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World's Oldest Food and Wine Society Arrives in Westchester

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Wine geeks of Westchester, you should know about this: the county just got its own chapter of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a distinguished gastronomic society whose members meet at local restaurants for decadent dinners and an outpouring of great wine. It dates to 1248, when King Louis IX of France established the goose-roasters’ guild, the “Ayeurs,” rebranded “Rôtisseurs” several Louis later to include meat and game. The guild system got the axe during the French Revolution, but Rôtisseurs was resurrected by French gastronomes in 1950 and now spans 80 countries, including about 6,000 people in the United States and even Pope Francis. Members include professional and non-professional foodies (a duality represented in the coat of arms), and what would a 700-year-old society be without traditions, pins, and ribbons of rank? The organization also funds culinary scholarships and hosts competitions (Young Chefs, Young Sommeliers) that have been featured on the Food Network and CNN.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first dinner of the Westchester chapter (“bailliage”) at Madison Kitchen in Larchmont, whose Chef/Owner Nick DiBona was executive chef at Peter Pratt’s Inn in Yorktown for a decade and in 2013 was a winner on Food Network’s Chopped. New American cuisine might seem unexpected for a first fête, but we know Chef DiBona as a rôtisseur of the highest order (which you will not dispute if you have been to one of his summer pig roasts). In attendance were Louis Bruno, Officier Commandeur (and organizer of the Westchester chapter), several Northeast regional poo-bahs in all their regalia, and local members and prospective members.

The wine was flowing from the get-go. Guests were greeted with live harp music, a charcuterie and cheese platter, and Paul Goerg Brut Blanc de Blancs NV Premium Cru Champagne (en Magnum), wines from the society’s and members’ cellars, and selections from Madison Kitchen’s sommelier (of those we tried, the standout was a fruity, granitey Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru “Embazees” 2013). Hors d’ouevres—plenty enough to constitute dinner—were passed fast and furiously—some of which I was familiar with from previous visits (Hawaiian tuna tacos with wasabi sour cream, crispy house-made ricotta ravioli with bacon cream sauce), most of which I wasn’t (American caviar sliders, which I especially loved; lamb lollipops with mint syrup, Peking duck quesadillas, dry-aged beef sliders with Tickler Cheddar and bacon-onion jam, crispy Thai-spiced crab-stuffed shrimp, truffle and quail egg mini pizza, and much more). Later they were scooping out mini cones of the excellent house-made ice cream. A table of great wines was there for the trying throughout. We chatted with a Yale professor, a New York City wine auctioneer, and area residents.

“We don’t stand around talking about the slope of the grapes—if you do, we’ll kick you out,” Bruno announced. “It’s about camaraderie, great food, and great wine.” The chapter will be having eight or nine dinners annually—one casual, one or two business- or theme-attired, the rest formal (for some, we’re talking tuxedo formal). Events range from $75 to $195 per person. Membership is by invitation, and you must attend at least one event to be invited to apply. Once in, you can attend events and organized trips worldwide, with hotel discounts and other benefits. Between a one-time induction fee and local and national annual dues, the first-year cost is $1,000. It does not cost much extra to join the Société Mondiale du Vin as well, a branch of the society that delves further into wine with separate tastings and dinners.

The next event is an Olde English Holiday Dinner on December 29 at the new Lenny’s Seafood & Steakhouse in Larchmont (from the owner of Il Castello in Mamaroneck). Five courses ($80 per person) will include aged prime beef sliced tableside with Yorkshire pudding and root vegetables served with Ch Lascombes 2eme Cru Margaux 1985, and Olde English strawberry trifle served with Cockburn Vintage Port 1997. The chapter’s Induction Dinner will take place in February at La Panetière in Rye. For information, contact Louis L. Bruno at westchesterchaine@gmail.com.

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