“Here’s to the best of men”
August 8, 2021
Article by Desirée A. Farley, Chargée de Presse
Photos by William M. Harris, Bailli
On the 8th of August, 48 Confrères of the Albany Bailliage gathered with great elation after a long pause to rejoice, celebrate, and most of all honor the late Dr. Joel Spiro – a loving, supportive friend to a legion of chefs.
The dinner was hosted by the Purnomo family at Yono’s Restaurant, Albany’s premiere restaurant for world class fine dining since 1986. Yono’s has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator, Santé, DiRoNA & The American Culinary Federation among others. The restaurant features Chef Yono Purnomo’s signature blend of contemporary American cuisine with Indonesian influences utilizing seasonal, farm fresh ingredients from upstate New York. However, Chef Yono Purnomo did not act alone. As a tribute to Dr. Spiro, some seven talented chefs, including Chaîne members, Jose Arteche, David Campbell and Joan Dembinski, volunteered their services in connection with the execution of this dinner.
The Champagne reception took place in dp an American Brasserie, an informal bar and dining venue adjacent to Yono’s and run by Yono’s son, Dominick Purnomo. Nicely presented butler passed exotic offerings whirled around the room while laughter and chatter between old friends and family members abounded. The Ahi Tuna Tartare on Endive was particularly good, while the Golden & Ruby Beet Crispy Wontons with R & G Chevre were beautifully presented and a huge hit among guests. Members smiled gleefully as they tasted the Three Cheese Arancini topped with Sambal-Mayo followed by the Eel and Avocado Asian Dumplings with Gochujang Sauce, but they never saw the Tempura Battered Silkworms coming. Larvae? Yes, these lightly fried morsels were delightfully crispy (not crunchy) and a great source of protein. Also, a wonderful conversation piece.
As a surprise gift, each attendee was presented with a memorial pin that Bailli Bill Harris had commissioned featuring Dr. Spiro’s picture. Below the photo were these words: “Bon Vivant-Raconteur-Ami Bien Aimé.”
In the spirit of the evening and paying tribute to the Spiro family, the meal itself honored the good doctor’s favorite dishes and flavors. First up, the Hudson Valley Foie Torchon donned with cherry gelée and local honeyed peaches which melted on the tongue almost instantaneously. This sweet and savory dish had a distinct sweetness forming the perfect balance when paired with the 2016 Sauternes from Lafaurie-Peyraguey.
The evening was continuously met with the outpouring of sentiment and admiration for good friends, good food, and good times had by past and present members. Adding to our delight, the culinary team prepared an incredibly flavorful delicacy, a rich, moist, and elegantly presented quail – one of Dr. Spiro’s favorites. Upon tasting the foraged mushroom duxelles, keffir lime leaf, lemongrass and chilies, this dish turned from elegant to complex and exquisite. Satisfyingly the cool climate Chardonnay (Macon Village 2019) paired lovingly with the nicely spiced “Burung Puyah” as they say in Indonesian.
The next dish, shredded duck confit and pan seared sliced duck breast, was serenaded into the intimate dining space delicately laid in a luxurious foie gras jus, ginger, and sauce opor, which can be described as a light Indonesian style gravy mildly spiced with delicate notes of coconut. While sipping the 2014 Bouchard “Clos de la Mousse” 1er Cru, colleagues could be overheard sharing memories of becoming members of the Albany Bailliage as early as the 1970’s!
Our final entrée was marinated grilled Icelandic lamb loin and rack, or “Gule Kambing” for those learning the language. The wild pasture-raised Icelandic lamb meat is known for being wonderfully lean and tender – the distinctive taste resulting from the Icelandic grasslands and the aromatic spice and herbs on which the lambs typically graze. This dish was paired with two wines: a 2017 Domaine de L’Amandine “Seguret” Cotes du Rhone Villages and a highly rated 2012 Clos du Mont Olivet “La Cuvee du Papet” Chateauneuf du Pape. An informal vote found that the lowly Cotes du Rhone Villages was by far the winner. Go figure.
And, without further ado Chef Gabriella O’Neil presented her Tropical Pavlova, incorporating meringue, mango coulis and Chantilly with a macadamia chili crunch. Chef O’Neil will represent the United States at the International Young Chef Competition held in Paris this year. She is an Albany resident and CIA graduate who worked for and was mentored by our very own Maître Rôtisseur Yono Purnomo.
While Yono’s is a destination for weddings, special events, private dining and entertaining, on this night it was a place to come together, to be in the presence of those who share the love of fine food, wine, friendship, and to spend the evening memorializing our colleague and what this past year has brought to each of us.
After our fine dining experience and having a memorable evening reminiscing with longtime friends, an extraordinary group of dining room professionals entered the room. The culinary and service teams were introduced, spoken about with great pride, and pins were allotted to each participant including our rising star, Chef Rôtisseur Gabby O’Neil.
The evening was the perfect tribute to the Spiro family, right down to Dr. Spiro’s favorite flower – sunflowers, which brightened each table.