Elegance, Success, and Tears at Table 65

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you, becomes your trademark.”

I cannot credit those words to any particular person but I wish I knew who first said them.  They are the truth of my personal ethos for success in business.  Fancy dinners, considerate wine choices, expensive gifts emblazoned with corporate logos, flashy buzzwords, [and really] all things aside, authenticity can not be forced.  It is needed from every level of your organization, from every entree on the table, from every soul  and every touchpoint present in the intersection of your dealings.  When it happens, and everyone shows up – the synergy of winning takes flight.    

One look at this table and I thought, where else would I want to spend an evening with my colleagues and precious clients?  Avant Table 65 inside the Rancho Bernardo Inn is set behind glass doors at the entry of the restaurant, so you feel a bit like shiny salt water fish in an aquarium.   Notably, the prized feature is the circular table located inside a professional chefs kitchen. Regardless of how large the private space behind glass walls was, the feel is surprisingly intimate and we quickly forgot for the night that we were fishes being gawked at. Offering personal time with the service team, prix fixe personalized menus, a dining space separate from restaurant floor noise, it was the ideal location to host clients for what turned out to be the most fun business dinner that any of us had ever had.  We hooted, we hollered, we plotted April Fool’s jokes, we lingered over two hours to our delight.  More below, but first, the wine:

A quick survey of my guest preferences at Table 65, and with guidance of the Sommelier onsite at Avant, I was led to select an organic, light bodied red wine against the California fusion fare that Avant specializes in.  I expected all the perfumed aroma, translucent color, ripe fruit, easy body, and cool climate cranberry that I got from my table pleasing bottle of Penner Ash Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley.   The northwest wine region of the United States is characterized by fruit forward wines, and if you associate Cab as King in Napa, you can deduct that Pinot Noir is King to the Willamette Valley.   If you’re ever in position to select wine for a table of people, Pinot Noir is a finicky grape, but a beautiful wine with wide appeal; a safe choice for anyone new or old to the spectrum of red wine.  A number of my guests had fish entrée meal preferences at the table, everybody having wine wanted red, and I had one specific request for organic wine, so the Penner Ash fit the bill nicely.

Generally pleasing, the disposition of Pinot Noir is like your easy-going, no drama best friend, who is reliable and can always be counted upon when meeting new friends for the first time.  The Penner Ash has no stage fright either; the bottle appeared on stage at appetizers through to desert and was a crowd pleaser until the end.  A last-pour, standing ovation came during the encore performance – a vanilla bean salted caramel cheesecake adorned with pumpkin puree.


Avant Wine Cellar Looking Into Table 65

Now that the technical of wine is aside, I must apologize.  Apologize for having TOO MUCH FUN at dinner so much that I can’t articulate the magic in fairness to you or to the quality of time spent crying tears of laughter at dinner that night.  We ended up staging pranks in the parking lot, traveling the property like a college frat house.  If I ask for time with my clients at dinner, it is time away from their families, it is time away from their regular resting patterns, time that deserves the respect and effort of forging a real bond with them.   Wine and excellent food alone cannot do the trick.  You have to bring YOU to the table, and I think that is the ultimate secret of the best Sommeliers.  The search for business relevance is constantly on my mind when it comes to my professional, non-wine student life.  Finding success in the boardroom is much like finding success at a dinner where your guests are your clients.  You can’t fake your way through a wine list any more than you can fake your way through a sales pitch, or an investigative deep dive into mutual business operations.

Winning at both business, and business dinners, involves the crafting of a client experience that matches their needs, tastes, and preferences, with your talents, your understanding, and a strong individuality of your personal brand.

Take the time.  Master that.  And above all else, have FUN.  Enjoy the souls you share your table with!


The Chef’s Experience on Table 65

This one’s for my oenophiles.

Settled in the Rancho Bernardo hills of Southern California lies Avant inside the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

The Table 65 experience is a delightful option for those looking for an elevated dining experience, connected right to the action of a restaurant wine room and private kitchen.  I’ve just booked this table for an intimate, private wine dinner next month.  The Chef will design a custom menu in accordance to seasonal California fresh fare, and I am working with the restaurant to select options and pairings for my clients [translate: moonlighting in culinary, obviously].  Full experience and complete review with Avant Chef and Avant Sommelier is coming soon!  Stay tuned, friends.

Confucious Said So?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

~ Confucius

Linkage to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius as the origin of this insightful quote is debatable and appears to be spurious; anachronistic elements suggest that “job choice” or flexibility of work in the era {485 BC} of Confucius was possible, yet it was actually very sharply limited.

But I don’t care.  My Chinese zodiac is The Dragon.  And I believe it.  And thus it is so.

Writing from a quiet night in my hotel room this evening during a 12-day stint of travel, I find myself wrapping up a successful week in Westbury, New York.  After ten+ years of being on the road for business, I find the days prior to departure on these extended road trips sometimes dreadful.  I can’t manage to prepare early.  I confess, at times I don’t book flights, rooms or cars until I am in someone’s Uber car headed to the airport with somewhere to be the next morning.  I now travel with wet clothes, doing laundry like a peasant until my last hours before leaving.  It’s like I’m an inmate on death row, reluctant and waiting for my final march.

Yet, once I am zipped up and rolling, the energy of travel roars to life within me and I am joy filled and sparkling with opportunity to meet new friends, try new foods, SEE and DO new things.

I had the pleasure of hosting three precious client folk at dinner this week. Now, my normal “client dinner” M.O. is to maintain two Open Table accounts in order to hold multiple reservations, generously offering my clients their choice of cuisine at restaurants I have pre-selected and already know *I* will personally enjoy.  My pre-cursory review accounts for all sorts of personal preference, starting with the wine list.

For this week, I thoughtfully curated two dining selections with all my go-to criteria in careful consideration;

Option One:  Rothmann’s Steakhouse, a classic American formal landmark that once hosted Theodore Roosevelt.  Rothmann’s has “one of the best sommeliers on Long Island” Mr. Sean Gantner, who updates his wine list weekly, *swoon*.  Recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence 2009 and a Wine Spectator state-by-state recommendation for best dining in 2015.

Option Two:  Rialto on Carle Place, a single established family owned, authentic Italian restaurant under new ownership with decidedly more of a “welcome home” vibe.  My clients [being from the Dallas area and experienced in fine steakhouse dining] opted for this hand crafted Italian option.  No arguments here.  I eagerly made myself known at this little gem and embraced the restaurant owner, a simply charming woman who was attentive to my table the way my own Grandmother would be to guests of her home.  Wine selections at Rialto are beholden to the experience of the chef and ownership and not a crafted list of favorites from the professionally trained mind and palate of a Somm.

Last night, at a table of 8 colleagues, friends, clients and bosses, we laughed and chatted over candlelight to the tune of live music and clinging forks.

Wine Selection:  Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico 2013

For a Chianti to be a true Chianti, it must be produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, and at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. While most Chiantis are 100% Sangiovese, some winemakers in the region like to blend the Sangiovese with Cabs or Merlots.

Two bottles of this +clear garnet, +plenty of spice, +red fruit, +more dry than sweet, +not tannic vin splashed down obediently with dinner. Moderately acidic, the Sangiovese grape I first loved in my early red wine drinking years (which has been recently re-ordered on my preference list under the Tempranillo, who I love more now) paired well with my house made mushroom and truffle ravioli.   The Chianti performed well on the table, for the seasoned novice to inexperienced wine drinkers.  It was a good selection, made for flavor and not to impress in price.

$55 tableside, but probably $20 retailed somewhere.

Ruffino Chianti Classico 2013_Rialto at Carle Place_NSM GPNY




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