Barberian’s celebrates Louis Jadot’s 150th birthday with Geddy Lee, Jamieson Kerr and a meal money can’t buy
Like a speakeasy holding a social during prohibition, Barberian’s Steakhouse quietly hosted 29 guests in its wine cellar last Thursday evening to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Burgundy winemaker Maison Louis Jadot. The setting and menu were brazenly recession-unfriendly, with vintages easily costing hundreds, if not thousands, per bottle. Invitees were mainly from the owner Aaron Barberian’s wine club—which he says is currently looking for a new member—and Toronto foodie celebs (there was one rock star, too). Though fighting off a sore throat, Barberian made his guests feel extra welcome because there were actually two anniversaries to commemorate that night: Louis Jadot’s 150th and Barberian’s Steakhouse’s 50th.
Among those who sipped non-vintage champagne and picked at the lobster platter were Rush front man Geddy Lee, Ritchies Auctioneers president Stephen Ranger, Craig de Blois of Lifford Wine Agency and Jamieson Kerr, owner of Crush Wine Bar. Ian Hollick of Australia’s Hollick Wines was also in attendance, joking about the cheeky name of Kerr’s soon-to-open gastro-pub, The Queen and Beaver. Kerr, in high (and possibly full of) spirits, smiled and said the Yonge-Dundas restaurant is on track to open in two weeks. The guest of honour was Pierre-Henry Gagey, who runs Louis Jadot and flew in from Burgundy, France, just for the dinner.
We dined on four courses, each paired with a Louis Jadot vintage (natch), while surrounded by 22,000 bottles of wine—$6 million worth, according to Barberian. The first course was a simple salad with lobster and mixed greens paired with a 1985 Montrachet Grand Cru, a white with strong wood notes. CBC Radio’s resident wine expert Konrad Ejbich leaned in to whisper that the bottle was probably worth $3,500. Next was a rich rabbit terrine with pickled leeks and a 1999 Beaune Les Avaux. Our ears pricked up when Barberian responded to the group’s praise of the terrine by mentioning that he plans to open a butcher shop once the economy improves.
The main was a big slab of bone-in filet mignon (a cut not available on the restaurant’s regular menu), served with mashed potatoes, wild asparagus Fed-Exed from France and a buttery mushroom medley consisting of morels, chanterelles and blue foot mushrooms. Barberian, who under the dim lights resembled Alec Baldwin, asked the server to bring one of the guests a cup of the blue-tinted fungi to take home after the diner raved about their tenderness. Jaws dropped when we found out the steak would be paired with a ’78 Gevrey-Chambertin. But the best was saved for last, when the pungent cheese platter was perfectly complemented by the equally strong ’69 Clos Vougeot. John “Johnny” Szabo, Canada’s master sommelier, looked like a giddy schoolboy as his glass was being filled.
As if the evening hadn’t already epitomized the word “grandiose,” before calling it a night, Gagey announced that everyone in the room would take home a magnum of 2007 burgundy packed in its own wooden box. Happily weighted down with our cargo, and floating on the delights of the evening, we found ourselves thinking, “Recession? What recession?”