In a society where food is king and taste can be easily swayed to a fast food menu board from flavorful prix fixe tasting menu based on price alone, carving a niche for your concept is often a struggle. Marsha McBride, owner and executive chef of Caf? Rouge, in Berkeley, California, has managed to not only carve a niche, but she has developed a following and clientele that is envious of many. And, she has done this on two fronts with two complimentary concepts: A restaurant serving house butchered meats and prepared sausages and pates, and a meat market offering a variety of specialty items that cannot be found elsewhere.
Today, food retailers across the country are grappling with the balance of cost, profitability and maintaining a customer base while price wars are raging between major well-known brand grocery and specialty stores. It is the exception to be able to get freshly butchered meats that are not proportioned and packaged.
The same holds true in the restaurant industry as multi-unit chains are bashing the competition with slashed menu prices, $15.00 entr?e specials and sidewalk signs boasting happy hours, complimentary appetizers and other come-on-ins tempting those who hunger for value. Unfortunately, value for many diners equates to quantity, not quality.
On top of this the American palate is swelling with sodium as corporate menu boards boast everything except sodium levels used to preserve their corporate culinary creations.
McBride and her professional staff diligently work at the art of culinary adventure. Whether it’s a bar snack as simple as the spiced nuts or marinated olives, a house-made hot dog, or a hanger steak, you can see the attention to detail in every presentation.
The same holds true for McBride’s meat market located next to the restaurant. Whether scouting for that simple bulk pasta or searching for that special pate or cut of meat, the butcher shop delivers what customers dream of.
Connected by a doorway the transition from the cool aroma of fresh meats and salads, to the warm aroma of cooked food as you cross the line from market to restaurant is always an enjoyable step in a day’s journey. And whether a home chef looking for a perfect entr?e item for a dinner party or a professional chef looking for that cut needing special attention, McBride’s team delivers as she has honed professionalism in everyone who works for her.
On a recent Saturday, while sitting at the bar during a shift change, I watched as a bartender noticed a spot on the inside of a decanter. There are few things more difficult to clean than a fluted decanter with a dried grape skin on the roof of the bowl. Many bartenders may chose to move the spotted one to the back of the decanter corral. Yet, Ryan Muff (pictured above) decided to tackle the task with vigor. This may seem simple enough. But you would have had to have been there. First, Murff filled the decanter with warm water and swirled and shook the vessel as though traveling the white caps of
Most bartenders would have given up by now. Not Murff. Finally he found the wire bottle cleaning wand and managed to win the spot war. However, this took perseverance and diligence.
I am sure not listed in any bartending school manual where the job of the house mixologist is to cater to those gin and tonic sippers with enthusiasm, and I would bet decanter cleaning has never come up on a pre-shift meeting, the task was vital to the profitability of the company. It was recently widely noted that due to the current economy more customers are searching for ways to have items removed from their final bill after the meal. Once a bottle of expensive Cabernet is poured into the spotted decanter, few could see the spot. Once enjoyed, however, the small spot would stand out like a red rose on a white tablecloth. And, one never knows how much that spot could cost.
Many components signify a good restaurant and a well run operation. Bartenders that know how to keep a customer engaged, a dining room served, waiters happy, drinks flowing and the decanters spotless is a tremendous compliment to any well run operation.
A bartender with a vision for profitability and setting sparkling image is a gem.