Thanks to a generous and well organized client in Baton Rouge, powerhouse litigation boutique Keogh Cox & Wilson, I was treated to a food and wine extravaganza at Beausoleil Restaurant & Bar. Partners on the Keogh Cox management committee brainstormed with executive chef and owner, Nathan Gresham (also former chef de cuisine at Galatoire's) to design a five-course tasting menu that combined the tastes and techniques of new southern cooking and classic French cuisine.
Executive Chef Nathan Gresham, Beausoleil
Partner John Wolff and managing partner Drew Blanchfield dug into their personal wine collections and uncovered perfect bottles of white and red wines, mostly French, but also some California reds, to perfectly pair with the flavors and textures of Chef Gresham's dishes.
We started with housemade cracklins. OK, I don't love fried pig skin - I'm just not Southern or devil-may-care-about-my-health-and-figure enough. The real first dish was flash-fried gulf oysters with creamy truffle vinaigrette (pictured above) and shaved manchego - paired with a 2004 Chablis Premier Cru - Monts Mains. The wine was both crisp and buttery, and the oysters melted in our mouths, they were so tender.
Our second course was a lamb meatball "masala" over stone-ground grits and raita sauce paired with a 1997 Kistler Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. This wine was called a "cult favorite" by Robert Parker and is nearly impossible to find today. It was a dark red, suitable for the lamb, but smooth.
Our third course was spear-caught cobia, stewed crowder peas, poached shrimp and saffron butter. The cobia, which was new to me, had been speared the day before, so it couldn't have been fresher and more flavorful. The Louisiana state record for cobia was 91 pounds; ours was 90.
Spear-caught cobia fish
The cobia was paired with a 2008 Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot Puligny Montrachet - again, a pairing that brought out the best of this dish, without either over-powering the other.
Spear-caught cobia, stewed crowder peas, poached shrimp and saffron butter
The meat course (yes! we are still eating!) was grilled Collete de Boeuf (cap of beef - of the ribeye) Bourgogne, baby carrots and shitake mushroom. It was paired with one of my favorite non-Pinot Noir reds of all time, Turley Zinfandel. This 2008 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from Grist Vineyard was a chewy, hearty wine, substantial enough for the beef, but not distracting from the feast of flavors on the plate.
Grilled Collete de Boeuf Bourgogne, baby carrots and shitake mushroom
Dessert needed to be gentle after this beautiful food fest, and it was - Louisiana poached pears, whipped mascarpone cheese with cinnamon syrup. And this was paired with a 2001 Chateau Guiraud 1st Cru Sauternes - a fitting choice to top off this extraordinary meal.
Remarkably, there was no food/wine coma immediately after our dinner, or even the next morning. It demonstrates the care taken in portion-sizing and pairings.
So, what can law firms learn from this one-of-a-kind experience?
1. This evening was entirely unexpected. It took a lot of advance designing, creativity and follow through. These lawyers didn't just make a reservation at a nice restaurant, they created an experience that I will remember (and talk about) for a long time.
Lawyers: create unexpected, surprising experiences and memories for your clients and colleagues. Stand out from the throngs of other lawyers who aren't clever or thoughtful enough to design an evening like this.
2. Seek perfection outside the practice of law. You can find it in an orchestra hall, on a theater stage, in a book of poetry, in the kitchen or at a farmer's market. Recognize it, embrace it, fall in love with it. Lawyers are trained to be critical thinkers, and that often leads to cynicism, which is a precursor to disappointment. If you don't stem that tide, you will no longer be good company; and clients admit that they want to do business with people they like and enjoy.
If you aren't skilled enough to create perfect evenings like the one I've just described, then find a chef like Nathan Gresham who can help you design one.
3. Don't be snobs. I am passionate about brilliant food and wine, and I've had remarkable meals all over the world. I have also swooned over a bite of warm, crusty French bread with unsalted butter in a tiny restaurant in a little town in Minnesota. True foodies celebrate food everywhere, not only in major market cities at Michelin star restaurants.
Stay grounded. Open your eyes so you can witness the great gifts of talented people who are surrounding you everyday.
4. Don't be afraid to be memorable. I've written this before in several blog posts, and it bears repeating. Chef Gresham was memorable, because he married classic French cooking with beloved Southern flavors and dishes, and then opened a restaurant to share it with others.
What can you do to be truly memorable?