It seems only fitting that the most outstanding chef in the country should be managing the food programs in the most outstanding outdoor performance venue in the country. This year, Lucques Group doyennes Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have taken over the food and beverage programs at the Hollywood Bowl. The rollout will commence just weeks after Goin took home a James Beard award as the nation's best chef: suddenly a night out under the stars has become even more delightful.
At an onstage gathering last week at the Bowl, Goin unveiled some of the dishes she'll feature on her various menus, a locally sourced selection that's far broader and more global than the Mediterranean leanings at her various restaurants Lucques, AOC, Tavern and the Larder. Some of the highlights include grain salads and wood-roasted swordfish with fresh olives and preserved lemon, fried chicken, burgers, tacos, Asian noodles and banh mi.
As for the wine programs, Caroline Styne, who is Goin's business partner and sommelier, has retooled the Bowl's rather staid wine offerings from top to bottom, taking her adventurous palate onto a more mainstream platform — which she sees, naturally, as an opportunity. "The job is the same," she says, "to get people to let go a little bit, to venture into smaller production wines. It's OK if you don't know the name on the label."
Styne remains committed to organic, sustainable, and biodynamically grown grapes, not an easy feat when you're working with the sort of volume of sales in a typical Bowl summer,, upward of 100,000 glasses of wine over the season. She found a willing partner in the Winc group, a wine company based in Lompoc that has just four vintages of direct-to-consumer Central Coast wines. About a dozen of the Bowl's offerings are Winc-created: a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, and a rosé called Summer Water, as well as a number of offbeat wines such as a northern-Rhône-inspired Syrah-Viognier blend, a crisp Grenache Blanc, and even an old vine Valdiguié, all from Santa Barbara County. To cut down on waste, the highest volume wines will be delivered by keg.
Most of the selections are simple and gluggable, inspired by the Bowl experience itself: uplifting, unheavy acid-driven whites and reds, meant to be chilled down and knocked back. Even the reds —full-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon — make an occasional list appearance, but are rather scant.
As a Cabernet alternative, Styne suggests a Central Coast Nebbiolo by the Cal-Ital specialist Palmina, from the 2009 vintage, a light and rosy red with a bit of tannic heft but otherwise light and refreshing. And Styne's go-to white at the moment is a crisp, charming Chenin Blanc from Chateau de Brezé in the Saumur region of the Loire Valley. "It's a little off the beaten path," says Styne, "but it has that crisp, clean minerality that makes it ideal for cheese plates, simple salads. It's really the ultimate picnic wine."