Inspired by the Rhône

A menu from Tribeca Grill with bold, direct flavors

Inspired by the Rhône
(Linda Xiao)
Nov 30, 2019


Seared Red Snapper With Yellow Squash, Blistered Tomatoes & Opal Basil
Domaine St.-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2017

Grilled Baby Lamb Chops with Gnocco Romano & Roasted Hen of the Wood Mushrooms
Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2016

Pear & Blueberry Financier
Leydier & Fils Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise Domaine de Durban 2017

“First of all, the Rhône is, like, my thing, right?” says David Gordon, who for nearly three decades has been building the cellar at Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Tribeca Grill in New York City. For much of that time, his emphasis, long before it was fashionable, has been the wines of the Rhône. His direct, no-nonsense way of speaking comes across in this menu, created with chef Brenton Lee, which gives recipes and wine matches that delight rather than surprise.

Food, and specifically Tribeca Grill’s food, has given key to Gordon’s proselytization. “Rhône wines go extremely well with a lot of different foods,” he says. “Here at the restaurant, we’ve always had food that was not complicated. It didn’t have a lot of different flavors on the plate or spiciness. It’s a very wine-friendly cuisine because wine works really well with dishes that are simple, that have concentrated flavors, that are just more straightforward.”

The French wine region has noticed Gordon’s dedication. Just last year he was made an honorary citizen of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (only the third American to receive that distinction). He was also inducted into the industry group Echansonnerie des Papes and given a key to the city and a medal.

Gordon went all in on buying Rhône wines early, and under his direction, Tribeca Grill now offers a list of real depth and breadth. His original challenge was that Tribeca Grill, despite celebrity owners including Robert de Niro and investors such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the formal, white-tablecloth sister restaurant Montrachet, was designed to be almost neighborhood-y, with brick walls, a large central bar and food that was excellent without calling for attention. So he wouldn’t be investing in first-growths, and while he offered California wines, he didn’t want to emphasize them. He wanted to showcase wines that he felt matched the direct flavors on the plate.

Converting diners to Rhône wines took a while and involved a lot of hand-selling: “When we started with this Rhône list so many years ago, people didn’t order Châteauneuf-du-Pape. People didn’t know what it was,” Gordon reflects.

The menu that follows typifies the full, direct flavors in uncomplicated preparations that Gordon likes with Rhône wines. The first dish is snapper fillets spiked with lemon and tomato, with an herbaceous finish of basil. It’s almost Provençal in its clarity and profile, which makes good geographic sense.

Gordon points out that white Rhônes, like white Bordeaux, have been overshadowed by the local reds. Southern white Rhônes like the Domaine St.-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2017 that he selected here are especially good with food: “It has the full body and flavor that I like and a lot of our customers like, but it’s not Chardonnay,” he says. “So it’s not oak, it’s not vanilla. There’s a spring flower element, orange, citrus. It’s not an apple [character] like in Chardonnay.”

Isabel Ferrando of Domaine St.-Préfert has become a friend to Gordon. The white he chose is 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne, which is unusual; white Rhônes tend to emphasize Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc. This match is emblematic of his philosophy: “My ideas for pairing wine and food are very commonsensical and simple. I try to pair body to body, intensity to intensity. The white has a citrus element. I get lemon, orange and there’s a little lemon in the snapper, and the basil, which is herbal, and is a common characteristic in this wine. But the wine also has the body to stand up to the dish. I match like to like—there’s a commonality to it.”

The same goes for the next course, lamb chops loaded with herbs and served with an earthy, umami-packed mushroom and a Parmesan gnocco. These flavors demand the kind of wine many associate with the Rhône: dusky and a bit wild and intense, but also limber. And of course red.

Gordon wears his preferences on his sleeve. Red Rhône is his happy place. For example: “You can have Châteauneuf with pizza. I’ve tried it. I try it every Friday.”

But he does synthesize wines with food. “Red Rhône is a lot of ripe fruit,” Gordon says. “A lot of garrigue, herbes de Provence, black olive, pepper—full-bodied wines, but balanced. Wines that aren’t oaked tremendously for the most part. The truth is, the match is a no-brainer unless you do something weird to the lamb. It’s all about the gaminess, the herbs, the earthiness.”

Once again, his relationship with Alain Graillot, who makes the Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2016, goes back decades, and now he works with Graillot’s son Maxime. He also gives an insider tip that Graillot wines are often the best values on any fancy French wine list.

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, a sweet wine, is made in a fortified style known as vin doux naturel. Again, it has body to support the floral and tree fruit aromas. A pretty wine, with oomph, it’s matched with a financier: almost a tart but with almond paste, pear and blueberry for a fruity but rich end-of-meal lift.

Gordon’s matching—Leydier & Fils Beaumes-de-Venise Domaine de Durban 2017—is again direct, from a family-owned producer dating to the late 1960s. “Muscat’s always delicious,” he says. “It’s really hard to have a bad Muscat. But these guys specialize in it. I don’t want to make it look so easy, but it’s a no-brainer.”

Gordon’s back-handed, down-to-earth way of talking about wine extends into his family life—as does his love of the Rhône. For his 25th wedding anniversary, he and his wife, Jeanne, traveled to the region with their daughter, Ginger. “We decided to renew our vows in a Châteauneuf vineyard,” Gordon says. “My wife and I wrote our own vows, and with our daughter as a witness, went into a vineyard—just, like, pulled off the road and walked in—and then had a nice dinner in Avignon later.”

Seared Red Snapper With Yellow Squash, Blistered Tomatoes & Opal Basil

2 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 yellow squash, cut into equal-size pieces, about 1 inch
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges
1 branch opal basil or Thai basil, about 10 leaves
8 red snapper fillets

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer tomatoes to oven and roast until they have started to burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, toss the squash with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet set over high. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally. When the squash has begun to brown, add garlic to taste, plus 1 tablespoon butter, stirring to melt. Continue cooking until the squash is well-browned but not blackened. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon, basil and roasted tomatoes. Remove from heat.

3. Pat the fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat two large sauté pans with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the fish skin-side down and cook until skin has begun to brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. (If all of the fish doesn’t fit in the pans, cook in batches.) Carefully flip the fish and turn off the heat, leaving the fish in the pan for 1 to 2 minutes to finish cooking. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

David Gordon’s Selection: Domaine St.-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2017 (93, $62)
Wine Spectator Alternates: Domaine de la Solitude Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2017 (92, $50)
Michel Gassier Costières de Nîmes White Nostre Païs 2017 (91, $22)

Grilled Baby Lamb Chops with Gnocco Romano & Roasted Hen of the Wood Mushrooms

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 baby lamb chops, about 1 1/2 pounds
Salt and pepper
Gnocco Romano (recipe follows)
Roasted Hen of the Wood Mushrooms (recipe follows)

1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Place the lamb chops in a large dish and cover with the marinade, then cover container and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Remove lamb from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Heat a grill to high. Blot excess marinade and season lamb with salt and pepper. Transfer to grill, grilling each side for about 4 minutes, until the fat is rendered and the chops are brown on the outside and pink in the center for medium-rare. Serve alongside the Gnoccho Romano and Roasted Hen of the Wood Mushrooms. Serves 4.

Gnocco Romano
Vegetable oil or cooking spray, for greasing baking sheet
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (divided use)
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper

1. Lightly grease a 13- by 18-inch baking sheet with vegetable oil or cooking spray and set aside. In a medium pot set over medium heat, combine the cream and milk and bring to a slow simmer. Off the heat, whisk in the semolina flour until smooth. Turn heat to low and cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Turn off the heat, whisk in half the Parmesan and let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg yolks until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking sheet and let set overnight in the refrigerator. Cut into 4 squares.

2. Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on the gnocco squares and broil just until the cheese starts to brown, about 1 minute.

Roasted Mushrooms
1 cluster hen of the wood mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 cup chopped parsley
3 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup chopped basil
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 325° F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle the mushrooms with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the thyme, taking care to keep the mushroom cluster intact. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to 375° F and continue cooking until golden-brown, about 5 minutes more. Top with the herbs and lemon juice and cut into quarters.

David Gordon’s Selection: Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2016 (92, $45)
Wine Spectator Alternates: Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2016 (91, $48)
Les Vins de Vienne Crozes-Hermitage 2017 (90, $33)

Pear & Blueberry Financiers

4 Williams Pears, peeled, cored and cut lengthwise into 6 slices each
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped, pod and seeds reserved
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar
1 cup natural almond flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
1 pint fresh blueberries
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. In a saucepan, combine the pears, sugar and vanilla seeds and pod with 2 cups water. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it against the surface of the pears, and bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Let pears cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate until ready to use.

2. In a small pan, over medium heat, cook the butter until melted and golden-brown.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, all-purpose flour and egg whites. Beat on low speed until smooth. Add the brown butter in a slow stream until well-incorporated. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days.

3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Fill 6 to 8 mini loaf pans or ramekins, or a tart mold, halfway with batter. Drain pears from syrup, discarding the vanilla pod, and place in the batter, pressing down gently. Scatter the blueberries between the pear slices. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden-brown. Let cool until just warm, and remove from mold. Serve with ice cream. Serves 6 to 8.

David Gordon’s Selection: Leydier & Fils Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise Domaine de Durban 2017
Wine Spectator Alternates: Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Constantia 2015 (93, $101/500ml)
Rolly Gassmann Muscat Alsace Vendanges Tardives 2015 (92, $40)

375 Greenwich St., New York
(212) 941-3900
Grand Award

Recipes Cooking Pairings France Northern Rhône Rhône Valley Southern Rhône

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