Posts tagged wine

Unless you are growing grenache in your backyard, you don’t drink enough of it. Go find some Gigondas, some Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras or some Spanish garnacha.¬†

d’Arenberg is one of my favorite producers out of Australia. This wine is $10 and is out of this world good. A nifty introduction to southern Rhone style wines from outside of France. Cheers!

Ruth’s Chris

I have always heard people fawn over Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. I don’t get it. For my mother’s birthday this evening, I went there with her, my dad and Rose. When I worked at Stoney River, I always heard people talk about how it was “better than Ruth’s Chris.” I didn’t even realize what that really meant. I knew what they thought it meant (the beef was better…it isn’t, technically speaking), but what it really meant was a lot more important.

To fully express what this meant, I will need to explain a few things. All fine dining restaurants will have a few things:

  • wine list
  • service
  • napkins
  • floor

Now, Ruth’s Chris has all four of the aforementioned things. They have a “1,500 botle wine list” which means they have some wine and then they have 1,500 individual bottles. Not 1,500 individual selections, in 1,500 individual bins. Still impressive. Still a stupid thing to flaunt. They have table service. A very nice, though not terribly approachable man took decent care of us, and I was not upset or turned off. They have napkins, which were black and heavily starched. And, finally they had a floor. It even had carpet. Of sorts.

I didn’t include food on the list because it has been rare that I have gone to a restaurant and the food has been truly unpalattable (a Bob’s Big Boy when I was 5 comes to mind…). But good food is not one of those parts that can truly judge a restaurant, for some reason. That benig said, Ruth’s Chris food is incredibly average, in my mind. USDA Prime Beef has an incredible amount of marbling (read: FAT) and an incredible amount of flavor (read: FAT, again). Basting it in butter and spices does little to let such a high quality of beef speak for itself. This was a similar complaint I used to have with Stoney River. Were its steaks not grocery store quality Choice beef, which, for the record is not a problem with me, and their prices a bit higher, I would have considered them to be the same pretender beast. Now, that is not intended to be a jab at them; it’s just true. The problem with Ruth’s Chris is that the food has no finesse. No individualized character. It’s not like a chef (at least recently) put any thought into the food. It reminds me fast food fries; cooked quickly at high temperatures so it can be covered in a sauce at a later point of service. Why not have flank steak smothered in A1? There seems to be little difference in my mind.

The wine list was mediocre. I would have expected better glass pours than Columbia Crest Merlot…but what can you do?¬†Some restaurants that want to shoot upwards for those type of guests will manipulate certain things to make it seem more impressive. Even the Macaroni Grill has a bottle of Barbera d’Asti.

As for service, all I can say is that I was appalled to see another server taking the order of a man and woman on the other side of the dining room, writing on his beverage tray, which still had a glass pour decanter on it. If that does not bother you, I would like to invite you to go to a diner and watch the serving skills of the servers there, and then go to The Charleston, in Baltimore and observe those servers. Again, not that diner service is a problem to me, it is just that there should be a noticeable difference between the service provided in a $15 per plate restaurant and a $75 per plate restaurant.

Napkins are a point of contention for me. A non-white napkin might as well be paper. Honestly. Neither has to be particularly clean because you cannot tell. Black napkins can be taken care of significantly less, burnt or worse, and it’s impossible to tell in many restaurants if it is even wrinkled because the lighting is a little bit dimmer than what would be reasonably considered “mood lighting.” White napkins, like white table cloths or white 19th century barbers jackets speak to understated elegance and to an assertion that everything is kept sterile and clean. To the point that you could, well, eat off of it.

And finally, I come to the floor. Even taco stands in Texas have floors (I assume), but a floor should be nicely kept. It should be clean. In a restaurant such as Ruth’s Chris, it should be carpeted, a nice wood or perhaps terlatto. Something that says “this is expensive, but so is your meal.” The carpet looks like it was installed 10 years ago; it reminds me of my college dining halls carpet, which, in turn, reminds me of a taco stand floor.

This isn’t to say the dinner wasn’t enjoyable. A good meal, to me, is defined as much by who you are with as what you are eating.For this dinner, I selected a luscious Chateauneuff-du-Pape that my family enjoyed immensely, which followed a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne. The peppery, leathery quality did wonders with Medium Rare porterhouse steaks, and the Champagne was a friendly companion to my lobster bisque.

I’d guess what those people at Stoney River really meant when saying it was “better than Ruth’s Chris” was that it was a better value. For a steak house with over-seasoned beef, a mediocre wine list and unimpressive service, the prices at Stoney River are much more accessible (acceptable?). Still, I did not realize such an average meal could cost almost $400. I will go back there as much as my mother wishes because she enjoys it, and of course, I would like to make my mother happy.

And, I won’t lie: the food is delicious. It certainly is not the pinnacle of cuisine, but, then I’d guess not everything needs to be…

Note: The author will be applying to Ruth’s Chris at Pier V in the coming months.

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