Plant Pairings: A Chat With the Josef Centeno Group’s Genevieve Hardison on P.Y.T.’s Novel Vegetable-Focused Pairings

Vegetable-centric menus are popping up more and more as restaurateurs completely give into the idea—and often the challenge—of making vegetables the star. Take Josef Centeno, chef-owner of downtown’s beloved Bäco Mercat, Bar Amá, Orsa & Winston, and P.Y.T. group. Those tasked with managing the wine and beverage program at P.Y.T. are handed the unique, fun, albeit tricky, job of creating wine and cocktail menus around an ever-changing, garden-inspired menu. To find out just how much fun this job really is, I had to have a chat with Genevieve Hardison, director of operations at the Josef Centeno Group, about P.Y.T.’s innovative beverage program.

ELA: What is the overall focus of your wine program at P.Y.T?

GH: P.Y.T. is an entirely domestic wine program with a focus on natural, organic wines. Much like Josef’s relationships with local farmers, we have relationships with most of the people who grow and make the wines on our list.

ELA: What is the biggest challenge you’ve found in pairing wine with vegetable-focused dishes?

GH: The biggest challenge is that vegetables have a different spectrum of flavor than, say, meats. So we have to discover that spectrum and then choose wines to match. We find our list has a lot more bright, zippy wines than dense, dark, broody reds.

ELA: With the abundance of amazing spring vegetables available in Los Angeles, which upcoming pairings are on your radar for this season’s menus?  

GH: Our salt-baked turnip is a special dish that takes a traditional meat preparation and turns it on its head. The result is a fragrant turnip with flavors of anise, served with walnut, cilantro, and bitter greens. We love this dish with a dry white wine. Birichino’s 2015 Malvasia Bianca from Monterey fits the bill perfectly. Light, floral and spicy, it has bright acid up front and a silky, dry finish. Another exciting pairing is our Tehachapi cracked wheat risotto with burrata, snap pea, ghee, and ginger. This dish would do well with a lot of wines but we love to pair this with an orange wine from Oregon, like the 2016 Franchere Wine Company ‘For Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Move Here’ Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley. This is a skin-contact white that also spends four hours on Pinot Noir skins. It’s an orange and a rosé in one. The wine is full of citrus, with woodsy notes mixed with bright berry and soft tannins. It pairs incredibly well with the creamy risotto, without overpowering it.

ELA: Have you come across some fun spirits that seem to be a great complement to the P.Y.T. menu, either on their own or in cocktails? 

GH: The bar at P.Y.T. is gin-focused. Gin has such a floral (and often vegetal) flavor profile. It makes it ideal to pair with vegetable juices in our cocktails. Right now we’re loving Monkey 47, a German gin made with 47 botanicals. It’s woodsy and vegetal, but also floral and fruity. ELA: Is there a style of beer you find works particularly well with your menu?

GH: We love farmhouse ales. There are two exciting beers we love right now. The first is our BACOBEER, made with local brewers Solarc. It’s hoppy, malty, and delicious. The second is Mikkeller’s Spontan series. We first carried their Spontancarrot, which was a carrot sour ale, and now it’s apricots. Sour profiles complement Josef’s food well and Mikkeller always makes incredibly balanced and thoughtful beers.

ELA: For a plant-based home cook, what tips do you have for selecting a wine to pair with their meal?

GH: I think vegetables, in some ways, can be easier to pair because so many vegetal notes occur in wine. I think, depending on the preparation, looking for whites and lighter reds is the key. Varietals we love include Tocai, Vermentino, Arneis, Pinot Gris, and a million more. If the dish has a cream component, then finding a white that is creamy, like a Viognier, or a red with soft, dark fruit, like an elegant Syrah, will help. But pairing wine should be fun and stress free. You learn as much from bad pairings as you do from good.


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