Few things in this world have as much power to bring happiness as good food, fine wine and great friends. When all three happen to converge on a single night, the results have been known to cause withdrawal in all but the most stoic of our species. I have been hesitant to write this review for the fear that I cannot possibly be eloquent enough to do it justice. Still, we soldier on…
Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Woodland Hills in the Promenade Mall.
Last week, I got a phone call from my friend Vickie. She wanted to know if I would be interested in going to a wine tasting dinner that her boyfriend was organizing at Ruth’s Chris. I’m pretty sure that I had said yes before she even got the whole question out. Since I have been eating a mostly vegan diet, I was looking forward to taking a night off from moral obligation and was instead focused on the pure enjoyment of food.
Just to set everything up for you, this is a five course meal with a different wine to accompany each dish. I hope to paint a picture of the food and then expand upon the dish as a whole by bringing in my thoughts about the wine. Also, I was fortunate enough to be seated at the same table as the winery representative and two very knowlegeable salesmen for one of the largest alcohol distributors in the western U.S. The reason I mention the others at my table is that when you are a novice (as I am with wine), it helps to have experts to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction.
We were greeted at our tables with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It was an excellent palate cleanser, with notes of citrus and just enough sweetness. I am not usually a white wine fan, but this one won me over. It was not too dry as I feel many white wines are. Instead, it left me wanting more. Luckily, our first course arrived just in time to save me from more Sauvignon Blanc.
First Course – New Zealand John Dory with pancetta, leeks and Buerre Rouge paired with Robert Skalli, Pinot Noir, 2006
This course was a fantastic start to the evening. John Dory is a white fish and is moist and delicious. The delicate fish worked marvelously with the savory, fatty pancetta and the crispy fried leeks. Leeks are an acquired taste and luckily one I picked up in Ireland. In my opinion the textural difference beween the crisp leek and soft fish really added to the course. The pinot noir was good, it just didn’t wow. I was coming off the Sauvignon Blanc which I really enjoyed, so I might be a bit biased here. But in as much as it didn’t make the dish better, it didn’t take away from it either.
Second Course: Foie Gras with caramelized mango and vanilla bean balsamic glaze paired with St. Supéry, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003
This was, by far, the most rich course of the night. It was also my first dance with Foie Gras, which is french for “fat liver.” Sounds great right? Well, guess what? It is. Just like with certain cuts of beef, often it is the fat that provides the flavor. This foie gras was executed very well. It stayed together right up to the point that it hit my tongue. That’s when the richness just exploded. The sweetness of the mango and the cruch of the wafer served to temper what would have been too overwhelming. The cabernet was not overpowering, but instead gave a little acid and provided some relief so that I could finish the dish. It wasn’t the best cabernet, but it definitely served its purpose in this case.
Third Course: Espresso Crusted New York Striploin with Lemon-Thyme demi-glace paired with Élu Red Wine, 2004.
This was the first of back-to-back meat and potato courses. After the soft, rich fois gras, it was nice to have the hearty beef to sink my teeth into. I didn’t really get any espresso tones from the steak, but it was cooked perfectly and the moisture was still there despite the fact that they served the meat in 3 medallions. Each was perched atop a fingerling potato with a little spinach between the two. The Élu was a very complex red wine. I felt it to be the most complete wine of any that I tasted. From myriad berry tones up front, to a light warm finish, it was probably my favorite wine of the night. Alas, they sold out of it before I had a chance to buy a bottle to bring home.
Fourth Course: Center cut Prime Rib-eye, Gnocchi and white asparagus paired with St. Supéry “Dollar Hide”, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004.
Aside from the pancetta in the first course, I think this is possibly the best use of supplementary ingredients in promoting a dish. It could be because I love gnocchi, but these just blew me away. They had a texture that reminded me of whipped butter and combined with the perfectly cooked rib-eye, they complimented each other as much as any other dish. The asparagus was a nice touch, but didn’t add as much to the dish as I would have liked. The other thing I enjoyed about this dish was that the “Dollar Hide” really had the strength to stand up to the food. It is 100% cabernet and has the ability to knock you backwards with its boldness. It felt like the best cabernet I’ve ever had, but on steroids. It had all of the delicate flavors you would look for, but they came through with an intensity that I didn’t know was possible.
Fifth Course: Imported Artisan Cheese Plate paired with St. Supéry, Moscato, 2007.
I was relieved that rather than a typical dessert, they decided to do a cheese course. There were three different cheeses, all of which were distinct. One was like a bree in texture, another was a type of bleu cheese, and the last was a harder cheese, similar to many Irish cheeses. They all did a good job of bringing out the sweetness of the Moscato, which is a white dessert wine. The problem with that was that I found the wine to be almost too sweet. This wine was Vickie’s favorite, so maybe I just don’t know good dessert wine. What I did find interesting was that by eating the candied walnuts that came with the cheese plate, I was able to neutralize the sweetness of the wine. Kind of like when you multiply two negative numbers and get a positive. (I know, that was nerdy) By combining the strawberry and the grapes with the wine, I was able to accomplish the same thing. Regardless of my opinion on the Moscato, this was a simple yet wonderful way to end a fantastic meal.
This was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. I would like to take a moment to thank my great friend Vickie and her boyfriend Eli for inviting me. I am also in the debt of Tom Adams at St. Supéry for all of the wine education (most of which didn’t make it into this post) and Luis and Wayne at Young’s Market Company for sharing their wisdom and experience and making my night about more than just food and drink. Thank you for teaching me that a great meal is only great if you can share it with the people who are most important to you.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my meal as much as I enjoyed eating it. I’ll be sure to post next time Ruth’s Chris has another wine dinner so our loyal readers can get the chance to experience their own little slice of heaven. Keep checking back for more info.