Five courses, five wines, one theme. That’s the idea behind a new series of prix-fixe group dinners that take place on the first Friday of each month at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Lahaina. Earlier this month my guy Dave and I joyously sat down to a meal that included wines from five different regions of France and a special, French-themed menu.
So on the night of Friday, Feb. 1, Dave and I sat down at a large square table set for 20 in the restaurant’s private dining area. A centerpiece arrangement of oversized wine and champagne bottles, accompanied by multiple wine glasses, goblets and champagne flutes at each place, implied that the wine would be flowing all evening. Our mouths watered in anticipation.
Moments after I settled in to my corner seat, Assistant General Manager Steve Seno filled my flute to the brim with Taittinger Brut La Francaise. I sipped the dry bubbly and made nice with my neighbors—a chatty, older couple on vacation—while we waited for a few late arrivals. This took about half an hour, but the champagne glasses remained full, so we didn’t mind.
Our first course, announced by executive chef Matthew Paet, arrived not long after everyone got seated. My personal moment of truth came when I discovered that for the first time, I would savor the slimiest of French delicacies. Our escargot arrived en cruet—wrapped in a buttery, flakey pastry shell atop a delicate mushroom duxelle. It was a gentle and cheesy initiation into the salty, slightly chewy world of eating snails.
We moved on to much more familiar cuisine for the second course. After a healthy round of the perfectly crisp Domaine La Roche chablis went into every glass, we dug into tender ahi and hamachi tartar, layered with chopped hard-boiled egg. A side of baby greens with lemon basil vinaigrette and a few salty capers complimented the interesting fusion of flavors. It was amazing and I practically licked my plate clean.
The next course was cassoulet, a very traditional dish from southwestern France, complimented by the light and fruity blend of varietals in Chateau Mont Redon’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape, from France’s Rhone region. The dish had creamy white beans and trio of meats: smoky andouille sausage, tender chunks of duck and sliced beef fillet, served medium rare. The dish was rich and delicious, with just the right salty balance of flavors.
Next, in true French style, they served us a spoonful of refreshing sorbet to cleanse the pallet. It was a sweet blend of mango and lilikoi, giving us a welcome respite between the heaviest courses. We sat back and sipped our wine, watching groups of people around the table laughing and getting to know each other.
Then came the filet mignon. The juicy medallion sat upon a creamy potato puree and a balsamic and raspberry reduction with a compliment of ratatouille. The crowning glory on the steak was a thin slice of foie gras. The deep, complex Grand Cru Saint Emilion bordeaux from Chateau Lassegue stood up well to the full flavors of this course.
All too soon the final wine of the evening arrived: Chateau Fargues sauternes, an amazing, syrupy sweet variety. Dessert followed; after a moment’s disappointment that our final course was not decadent French chocolate, I happily dug in to a savory cheese souffle. The soft and puffy breaded top gave way to a creamy cheese mixture that perfectly offset the sugary sweetness of the dessert wine.
And then, nearly three hours after first sitting down, it was over—at least until March 7, the next time Ruth’s Chris will host the dinner. The food and wine selections change each month, and the whole evening costs $80 a person (reservations required). It’s quite a deal, considering the amount of rich food and wine served throughout the evening. MTW