Among the many other reasons a wine dinner at the Halyard piqued my interest was the fact that it began at 4:30. My kind of early bird special. The Halyard is located at the groovily refurbished Sound View in Greenport, a motel so close to the Long Island Sound that you feel like you are on a boat, not on Route 48.
Thanks to the end of daylight saving time, the sun set over the Sound at 4:40 on Sunday, which created beautiful light in what is known as the Library, a dark red, more intimate dining room at the Halyard. Another reason I was eager to make the trek is that Stephan Bogardus, the talented chef, was creating a wine dinner with his new bride, Allegra Borghese, with wine from the vineyard of her brother Giovanni and their family.
Stephan Bogardus was born and raised on the North Fork. His wife, Allegra, is the daughter of Marco and Ann Marie Borghese, the prince and princess (literally) who bought the Hargrave Vineyard and Winery back in the ’90’s from Alex and Louisa Hargrave, pioneers of North Fork wine. The Borghese family moved from Philadelphia with their three children and not only continued to grow grapes and make wine (under the new name of Castello de Borghese), but were wholeheartedly embraced by the community and were known for their warmth and hospitality. Stephan and Allegra were the best of buddies all throughout high school.
The Borghese wine dinner began with tiny cups of a silky and flavorful corn soup and dainty squares of paté dotted with vinegary whole mustard. The planned first course was to be bay scallops, then fluke, but ended up being a weakfish crudo, one of the most creative and delicious I have ever tasted. The weakfish was cut at various angles, sashimi style, and seasoned with cilantro, micro greens, lime juice, ginger confit, and little balls of cantaloupe. The crudo was served with a light and wonderful Founder’s Field sauvignon blanc.
“When I was on my way out of the house this morning, I found some African blue basil by the stoop and I thought that would be good on the crudo,” Stephan explained. He is enthusiastic, confident, and modest all at the same time and is always sharing new recipe ideas.
After high school, the pals Stephan and Allegra went their separate ways, he to the Culinary Institute of America and beginning a distinguished career as a chef, she to travel the world and study art therapy and psychology. At one point in his career Stephan had cooked with Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming at their North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. When Gerry became incapacitated by A.L.S., Stephan recalled, “I was his hands in the kitchen and he was the mind.” When Mr. Hayden died in 2015, Stephan returned and took over the kitchen for the next several years, maintaining its reputation as the best restaurant on Long Island.
In 2014, Allegra’s mother succumbed suddenly and unexpectedly to stomach cancer. Ten days later her father died in a car accident.
“We both ended up back on the North Fork due to tragedy,” Stephan remembers. He had been struggling with his own demons, having become an alcoholic at a young age. He is now seven and a half years years sober, is an avid practitioner of yoga, and drinks nothing stronger than white tea. He appreciates the irony and “convenience” of being a recovering alcoholic newly married to a psychologist.
The second course was a house-made tagliatelle in a rich sauce similar to cacio e pepe, lightly salty with two-year-old Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mr. Bogardus circled the table, shaving generous paper-thin slices of white truffle onto each guest’s portion, the earthy scent mingling with that of the Parmesan cheese. This dish was perfection, and everyone agreed that white truffles are far superior to the more aggressively flavored black. The tagliatelle was served with a fine pinot noir. Of all of the wineries on the North Fork, only three produce pinot noir.
There were 12 guests at the dinner, which included Allegra and her brother, Giovanni, who is now running the family business and spoke eloquently between courses about the wines. “I’ve been wanting to do this dinner with my brother-in-law for a long time,” Giovanni said, and there were smiles all around; his sister had married Stephan just two months ago.
The third course was Berkshire pork belly with a confit of sun chokes, crispy chips of sun choke on top, and chanterelle jus. The wine served with it was a splendid 2017 merlot cabernet blend that stood up to the richness of the tender pork.
The final course was a fall classic in the form of a roasted pear from Wesnofske Farm, but it was modernized with a sesame streusel and caramelized white chocolate. This was paired with a few sweet sips of Late Harvest chardonnay Allegra, named by the parents for their daughter on her 16th birthday.
Stephan came over to explain in detail how he created the magical “caramelized” white chocolate and then described a dish he wants to create next. “I was emailing my sous chef last night, telling him how we should try to do this!” His charm and talent and enthusiasm are inspiring.
The more I learned of the Borghese family history, and observed brother and sister and brother-in-law, it was hard not to think of their parents and how completely proud they would be of the legacy they left behind and the legacy their expanding family is now creating on the North Fork.
In Stephan’s own words, “Being born and raised on the North Fork, then going away and coming home, going away and coming home, it really makes you value what you have. I think that if you try to put together a mantra for life, that’s it — you live through love and gratitude and value those things you have.”