The holiday dinner for the Cincinnati Bailliage was held at Boca on December 15, 2013. Boca was previously located in a suburb but recently took over the downtown space that was vacated in 2005 by the legendary Maisonette restaurant. The Maisonette received 41 consecutive 5 star Mobile awards (the longest run in the history of the award) but closed its doors in 2005. Boca Executive Chef / Owner David Falk honed his skills for 2 years at the Maisonette before starting his own wildly successful Italian restaurant in 2001. Since that time, Chef Falk has been elevated to “foodie rock star” status in Cincinnati with his elegant, imaginative cooking style. It was only fitting that his success as a chef should bring him back full circle to the downtown building where he started his career.
Upon entering the newly designed restaurant, guests were given glasses of 2003 Roederer Estate Brut L’ Ermitage and encouraged to explore the gorgeous two story interior connected by a grand winding staircase. Exposed brick walls and rustic woodwork were highlighted by flowing textiles, glazed tiles, and sparkling chandeliers. As we took in the spectacular architecture, canapés were passed which included truffled deviled eggs, pommes soufflés (a Maisonette classic), and beef tartare. At this point, we knew that we were in for a real treat.
Once all of the members and guests had arrived, Bailli George Elliott gathered us together on the first floor to honor a true Cincinnati legend, Professionnel du Vin Marjorie Valvano, with the Bronze Star of Excellence. This award is given by the Bailli to someone who goes above and beyond in serving the Chaîne and their community. No one more exemplifies this than Marj who has been involved with wine for over 55 years. She was recruited in 1962 by Pogue’s department store in downtown Cincinnati to manage a concept that had never been tried before – a wine shop within the store. Over the following 25 years she made numerous trips to Europe and California where she brought back wines in an effort to educate and provide Cincinnatians with some of the finest wines of those times. She was a founding member of the Cincinnati Baillage in 1980 and has been passionately involved with the Cincinnati International Wine Festival, the Cancer Family Care Center, and the Cincinnati Symphony Women’s Committee. Marj, currently 85 years young, was given a heartfelt round of applause by all with the acceptance of this rare award.
Following the ceremony, 141 diners (the largest attended dinner in our group’s history), took their seats filling both levels of the restaurant. The first course was a poached egg and haricot vert salad paired with 2011 Louis Armond Sancerre. This was followed by a butter truffled seared scallop and caramelized Brussels sprouts paired with 2009 Maggy Hawk “Hawkster” Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. The almonds, green beens, and light vinaigrette of the salad were a great match with the Sancerre while the earthy truffle flavor of the scallop paired exquisitely with the Pinot Noir. A traditional pasta course of lumache Bolognese was appropriately served with 2009 Tenuta Luce della Vite from Tuscany followed by a tender, perfectly prepared filet mignon paired with 2010 Nickel & Nickel Hayne Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The pairing of these two bold wines with the expertly prepared pasta and meat courses was a real hit. The cherry on top of our Sunday evening was a chocolate terrine with toasted pistachios, olive oil, and smoked sea salt which was heaven with a second pouring of the Nickel & Nickel.
There you have it: a Cincinnati icon and a gorgeous historical restaurant with “over the top” food and wine pairings. We all owe Marj a huge debt of gratitude for starting something so long ago that has led to magical evenings such as this.
Graig Smith MD, Vice Chargé de Presse