Joui Wine in Dayton hosts 5-course Persian dinner with wine pairing next week

Joui Wine in Dayton’s Fire Blocks District will be transformed into a traditional meykhaneh when it features five courses of Persian food paired with four wines on Wednesday, June 19.

Owner Lauren Gay met longtime friends Armin Rahmanian and Naysan McIlhargey when she attended a Persian feast they prepared at MAZU in Yellow Springs to celebrate the Persian New Year. Gay said she enjoyed hearing them talk about the ingredients that went into the different dishes and the cultural importance of what was being served.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

“They’re not chefs by trade,” Gay said. “This is just something they’re passionate about and want to share with other people.”

Longtime friends who love to cook together

Rahmanian and McIlhargey, who are both 48, have been friends since the sixth grade. Rahmanian said his family moved to Yellow Springs in 1986 and he became quick friends with McIlhargey because they both are of Persian descent.

As they grew up, went to college, started careers and families, they’ve stayed close friends. Cooking has always been an activity that they’ve enjoyed doing together.

Rahmanian, who lives in Columbus, has a 25-year career as a hospital executive. McIlhargey, who resides in Yellow Springs, is a potter and owns Miami Valley Pottery.

Rahmanian said food is an important part of Persian culture. He recalled his parents always making a large spread of food when people came over.

“You’ll see a spread that you’ve never seen before when you’re at a Persian gathering,” Rahmanian said.

McIlhargey said his mom is Iranian and when she came to the United States at 18 it was a challenge for her to maintain her cultural background. When she had children, it was important for her to share the Persian culture. His family celebrated Persian holidays and food was always a highlight.

What to expect at Joui Wine

For the event at Joui Wine, Rahmanian and McIlhargey have took the “best of” Iranian food to create a family-style feast. They will showcase about 15 dishes coming from different regions in Iran.

“There’s a lot of work involved in the food,” McIlhargey said. “If you’re in the kitchen with a really good friend and having fun, it’s not really work. It’s joy and that’s why we called this Persian Joy.”

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

The “crown jewel” of the night will be the kabobs served fresh off the grill. They will feature kabobs with filet mignon tenderloins and chicken. Prior to grilling, the meat will have marinated for a couple days in advance in a mixture of saffron, puree onion, lemon juice and olive oil.

Early on in the dinner, they will serve food that Persians typically take on picnics to highlight the unique flavors of their culture. For example, they will serve Kuku Sabzi that is made with several herbs, spices and barberries. The barberries add a sense complexity to the dish.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

“Part of the reason I’m excited to do this dinner is because it’s an opportunity to educate people of the complexities of flavor and ingredients that they may or may not have experienced before,” McIlhargey said. “That’s one of the beauties of Persian cuisine is that the richness of the flavors and ingredients in my opinion is unrivaled.”

Another example of a dish that highlights the flavors of Persian culture is Fesenjan, a chicken-based stew with pomegranate and walnut. It takes two to four hours to make because the ingredients need time to express themselves.

To go along with the food, Gay is pairing various wines.

“I’m putting in a lot of thought and effort into the wines I’m selecting and the stories that they tell,” Gay said. “I’m sourcing some from nearby countries that grow similar grapes that used to be grown in Iran.”

Since the sale and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited under the Islamic law of Iran, this dinner will be very unique. Wine has historically been an important part of the Persian culture in terms of health, religion and poetry.

To finish off the meal, there will be Persian ice cream that’s made with saffron.

Sharing culture through food

This will be Rahmanian and McIlhargey’s second pop-up event. They previously teamed up with MAZU because McIlhargey is friends with the owners of the restaurant.

To prepare for an event like this they spend a lot of time researching, doing test kitchens and prepping, but in the end it’s worth it.

“We’re both proud of our heritage,” Rahmanian said. “Being able to show this very positive element of our culture whether it be the food, the poetry part of things that we will talk about, all of that I think those are the positive things that I think it’s important for people to understand.”

More details

Tickets for the Persian dinner are $125. The dinner will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at 117 E. Third St. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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