Troy Knapp, the former food and beverage director at D.C.’s Blue Duck Tavern and glitzy Conrad hotel, takes his fine-dining skills to the water with an expanded fleet of fancy sip-and-sail cruises this spring.
Cru Classé, the private boating experience he launched last year from the Wharf, returns for its 2023 season on Friday, March 17—just as cherry blossoms enter peak bloom around the Potomac basin. Elegant offerings at sea include French wines, Champagnes, and four-course tasting menus. The 47-foot sailboat’s relocated slip (and pickup spot) is prime Wharf real estate, anchored right in front of the new Pendry hotel.
Knapp doubles as a certified captain on the floating bar—a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 469. The dark days of the pandemic pushed him to depart from landlocked dining rooms and turn his prized European possession into a stylish, alfresco restaurant of sorts. The sleek sailboat’s open cockpit accommodates up to six at a time.
Champagne-and-oyster cruises aboard the Cru Classé start at $195 per person for a 90-minute excursion. Add-ons include oysters by the half-dozen or more and a list of all-French bubbles, sancerre, and rosés poured by Knapp himself (there’s no red for obvious spillage reasons). The most baller bottle of the bunch is Louis Roederer Cristal ($375). BY.OTT Rosé from Côtes de Provence, one of Knapp’s personal favorites, is an approachable $51.
An extended and pricer voyage ($325 per person) cruising local waterways for 2.5 hours comes with a four-course spread of scallop crudo with cherry blossom shoyu, ginger and jalepeno; next-level charcuterie and cheese presentations; and local oysters, crab legs and chilled shrimp. Prestige Champagne and wine are available as pairings or a la carte.
He’s gearing up to debut two additional yachts from the Wharf as part of its new Nautiste portfolio, with curated sunset dinner cruises unique to each vessel. Setting sail on April 1 is the 72-foot Patriot, a mid-century motor yacht custom built in 1961. Decked out with gleaming brass and polished mahogany, this boat fits twice as many guests as the Cru Classé (12) or 20 dockside guests. Joining the fleet in mid-May is the 42-foot, New England-styled Independence, a preppy, wood-framed Bruno & Stillman motor yacht with room for 12.
Knapp instructs guests to wear the right shoes or be ready to “kick ‘em,” and the rest of the dress code is simple: “be fabulous.”
He sets sail this year with Nautiste founder Hannah Puckett, a longtime friend by way of Austin who’s an oyster aficionado and experienced sailor herself. Two rotating local selections at any given time cater to both the “oyster connoisseur and the bivalve curious,” he says. Double T oysters farmed from Herring Creek, Maryland are mild and creamy counterparts to bright, briny, and estuary-harvested oysters from the Atlantic Coast.
“We’re excited to showcase both of our affections— terroir and merroir—on Cru Classé,” says Knapp.
Michelin’s recognizable red plaque of the one-star rating Blue Duck Tavern earned during Knapp’s tenure there is displayed prominently in Cru Classé’s posh cabin, as is his guitar (he happens to be a trained strummer, too).
When his inaugural sip-and-sail season wrapped up last fall, he birthed a catering company called Curated “to facilitate experiences of my own design on the water,” he says. Curated is currently contracted to provide food and beverage to the Capital Yacht Club, a fixture of the Southwest Waterfront since 1892. He writes a chalkboard menu from Tuesdays to Saturdays for the yacht club and its members.
His own mom, Frankie Parsons, joins him in CYC’s kitchen as its resident “sugar chef.” After a career in hospitality as a private chef and hotel concierge, Parsons moved from Seattle to the area to be closer to family. She handles all things sweet for the excursions aboard and the dessert offerings at the yacht club. Cru Classé guests end their trip with a package of her sand dollar-stamped sugar cookies wrapped in a bow.
Cru Classé can be booked on Tock, its website, or via Nautiste. As the name implies, Cru Classé is a classy counterpart to other Potomac booze cruises and paddle boats filled with buckets of sponsored seltzer brands.
“I’m not interested in hosting raucous boat parties,” Knapp told Eater last year, noting his target market is “people who love dining out in D.C. and are looking for something new and different.”