By Nicholas Harary
Once a year, I like to throw a big party for my staff. Only seems fair. They deal with me in the restaurant for the other 364 days of the year. For parties like these – or really with anything in my life – my m.o. has always been to go big or go home.
Ever since I was a kid, I hated hitting singles or getting walked. I just wanted to belt homers. So, I asked our friends at OASIS Farm in Middletown if we could use their facility. They supply us with some of our finest produce and they’ve got a great pool and a killer pizza oven. It’s a great venue for a blowout barbecue.
The shopping list for the event was short but very particular:
Clams – 500 middlenecks, the best way to start any outdoor feast.
Lobster – 65 pounds of Nova Scotia’s finest for lobster rolls on custom baked Balthazar brioche buns.
Fresh mozzarella – 20 pounds made the night before, after our shift, for thin-crust margarita style pizzas in the wood-fired pizza oven.
The meat – The main course, a Pat LaFrieda blend of 65 percent sirloin and 35 percent fat made for the most juicy of burgers.
Chocolate chip cookies and bourbon vanilla ice cream – for homemade Chipwiches, made by our Pastry Chef Kelly Kennedy.
And to cook all of this, I rented a massive charcoal grill, 3-feet across and 5-feet long. This thing was a monster. Yet, despite all of this planning and the help of many culinary professionals, there was one little snafu that required some on-the-fly logistical changes.
You see, a grill like this demands a special spatula. You need an extra long tool to reach across the fiery expanse without roasting your arm. Of course, we only had the standard ones, making the job of turning burgers very dangerous. So, I enlisted two of my strongest kitchen guys to lift the heavy grate and move it away from the fire. Once out of harm’s way, it allowed me to run around the grill, frantically flipping the burgers on either side.
Although I had the award-winning Carton Brewery in Atlantic Highlands whip up a special brew for our event, I wanted to make sure the staff had great white wine to drink on that broiling hot day.
The best of the bunch was a high-toned, wildly aromatic Sancerre from Dominique Crochet. Crisp, clean and mineral-laced Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is one of my favorite kind of wines to drink regardless of the season. But, after a few laps around Dante’s Inferno grill and with a bowl of clams and a lobster roll, there could not be a more perfect wine. When entertaining outside, be sure the ingredients are great, double-check you have the right tools and serve this great Sancerre from a great boutique producer, Dominique Crochet.
The village of Bué has the highest elevation and most mineral soil within the appellation of Sancerre. It is home to the estate of Dominique Crochet, an artisan-farmer of the highest level. His family has naturally farmed Sauvignon Blanc in Bué for generations, coaxing the vibrant, green apple and quince flavors so typical to Sancerre from this village. The quintessential summer white, this electric wine is best served cool with any kind of seafood but is particularly good with rich lobster rolls!
Nicholas Harary is the owner and executive chef at restaurant Nicholas in Middletown.
In 2011, Restaurant Nicholas launched its Nicholas Wines program. Each month, owner and Executive Chef Nicholas Harary selects one to two wines to sell in the online store (www.restaurantnicholas.com). Chef Harary’s long lasting, personal relationships with winemakers and his commitment to storing wine at 56 degrees from Day One equates to unique access, value and quality for Nicholas Wines customers. Wines can be ordered by the bottle and/or case and shipped or picked up at the restaurant.