French Food and Wine Fest Sud de France Sails into Town

Haute cuisine and vins galore to try, test and buy

The Avalon Jazz Band serenaded the crowd aboard “The Water Table.” (Charles Roussel)
The staff set a place for guests on the windowsills all around the boat. (Charles Roussel)
Dining with a view (Charles Roussel)
Guests donned straw boater hats. (Charles Roussel)
The first of many pours (Charles Roussel)
Back on dry land, Chef Ignacio Mattos prepared the menu for the dinner cruise at his restaurant Estela (pictured here, months prior to the event). (Charles Roussel)
June 9: Paul Liebrandt of The Elm cooked a cassoulet for the Sud de France launch party, also aboard a boat. (Charles Roussel)
He reinterprets the dish as a shrimp-based bean stew. (Charles Roussel)
June 17: Chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra (Charles Roussel)
Deeply inspired by the neo-bistro movement in Paris, the duo serves a different five-course menu at their Lower East Side spot each night. (Charles Roussel)
True to form, they will whip up a surprise menu for their Sud de France tasting table. Clue: It includes a brandade en feuille de figure. (Charles Roussel)
June 18: Sean Rembold of Reynard at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn reinterprets Languedoc cuisine using local ingredients, paired with wines handpicked by top wine director Lee Campbell. (Charles Roussel)
June 23: Formerly of Roberta’s pizza, Chef Max Sussman (left) pulls in his brother Eli (right) of cult sandwich shop Mile End Delicatessen to cook with him at The Cleveland. (Charles Roussel)
The brothers’ contribution to the festival? Their own stab at Mediterranean fare, served in the Nolita eatery. (Charles Roussel)
June 29: Closing the festival is a brunch from Top Chef Season 3 contestant Camille Becerra of Soho spot Navy. (Charles Roussel)
Hailing from Puerto Rico, Miss Becerra cooks with flair, even wearing a trilby chapeau in the kitchen. (Charles Roussel)
We hope you like fish. This brunch builds on the flavor of sardines, oysters, cuttlefish, anchovies and of course, caviar. (Charles Roussel)

Water mixed with wine on Sunday Evening as Sud de France, the French food and libations festival, opened with a packed-to-the-gills dinner cruise along the East River—complete with jazz band on board, naturellement.

Sold out for weeks, the first-of-summer fete pushed off from the East 23rd Street Pier, where a World War II-era Navy Yard patrol boat transformed into a floating restaurant under young Uruguayan chef Ignacio Mattos of Estela in Noho.

The next evening, a second yacht party sailed off, this time, with a shrimp-based cassoulet by Chef Paul Liebrandt of Williamsburg’s The Elm. Guests lined up, like boat hands in the galley, as a sous chef ladled the white bean stew into small cardboard trays, with a slice of sourdough on the side.

“Yeah… I think that’s the last of it,” Mr. Liebrandt said, scraping down the sides of the pot at 8 p.m., half an hour before the boat even set sail. Luckily, DJ Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem manned the (audio) decks, appeasing the frenchies and francophiles, who were themselves tipsy on wine and the blare of horns from a Balkan jazz band that came along for the ride.

Evoking the flavors of the South of France—hence the festival’s name—Messrs. Mattos and Liebrandt preceded six other chefs who are exploring the terroir, or the distinct tastes, of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, pardon my French.

Chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra, Camille Becerra of Navy, Sean Rembold from Reynard (Gallic for “fox”) and brothers Max and Eli Sussman at The Cleveland will try their hand at tweaking rousquille (we hear Miss Becerra is adding rose water and vanilla to the meringue-coated Catalan biscuit), aligot, cod brandade and more, while sommeliers pair each dish with wines from the region. That’s happening all throughout June so even if you didn’t make it to Sunday, don’t fret. You haven’t completely missed the boat…

Buy a ticket to one of Sud de France’s “tasting tables” here. The price per seat includes the multicourse menu, wine pairings, tip and tax.

Click on the slideshow for the lineup of events, as well as some snaps from the opening.

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