s market,” said Maddy. The pairings in this salad are meant to represent the ending of winter and the coming of spring.
Maddy came out of his kitchen to explain the fourth course. “Grostl (not pictured) is something I learned from my chef at Danube. It’s kind of the idea of leftovers… but obviously, I’ve taken our leftover and elevated it.” Maddy made his grostl with tender lobster, sweet chestnut agnolotti, and rich foie gras.
Oak’s future wine dinners will take place on Sunday evenings. As soon as we get more information about the next one, we’ll post it on SideDish. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.