Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A post long overdue

what happened was I set up a blog entry to read over and finish up, but then had to go out of town AND managed to succumb to an insidious week-long cold that had been going around the office, felling colleagues left and right. So without further excuses...

February 8

I headed on over to the received an invitation from Ruth's Chris Steak House to discuss the concept's food and beverages with the two people most qualified to discuss such things. Vice president of culinary and purchasing James Cannon, and vice president of beverages Kevin Boyer.

My colleague Mike Dempsey and I headed over to the 51st Street location for a chance to sample different menu items and talk about them.

Kevin explained that Ruth's Chris was doing a lot to keep up with drink trends with regards to cocktails. For example, fresh-squeezed ingredients or using infusions. For example, Ruth's Chris introduced its own infusion the Lemonessence, which is made by infusing vodka with lemons and is used for some of the new fusion cocktails like The Pear Twist.

The menu also gets a fresh infusion of ideas through a company-wide contest for new food and beverage items. I got to sample one of the winners, a submission from a Dallas Ruth's Chris location, the Orange Citrus Mojito. It is made with orange-flavored rum, Triple Sec, orange juice, fresh lime juice and a splash of soda water.

The Pomegranate Martini is shaken tableside and is an eye-catcher with its deep burgundy and purple liquid served in a martini glass rimmed with yellow sugar.

Kevin also talked about how Ruth's Chris works with suppliers to have available drinks that are especially for Ruth's Chris. Ruth's Chris works with California wine cellar Parducci (owned by Mendocino Wine Co.) for an exclusive Pinot Noir.

Since wine is also served by the glass at Ruth's Chris, opened bottles are cared for with technology such as uses vacuum enclosers and sealers, as well as hand pumped inert gas to help preserve the life of an opened bottle of wine. However Kevin explained, that while technology can help to a degree, in the end it still comes down to the people who serve it. Servers are trained to continuously nose and taste test the wine to make sure it is good to serve no matter when or how many times it was opened.

Another interesting item on the specialty martinis section was the Spicy Mango Martini. It was a drink made with Absolut's limited edition (30,000 cases of the stuff was bottled) New Orleans Vodka, shaken with fresh lemon sour and garnished with a lemon slice and three whole black peppercorns that dotted the floating lemon slice. It was a very simple drink showcasing the mango and black peppercorn-flavored vodka which was created especially by Absolut with 100% of the profits going to various Gulf Region charities.

Besides helping out a cause for a region that's close to the company's heart the cocktail is also an opportunity to have something different and special on the menu.

"We don't want to be all exclusive," Kevin said about beverages such as using Absolut New Orleans or the partnership with Parducci, but he added, "these special things we like to do for the sake of offering something that customers can't get anywhere else."

Kevin said the drink will stay on the menu as long as the vodka is available in locations, but they're disappearing fast.

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