For as long as Preeti Mistry has been a professional cook, restaurant people have talked about the same handful of cuisines in the context of wine pairing: French. Italian. Maybe some take on California cuisine that’s also rooted in European fine dining traditions.
Wouldn’t it be something, Mistry thought, if you could go out to a fancy wine dinner and the restaurant served you something more interesting—and less stereotypically Eurocentric—than a plate of braised short ribs over polenta?
That’s the idea behind the former Juhu Beach Club chef’s new collaboration with Healdsburg-based J Vineyards & Winery: “Shifting the Lens,” a chef’s residency program that aims to recenter the conversation around food and wine pairing, and fine dining in general, while giving the spotlight to chefs of color. The summer-long series features a different BIPOC woman as a guest chef each month, who will create a five- to seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings to serve at J Winery’s elegant “Bubble Room” dining room.
Now, Mistry themself is taking over for the month of August. Their residency will run Thursday through Sunday from Aug. 18–28, with seatings between 11am and 4pm each day, plus a special VIP dinner and Q&A session on Saturday, Aug. 20.
The idea, Mistry says, is to counter the narrative that food and wine pairing is an art that only applies to white, European cuisines—and not to, say, Chinese food or Mexican food or soul food. For instance, for the longest time the conventional wisdom around Indian food has been that you shouldn’t even bother with wine. “Just drink beer or cocktails” is the advice you’ll typically get, Mistry explains. The other typical approach would be to pair Indian food with a very sweet, fruit-forward wine like a Syrah or a Gewurztraminer—“to throw sweetness at the spice,” as Mistry puts it. “‘Meh,’ I say. So basic.”