With wine service becoming more sophisticated throughout the

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With wine service becoming more sophisticated throughout the Powered By Docstoc
					   With wine service becoming more
sophisticated throughout the industry,
                                         OLIVE GARDEN

     wine bars are leading the way to
        better food-and-wine pairings.
                                                                                                             BEVERAGE TRENDS

Mature                                                       Wine bars are having a renaissance, and this time
                                                             the food is as important as the wine

                                                   BY JACK ROBERTIELLO

          s Americans increasingly adopt wine as an              making process for people who want to have the

A         everyday beverage, wine-bar restaurants are
          flourishing, going from odd outposts of vinous
geekiness to familiar dining destinations. Especially for
                                                                 experience without managing the experience.”

                                                                 INCREMENTAL SALES
the wine-curious, the format — casual settings where             Many wine bars have built multiple pairing
sipping various-sized portions of different varietals,           recommendations into their programs. At the Seattle-
vintages and regions — provides the best sort of wine            based four-unit Purple Café and Winebar, tasting bars offer
class. Wine bars are also expanding geographically, from         an extensive wine-and-cheese-pairing page as well as a
urban curiosities to ubiquitous operations. One company          small-plate menu that includes 20 or so shareable items for
plans to have 50 airport wine bars up and running within         $3 to $6, all listed with wine suggestions. The Seattle
a year or so.                                                    menu recently included root-vegetable chips with sea salt
                                                                 paired with a rosé from the Loire and pork tenderloin,
PAIRINGS MAKE PERFECT                                            arugula, fennel and Dijon vinaigrette salad with an
What makes individual wine bars stand out and succeed            Argentinean Malbec.
today is the synergy between the flavors of wine and food.           Pairing suggestions, especially those including less-familiar
Just as brew-pub operators learned to keep their customers       but particularly food-friendly wines, absolutely help sales, says
satisfied with tasty dishes complementing the beers, wine-        Harry Miles, culinary director for Heavy Restaurant Group,
bar owners realize that plates of cheese and charcuterie are     which owns the Purple Café and Winebar and two Barrio
the equivalent of a wine list packed with Chardonnays            restaurants in the greater Seattle area.
and Cabernets — good, perhaps, but nothing special.                 “Every pairing is a result of some pretty extensive
   Placing smart food-and-wine pairings on the menu is a         tasting. Sometimes food and wine from the same region
widely accepted way to demystify wine, but that wasn’t the       don’t fit, but wines from halfway around the world do.”
case 10 years ago, when Chicago’s Bin 36 opened.                    Expanding the reach of wines is part of the wine-bar
   “That was a huge component for us; we felt very               evolution; at Purple Café, a recent pairing menu included
strongly that you couldn’t have just a menu of food and a        wines from Slovenia and the Republic of Georgia.
separate menu for wine without integrating them,” says
Brian Duncan, co-owner and wine director.                        EVOLVING TASTES
   Wine bars that don’t do the heavy lifting of providing        Just as customers have embraced once-unusual foods, their
pairing recommendations can leave inexperienced guests           tastes for wines are open to change, creating a market for
at sea, he says. “[Integrating is] an easy, one-stop decision-   wines from almost anywhere.                                                                       Winter 2010   FLAVOR   & THE MENU        103

                                                                “We’re constantly        getting into the science of food pairing, it’s a
                                                            evolving, because it’s       fun way to show people how a sip of one wine
        At Aroma Winebar in          clear to us that our customers have grown           changes the overall flavor of some dishes
        New York City, the food      with us, and we have the ability to really be       more than another.”
        has moved beyond olives
        and cheese to full dinners
                                     ahead of the curve,” says Bin 36’s Duncan.
        and chef’s menus based          The tasting-bar concept — small glasses of       FOOD MOVES FORWARD
        on customer demand.          wine and small plates of food — has branched        Increasingly, at many bars, food is usurping
                                     out to the tables at many wine bars with            wine’s prime position, and not just via small
                                     dining rooms. Purple Café’s bar services the        plates. At the intimate Aroma Kitchen &
                                     entire restaurant through its tasting bar.          Winebar in New York City, the all-Italian
                                        “It’s definitely gained in popularity, and        wine selection with small plates initially
                                     guests who never sit in the tasting bar order       appealed to customers, but appetites changed,
                                     from that menu,” says Miles.                        explains chef and co-owner Vito Polosa.
                                        Wine bars typically offer full glasses as well      “Things evolved because we had a high-
                                     as 2- or 3-ounce pours singly and grouped in        profile chef and started offering things that
                                     flights; many also offer half glasses. Serving       really interested our customers, were
                                     many small plates encourages customers to           memorable and created great word of mouth.”
                                     opt for the smaller wine portions as well.             So today, most of his customers, rather
                                        “I love to offer flights of 3-ounce pours, so     than snacking on small plates of olives, cured
                                     that if someone is trying a bunch of small          meat, cheese or arancini, opt for full dinners,
                                     plates, we can pair a wine up with each plate,”     whether at tables or the bar.
                                     says Jason Meringolo, general manager and              Elevating the level of the food has built a
                                     sommelier at Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro at          regular clientele that thinks of Aroma as a
                                     the Westin in Reston, Va. “That really              restaurant with a great wine selection, rather
                                     enhances the overall experience and, without        than a wine bar with food. Customers also

        104    FLAVOR   & THE MENU   Winter 2010                                                          
                                                                                                      BEVERAGE TRENDS

trust the staff’s vinous recommendations, no
matter what the food.

Even travelers awaiting takeoff at airports
around the country want a chance to browse
                                                   FLAVOR PAYOFF
a by-the-glass menu. The national wine-bar
chain Vino Volo, with units in Seattle,                           Pairing Beef and Wine for Profit
Sacramento, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia
and New York area airports, develops wine
                                                          Advice from The Beef Checkoff and Karen MacNeil,
lists for each location, with significant input
                                                                      author of “The Wine Bible”
from the local staff. The chain’s food menu
                                                  The marriage of beef and wine used to be as simple as pairing steak
went through a slight revision after opening,
                                                  with something rich and red. While that idea remains a classic,
says Carla Wytmar, director of development
                                                  today’s menus offer a brave new world of possibilities. Now, beef
and marketing for Vino Volo, which plans to
                                                  might mean anything from Thai steak salad to Tuscan braised short
open several dozen more places in airports
                                                  ribs, and there are thousands of wine brands now available in the
across the country over the next few years.
                                                  United States. So how can you make sense of all the options?
    “We started with small plates specifically,
                                                  There are no rigid rules; rather, great matches are born from
but in response to a particular customer need,
                                                  instinct, imagination and a lot of fun experimentation. When they
we rolled out an entrée side of the menu as
                                                  happen, “wow” moments of beef and wine are like sensory
well.” Customers now can order all wines and
                                                  fireworks and inspire upsale opportunities galore. More than 50
foods in two portion sizes at Vino Volo shops.
                                                  percent of full-service restaurants surveyed said steak has a positive
    Small plates may not always work for other
                                                  impact on wine sales, according to a “2007 Volumetric Assessment
reasons, such as the lack of a cultural or
                                                  of Beef in Foodservice” study conducted by Technomic, Inc.,
industry-standard portion size, says Duncan.
                                                  funded by The Beef Checkoff.
“The way our crowd works, they prefer to
have shareable things like hummus or
                                                  UPSELLING TIPS:
charcuterie instead of small plates. At many
restaurants, we’ve found there’s no standard      Put it in Print: Feature one or two wine recommendations on the
in terms of quantity of small plates, and         menu, adjacent to beef menu items; consider one that’s by the glass
customers often have a poor perception of the     and one by the bottle.
value-price ratio. You never really know how
much you’re going to get.”                        Taste & Taste Alike: Conduct waitstaff tastings of great beef and
    As the wine-bar concept has expanded and      wine pairings; the more your staff enjoys a pairing, the more likely
food becomes a more-important component,          they will be to sell it.
chefs and sommeliers have been working
                                                  Learn the Lingo: Train staff to get in the habit of suggesting by-the-
together more closely. Sommeliers once were
                                                  glass offerings with beef dishes, and provide descriptive language for
almost uniformly forced to chase the food
                                                  them to bring the pairing to life: “We’ve got a really juicy, soft
when building wine programs, but at many
                                                  Zinfandel that’ll be perfect with that, for $X a glass.”
contemporary wine bars with seasonally
shifting menus, that’s not an option. At          First Sip Free: Offer a taste of a by-the-glass wine when a beef dish
Vinifera, chef Bo Palker and sommelier            is brought to the table. An actual tasting is worth a thousand words
Meringolo develop their menus together.           and will likely lead to a sale.
    “Bo brings to the table a base wine
knowledge, and we’ll sit down and work            Compare & Contrast: Offer wine flights of three or four small
around a menu item to match [the food and         servings so guests can experience the interplay of several wine
wine],” says Meringolo. “He’ll tweak a recipe     flavors with their beef dish.
to match some wines, based on our
collaborative tasting.”                           Compare & Compare: Pair two different wines with two different
    The process has energized Palker. “When       beef cuts for a “small-plate-and-sip” option.
Jason brings in something new that I’ve never
tried, something will come to mind. I’ll think,                                                                Winter 2010   FLAVOR   & THE MENU     105

                                                                                             “The unique opportunity we have here is
                                                                                          that I am a sommelier originally trained as a
                                                                                          chef who makes wine as well, so we both
                                                                                          understand wine, from the grapes in the
                                                                                          vineyard to the finished product. Every time
                                                                                          we taste wine, we think of food and vice
                                                                                          versa; they are pretty seamless transitions.”
                                                                                             With vineyard experience, Berthold has
                                                                                          the advantage of a wine-focused sensory
                                                                                          memory       that    helps    him      develop
                                                                                          complementary or contrasting flavor profiles.
                                                                                          A recent wine dinner began with a wine made
                                                                                          from Rousanne grapes, which for him evoked
                                                                                          honey, resin and wax qualities, giving rise to
                                                                                          similar flavors in peaches and rosemary.
BIN 36

                                                                                          “Because of this, it’s easy for me to think
                                                                                          about how the components of a dish and wine
         At Chicago’s Bin 36,           for instance, ‘This will go great with a dish     play off each other,” he explains.
         diners can opt to eat in a     with ginger in it.’”                                 His own Syrah made it onto the opening
         tavern setting or have a
                                           And if Meringolo can’t pair a wine with a      menu at RN74, paired with herb-roasted lamb
         nibble at the cheese bar.
         All menus list wine            dish to their satisfaction, Palker willingly      loin with red-wine-braised lamb shank,
         pairings and flights, and       moves the flavors in a different direction.        turnips, fava beans, porcini mushrooms and
         tasting-sized pours are           “I have a lot of respect for wine. You can     tarragon.
         encouraged.                    really botch up a good bottle of wine or a nice      “Syrah goes particularly well with lamb,
                                        meal by not pairing things up correctly,” says    and my Syrah, which is very aromatic, went
                                        Palker.                                           great with it,” says Berthold. “It was one of
                                                                                          the best matches we came up with.”
                                        A WINEMAKER IN THE KITCHEN                           Developing a wine-centered culinary
                                        It may seem a no-brainer, but it’s not always     approach can take extra effort, but when a
                                        easy to place someone wine-smart at the helm      restaurant’s concept depends on dishes
                                        of the kitchen. At San Francisco’s RN74, a        matching well with a variety of wines, it’s
                                        French-focused, Michael Mina wine                 crucial.
                                        bar/restaurant, chef Jason Berthold runs the         “I want them thinking about wine when
                                        kitchen and happens to make his own wine.         they create every dish,” says Miles, who has
                                           That’s one of the reasons Berthold got the     removed dishes from Purple Café’s menus if
                                        executive chef post, says Wine Director and       they were difficult to match or too assertively
                                        restaurant partner Rajat Parr, who himself        seasoned. “We try to keep the flavors linear,
                                        makes wine, including two blends he crafted       singular and easy to partner with wines. Wine
                                        for an RN74 proprietary label.                    doesn’t really match well with extra-
                                                                                          complicated foods.”
                                                                                             As Berthold says, “I don’t have to
                                      TAKE-AWAY TIPS                                      supercharge the food with a lot of spice or
                                                                                          intense sauces or a lot of acid. I can let the
             MAKE MATCHES: The new breed of bar menus puts the food-and-                  ingredients speak for themselves, and then
             wine pairings in print
                                                                                          the spectrum is wider for what someone like
             BUDDY UP: The kitchen and sommelier(s) need to work together                 Raj can do.” &
             for best results
             GET IN LINE: Food with simple, linear, singular flavors are easiest to
             pair with wine                                                               JACK ROBERTIELLO writes about spirits,
             KEEP SIZE IN MIND: Offer at least two portion sizes for both pours           cocktails, wine, beer and food from Brooklyn,
             and food                                                                     N.Y.; he can be e-mailed at

         106    FLAVOR   & THE MENU     Winter 2010                                                         

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