Eat, drink, and be informed at Oyster Bar Grill
When Oyster Bar Grill hosted the first of its series of wine dinners on Wednesday, Nov. 12, roses were the centerpieces and oysters and champagne the starters. The theme was French, and the food was creatively matched to a group of French wines selected in a collaborative effort between head Chef Alex Washut and wine and beverage director Matthew Ryan.
Filled nearly to the dinner's 50-seat capacity, the Oak Bluffs restaurant was warm and the lights dim. Guests were seated for dinner just after 7 pm, after the cocktail hour. Mr. Ryan opened the event by introducing David Turcan, wine purveyor of Commonwealth Wine & Spirits, Inc. of Mansfield. A native of France, Mr. Turcan explained every wine being served in his charming accent.
Wine dinners are a good way to promote a restaurant, according to Mr. Turcan. "These events are always a good time," he said. "However the artist tonight really is the chef."
Photos by M.C. Wallo
The Oyster Bar has had a six-year history with Commonwealth Wines, whose wine sales representative, Karen Richer, mentioned how these events can be beneficial for a business. "People talk and if it is great, people will come back," she said.
An event like a wine pairing dinner is a great deal of work. "We began planning this event in September," Mr. Turcan explained.
Although the bulk of the effort falls on the restaurant, it also requires effort on the part of the wine distributor. "All the wines David came in and tasted with Matt," Ms. Richer said.
As Mr. Turcan began his introductory words he spoke of the areas represented in the dinner's wines. "Tonight we will do a Tour de France, but with no workout," he said. The wines represented the five top wine regions in France, and Mr. Turcan's fluid yet energetic presentation made it easy to follow the story of each wine.
As diners were led through the regions of Champagne, Loire, Burgundy, Rhone, Bordeaux, and Normandy, they seemed enchanted by food, the stories and a wonderful eau-de-vie from the grape (usually eau-de-vie is only used in reference to fruit brandy, though Calvados, the last wine of the night, is included).
The four Oyster Bar floor staff members were especially helpful. Between courses, they asked patrons if anything was needed, and inquired about food allergies and specific preferences. Like a proud parent, Mr. Ryan walked around to all of the tables to see that all were happy.
The music seemed well matched to the courses, gradually growing louder as Mr. Turcan finished a segment of comments and the food began to be served. "I could talk all night about wines," he said with a smile.
The chefs in the kitchen, Mr. Washut, Colin Hoyt, Mikey Rottman, and Enrique Gaspar, with Sidnei Monteiro, produced a wonderful meal. The first course was a scallop montage, then salmon, duck and foie gras, but the crowning glory was the finale - baked apple tartin with an incredibly powerful glass of an apple brandy from the heart of Normandy called Calvados from a third generation family run domain boasting 9,000 apple trees. During this course everyone seemed to be deeply enjoying the entire atmosphere as the room grew quiet. All the courses were large, and the glasses were filled with just the right amount of wine.
Owner Michael Gillespie explained the organizational process to this event. "They went through the regions to find out what they were growing, the herbs the flowers to see what would match with which wines," he said. "It was a lot of work."
According to patron Fred Mascolo, "Glasses clinking are a sign that people are having fun."
And Richard Garcia of Jim's Package Store commented: "It is a great event for the Vineyard, because it is a time of year that is great for getting out. This couldn't happen in the summer when everyone is busy doing his or her own thing. Also, to have someone from the international wine scene here is really good for the community, plus the setting was intimate and the staff were wonderful."
Private chef Patrizia Cipolletta summed up the evening perfectly. "This evening is all about eating slowly, and enjoying the wine," she said. "Like in Europe, the plate isn't taken from you. It is about bonding, learning about the wines, and savoring them."