THE GOCHISO GOURMET: The Tastemaker Series



I usually don’t write about major restaurant chains. Especially since I imposed a personal ban on them years ago and swore I would never patronize them again. But time passes and Buddhism does stress forgiveness. And the pictures of each course looks delectable. And they are pairing each course not just with the fermented grape, but with that naturally carbonated fermented grape, Champagne …

The Original Sin
Ruth’s Chris Steak House committed that original sin shortly after they opened in what formerly was known as Restaurant Row but is now Waterfront Plaza. Some 20 years ago, I took the Mrs. to dine at the newly-opened restaurant and after ordering my usual starting cocktail, ordered an appetizer while the Mrs. selected a Caesar salad. Our server asked us if we wanted the salad on two plates. “Sure.” We then ordered our steaks. When I received the bill, I didn’t really look at it and added my usual 20 percent gratuity and we left. Several days later when I actually looked at the receipt, I noticed a $3 plate charge and saw at the very bottom of the menu they charge $3 for a separate plate. My disdain was not for the actual $3 charge, but I felt that since the server offered it, he should have at least notified us about the charge. I would have declined the second plate and simply reached across the table if I wanted a bite of the Mrs.’ salad, like I usually would do.

Double Pork Chop ­— photo by
Ryan Tatsumoto

Change of Heart
About four years ago, a friend suggested we meet for dinner at Waterfront Plaza at Ruth’s Chris since it was that “black” period when Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar was moving from their old space to the new space so they closed for about five months. Ms. K knew my story about Ruth’s Chris but said she frequently took clients there and always had great service so we should give them a second chance. Again, Buddhism stresses forgiveness, so I said OK. And everything that evening was almost perfect.

OK, the French fries weren’t as crisp as they should have been, but from the extra real maraschino cherries in my Manhattan, to the waiving of the corkage fee, to the discount pricing. (Between 5 and 6 p.m., this Ruth’s Chris location offers happy hour pricing for several menu items, though orders must be placed by 6 p.m. Because our reservations were for 6 p.m., our server gave us the happy hour prices even if our orders were placed well past the cut-off.) And other than the slightly limp French fries, the rest of the meal was superb! So, redemption is now complete — some 20-something years later.

The Tastemaker Series
For the past several years, Ruth’s Chris hosts six Tastemaker Dinners, usually featuring a specific winery though sometimes they highlight a specific distillery. We originally planned on attending last year’s Veuve Clicquot dinner but unfortunately it landed right in the middle of Hurricane Hector and Hurricane Lane, which narrowly missed the Hawaiian Islands, so I regrettably cancelled the reservation. Thankfully, Veuve Clicquot returned this year with a new tasting menu.

The House of Veuve
Clicquot Ponsardin

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot who was a banker, textile merchant and vineyard owner, he partnered with fellow textile merchant Nicolas Ponsardin solidifying their combined businesses with the marriage of their children Francois Clicquot and Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin. Philippe eventually passed the business to Francois in 1801 but in 1805, Francois unexpectedly fell ill and died at the age of 30. Philippe originally intended on liquidating the business but Francois’ young widow (veuve in French) decided to take over the business at 27 years old, hence the house of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, which was launched in 1810.

Madame Clicquot is credited with creating the first vintage Champagne in 1810, inventing the riddling tables that separate the expended yeast cells from Champagne in 1816 and creating the first blended Rose Champagne using still red wine in the finished Champagne. When Madame Clicquot died in 1866, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was producing over 750,000 bottles per year and it was being exported to all of Europe, the United States and Asia. Currently it is part of the vast Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy empire and the trademark yellow label can be found in every supermarket as well as the refrigerator of the Barefoot Contessa.

Regrettably, as fate would have it, we also had to cancel this year’s Veuve Clicquot Tastemaker dinner due to an unexpected family health issue. So why am I writing about a restaurant dinner or dinners in the 50th that we never attended? Because there are two more Tastemaker Series Dinners before the end of the year with Caymus Vineyards being featured on Oct. 10 and Stags’ Leap Winery featured on Nov. 7 (dates may differ by geographic location). And San Francisco has a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse location right in the middle of Van Ness between Sacramento and California streets. They are already taking reservations for the Caymus Vineyards dinner with a menu that looks like this:

Crispy Prawn
Orzo salad, Lemon vinaigrette, Basil puree
paired with
Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California

Jambalaya Arancini
Red pepper coulis
paired with
Mer Soleil Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Prime Bolognese
Bucatini, Tomato basil, Shaved parmesan
paired with
Conundrum Red Blend, California

Filet Au Poivre
paired with
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon,
Napa Valley, California
Braised baby eggplant
Orange glazed honey carrots

Chocolate Tart
fresh strawberry jam, meringue cookies
paired with
Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif, California

If simply reading a menu doesn’t pique your interest, they usually post photos of each course a month before the scheduled event and while we probably won’t be able to attend the October dinner, I’m already looking ahead to November as it’s right before we go on vacation. What better way to start a vacation than with a course meal with wine pairings for each course?

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at

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