Don’t miss the 2nd annual CARS and CIGARS

Posted in Community, Modern Day Swank, Nostalgia, Signature Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

“There’s something about smoking a cigar that feels like a celebration. It’s like a fine wine. There’s a quality, a workmanship, a passion that goes into the smoking of a fine cigar.” – Demi Moore

Guests will be able to enjoy a nice cigar along with wines or spirits and great food at Cars and Cigars!

Guests will be able to enjoy a nice cigar along with wines, spirits and El Gaucho fare at Cars and Cigars!

In celebration of that spirit, El Gaucho Tacoma and LeMay – America’s Car Museum have joined forces again this year to present the 2nd annual Cars and Cigars, Saturday, August 2nd.

Held outdoors on the Anderson Pavilion at LeMay, the event captures the essence of summer in the Pacific Northwest. Guests will be able to sit back in plush, leather sofas under a shaded canopy, puff from one of the three sponsored cigars (Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann, and Montecristo), all while listening to singer/songwriters Dave Hannon and Angie Lynn provide live pop/rock originals and cover music.

Glass Vodka, Wishkah Distillery and Heritage Distillery will all be offering samples to taste at Cars and Cigars.

Glass Vodka, Wishkah Distillery and Heritage Distillery will all be offering samples to taste at Cars and Cigars.

Nearby, local distilleries, including Glass Vodka, Wishkah River (whiskey and gin) and Heritage Distilleries (whiskey, gin and rum), will offer liquid concoctions to compliment the smoke in your hand. If spirits aren’t your bag, Hedges Family Estate will be sampling their latest wines. Of course, El Gaucho will provide tasty fare for guests to consume throughout the evening.

Guests can enjoy the sunny afternoon on the plaza's lounge.

Guests can enjoy the sunny afternoon on the LeMay’s plaza in the shaded lounges.

If the comforts of the breeze through the shaded lounge becomes too much, guests can stretch their legs and wander through the amassed classic car collection and dream about days gone by.

By the end of the evening you’ll feel like George Burns summed it up: “Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman – or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.”

The event will be a real ring-dinger you won’t want to miss.

El Gaucho fare and service at Cars and Cigars!

El Gaucho fare and service at Cars and Cigars!

For information and reservations call 253.272.1510. $95 per person, $179 per couple.
Saturday, Aug. 2nd 6:30-8:30 pm 2702 East D. St., Tacoma, WA 98421

Guests enjoying Cars and Cigars

Guests enjoying Cars and Cigars

 

The beautiful LeMay - America's Car Museum hosts Cars and Cigars

The beautiful LeMay – America’s Car Museum hosts Cars and Cigars

Enjoy your choice of three sponsored cigars in the shaded lounge area at Cars and Cigars!

Enjoy your choice of three sponsored cigars in the shaded lounge area at Cars and Cigars!

Have your own car to show off for the night? Bring it to Cars and Cigars!!

Have your own car to show off for the night? Bring it!

Artist Feature of the Month – Meet Toshi Onizuka, Guitarist at El Gaucho Portland

Posted in Behind the Scenes with tags , , , , on July 11, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

If music be the food of love, play on. ~William Shakespeare

Ambiance is a key part of the El Gaucho experience, and music plays an important role in setting the stage at our restaurants, which is why we are proud to offer live music, 7 nights a week. We introduce you to the talented and passionate musicians who share their gift with us.

Toshi, known as the "the pony-tailed Asian who speaks Spanish and plays guitar at El Gaucho" Portland.

Toshi, known as the “the pony-tailed Asian who speaks Spanish and plays guitar at El Gaucho” Portland.

A Japanese man playing Spanish-style music in Portland, Oregon - Toshi exemplifies Henry Longfellow’s observation that “music is the universal language of mankind.”

Born in Tokyo, Japan, at twenty years of age he heard “Spanish Eyes” by Al DiMeola and knew he wanted to become a musician. He picked up the guitar, taught himself how to play, and immersed himself in the Spanish music scene by moving to Seville, Spain. For five years, he travelled and played with as many musicians as possible, including Pata Negra, a Flamenco fusion band, and recorded with Gino Vannelli.

While in Spain, Toshi fell in love with an American girl, and followed her back to her hometown of Portland, OR. He started playing at El Gaucho Portland in 2000, shortly after the restaurant opened, and laughs that quickly became known as “the pony-tailed Asian who speaks Spanish and plays at El Gaucho.”

Toshi and Masud play together at El Gaucho Portland.

Toshi and Masud play together at El Gaucho Portland.

Toshi has become known for his keen improvisational skills and distinctive sound that uniquely combines flat-picking with dynamic percussive sounds made on the surface of his guitar. In addition to playing at El Gaucho Portland, Toshi also plays at Andina two nights and at Paragon one night weekly. He has collaborated with a variety of local artists, including Lawson Fusao Inada, Oregon’s 2006-2008 Poet Laureate, Portland Taiko, Bobby Torres, and Aaron Meyer. He’s also been featured on OPB’s Oregon ArtBeat, as well as KMHD’s Home Grown Jazz and Home Grown Live, and has taken the stage at numerous northwest events such as the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, Art in the Pearl, the Dragon Moon Festival, and the Sandy Summer Concert Series.

Toshi's 3rd CD, titled "It's a Beautiful Day," was just released and is available for purchase.

Toshi’s 3rd CD, titled “It’s a Beautiful Day,” was just released and is available for purchase.

Toshi just released his third CD, titled “What a Beautiful Day.” The project was created to help encourage his cousin in Japan battling breast cancer, which she unfortunately lost last December. The entire album features original songs with a jazz guitar feel, unlike his first two albums. His first, “Voy Con Fusion” (a Spanish phrase with double meaning), is a blend of recordings with local as well as native Spanish artists. The second album, “When You Passed By,” titled for all of the beautiful ladies who pass by when he plays, includes two covers and the rest original. All three CDs can be purchased from Toshi at El Gaucho Portland.

When not performing, Toshi enjoys mountain biking and drinking good sake. He “totally appreciates” his situation at El Gaucho Portland. He explains, “I can be an artist here and make money. There are starving musicians in Asia and Europe, but not here. The U.S. mentality is to pay artists for their craft, which is beautiful. Americans love live music. This would not happen in other areas of the world.” His gain is ours, as well!

You can listen to Toshi play four nights a week – Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday – at El Gaucho Portland at 7pm.

Toshi and Mariano also play together at El Gaucho Portland.

Toshi and Mariano also play together at El Gaucho Portland.

El Gaucho Bellevue’s Signature Wine Event – POUR – is next week!

Posted in Featured Wine, Signature Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
POUR guests will be able to taste over 50 local and cult wines at El Gaucho Bellevue July 12, 2014.

POUR guests will be able to taste over 50 local and cult wines at El Gaucho Bellevue July 12, 2014.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” We love Paolo Coelho’s philosophy, and El Gaucho Bellevue’s signature wine event, POUR, will give ample opportunity to sip – or swig – many fantastic wines.

Held next Saturday, July 12th, the event highlights local producers, as well as showcases phenomenal cult wines from around the world, offering guests something they haven’t tried before. Most of the wines are available for retail sale, at very compelling prices.

Guests will be able to nibble on fantastic breads from Mario's Bakery at POUR.

Guests will be able to nibble on fantastic breads from Mario’s Bakery at POUR.

Of course, there will be a lot of great food for guests to enjoy between swills while mingling inside and on the spacious patio. In addition to Gaucho signature bites, Golden Glen Creamery and Mario’s Bakery will provide beautiful cheeses, breads, and crackers for guests to nibble, and Smitten Artisan Truffles to provide a sweet morsel. Taylor Shellfish and Nicolas Feuillatte are pairing up to provide freshly shucked oysters with champagne.

Taylor Shellfish will be offering freshly shucked oysters at El Gaucho Bellevue's POUR

Taylor Shellfish will be offering freshly shucked oysters at El Gaucho Bellevue’s POUR

If you feel the urge to shake things up, try special cocktails from local distilleries Batch 206 and the Woodinville Whiskey Co.

After POUR Wine Dinners

More than the depth and breadth of wines offered to taste, guests will also have the opportunity to attend one of four incredible winemaker dinners: Chateau Ste. Michelle and Col Solare, Dusted Valley Vintners, Seven Hills Winery, and Silver Oak Cellars. The dinners show off the culinary team at El Gaucho Bellevue and Sous Chef Sarah (Brinlee) Scott, highlighting unexpected flavors, executed with traditional Gaucho flair.

Wines of Agustin Huneeus will be available to taste at POUR.

Wines of Agustin Huneeus will be available to taste at POUR.

Chateau Ste. Michelle and Col Solare
Guests will enjoy not one, but two pairings for each course of the dinner, bringing old world vs. new world wines together to compare side-by-side. Chateau Ste. Michelle head winemaker Bob Bertheau, and Col Solare winemaker Darel Allwine will share about the winemaking styles for their wines, and walk guests through the rich history of the Antinori family and their partnership.
Click here for full menu.

 

The Dusted Valley team

The Dusted Valley team

Dusted Valley

Named 2013 Wine and Spirits Winery of the Year, both winemakers, Wisconsin natives, and brothers-in-law (they married sisters Janet and Cindy) Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson are thrilled to not only host this wine dinner, but also be in the same place at the same time!

“I’m excited about the Grilled Certified Angus Beef® brand Bacon-Wrapped Petite Filet Mignon and Dusted Valley 2006 Walla Walla Valley Reserve Syrah pairing,” Corey says. “You had me at bacon. Seriously though, this is a great summer preparation for grilled meats and the 2006 Walla Walla Valley Reserve Syrah has an awesome balance of earth and fruit. This wine has been sold out for over five years, so this is definitely going to be a fun one!”

Dusted Valley has begun a unique Wisconsin barrel project sourcing white oak from the 45th parallel, where the northerly climate creates an ideal tight grain wood, which closely represents the famous French Oak. Some of the wood procured comes from Corey’s parent’s farm.

Click here to view menu.

General Manager Tony  and Captain Louis invite you to POUR!

General Manager Tony and Captain Louis invite you to POUR!

Seven Hills Winery
Pioneer and winemaker Casey McClellan will make a rare appearance for the wine dinner, giving guests a real treat and rich history of the wines from Walla Walla. Casey is the longest tenured Washington winemaker, producing his 27th vintage this year, and he helped his dad plant the original Seven Hills Vineyard in 1980. Many of the wines served for this dinner are from the old block vines – the oldest planted vines in the valley.

Casey focuses on Bordeaux varietal reds, and is excited to pour their 2011 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which is admittedly, one of the most surprising wines they’ve made, because of the beautiful way it continues to evolve. The King Salmon pairing will also be special, as it shows off a beautiful piece of history as the 25th vintage of their 2012 Seven Hills Vintage Merlot.

Click here to view menu.

Guests enjoying the 2013 POUR.

Guests enjoying the 2013 POUR.

Silver Oak
An extraordinary California winery rounds out the wine dinner line-up. We are pleased to welcome Matt Duncan, son of founder Tim Duncan, to host. One of the pairings includes a Silver Oak 2009 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, a completely sold out library edition wine that only guests attending the dinner this evening will have the opportunity to taste. Guests will also sample from both the Twomey and the Silver Oak brands, from both Alexander and Napa Valley.

Click here to view menu.

You would think getting into an event like this might be exclusive, or “invite only,” but it’s open to anyone. With three levels of participation, guests have the option of joining us for the tasting event ($85/person), winemaker dinner ($125/person), or take advantage of both ($160/person). Valet is complimentary for all attendees.

When you consider that Quintessa and Ornellaia sell for upwards of $300/bottle on a wine list, it’s an incredible value that only comes along once a year!

Freya is excited about the after POUR wine dinner with Silver Oak

Freya is excited about the after POUR wine dinner with Silver Oak

Featured Wineries:
aMaurice Cellars
Amavi Cellars
Avennia
Balboa Winery
Beresan Winery
Cakebread Cellars
CAVU Cellars
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Col Solare Winery
Craggy Range
DaMa Wines
DeLille Cellars
Duckhorn Vineyards
Dunham Cellars
Dusted Valley Wines
Fidelitas Wines
Flying Dreams Wines
JM Cellars
Lachini Vineyards
Long Shadows Wineries
Nicolas Feuillatte
Northstar Winery
O Wines
Pepper Bridge Winery
Seven Hills Winery
Silver Oak Winery
Sparkman Cellars
Spring Valley Vineyard
St. Supery Vineyards
Va Piano Vineyards
Willakenzie Estate
Woodward Canyon

Cult Favorites:
Winebow/Catena
Zardetto Prosecco
Fred Loimer Gruner Veltliner Kamptal
Catena Alta Chadonnay
Villa Remotti Barbera D’Asti
Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino
El Enemigo Malbec

The Wines of Agustin Huneeus
’10 Quintessa
’12 Blindfold
’12 Prisoner
’11 Cuttings
’11 Flowers

Italian Table

’09 Masi Amarone
’11 Tignanello
’10 Ornellaia
’09 Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni
’07 Catelgiocando Brunello di M.

French Table
’08 Chateau Clos Manou
’10 Chateau Picque-Caillou Blanc
’09 Chateau Picque-Caillou Rouge
’10 Chateau Fonbadet

“Whiskey is Liquid Sunshine” – Two El Gaucho Teammates Recap Their Trip to Kentucky

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight, Spirited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

Two of our Spirits Captains – El Gaucho Seattle’s Dasha Mulein, and El Gaucho Bellevue’s Lonnie Anderson, were invited to visit Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark Distilleries in Kentucky. Not only was it an educational trip, they created a custom barrel of Knob Creek Rye, which will be available for our guests to enjoy within the next few months. Dasha and Lonnie recap their trip.

Whiskey Trip Lonnie and Dasha in front of Jim BeamDasha: When I was 25 years old, my friend bought me a bottle of Black Maple Hill 23 Year for my first father’s day, and I have been a huge fan of bourbon ever since. Recently the opportunity arose to select a barrel to be bottled exclusively for El Gaucho Restaurants, and Lonnie (El Gaucho Bellevue’s Spirits Director) and I jumped at the chance to visit the epicenter of American whiskey.

A 1973 Rip Van Winkle Bottle that Lonnie and Dasha were thrilled to try

A 1973 Rip Van Winkle Bottle that Lonnie and Dasha were thrilled to try

Lonnie: Let me first say, or declare, rather, that I’ve never been a bourbon drinker. At least that was the way I was before my visit to Jim Beam Distillery and Marker’s Mark.

Dasha: We arrived in Louisville, checked into our hotel, and headed out to dinner, where we enjoyed a round of Kentucky Mules. As you might guess, these are Moscow Mules, but made with the finest of Kentucky brown spirits. After dinner we headed to a bar called simply “Bourbons.” The proprietor of this establishment has an extensive collection of old bourbons and ryes ranging back to the early 1900’s – yes, that’s pre-prohibition! We got to see and sample a ceramic decanter of 1972 Old Rip Van Winkle. I then sipped 25 Year Michter’s Rye while he educated me on the way things used to be before bourbon became so popular, and where he thinks things are going. It was an amazing experience, to say the least.

The old Jim Beam Rackhouse is 5 levels, with varying degrees of temperature.

The old Jim Beam Rackhouse is 5 levels, with varying degrees of temperature.

Dasha: We awoke in the morning feeling a little hazy, yet excited, and headed to Jim Beam. Our first stop after checking in was Warehouse K, where we got to sample barrels of Knob Creek of different ages and from different locations in the rack house. It was fantastic to be able to see first hand the things that we had only previously read about. After each of us bottled our own bottle and marked the sealing wax with a thumbprint, we had a fantastic barbeque lunch and headed back to the hotel.

Lonnie: The Jim Beam Stillhouse was incredible. The interior looked like it was built in the 1800’s and hadn’t been touched since. We went up a couple of floors, and experienced the difference in temperature of each floor. I was a little uncomfortable because we were walking on wooden planks that were five floors up – a little scary, especially because I’m afraid of heights! We learned the science behind the storing of bourbon on different levels and temperatures of the rackhouse. Basically, the higher you go the hotter it is, which will age the bourbon faster than storing the bourbon on the much cooler floor level. It depends on what the master distiller is looking for with regard to flavor and alcohol, as to how he decides to age his craft.

Lonnie and Dasha were able to personally bottle their own whiskey.

Lonnie and Dasha were able to personally bottle their own whiskey.

Dasha: Day three began bright and early as we headed to Maker’s Mark for the most informative tour I have ever received. We saw everything from the corn being sorted to barrels being unloaded to wax being dipped. We even got to taste their closely guarded yeast strain! Our Maker’s tour concluded with an hour-long bourbon class, where we tasted and compared Maker’s side by side with its Kentucky, Tennessee, and Canadian counterparts, as well as got a bourbon science lesson. After dipping our own bottle in the famous red wax, we headed to a local Kentucky “hole-in-the-wall,” and I enjoyed the best fried-chicken sandwich I’ve ever had, aside from the one on El Gaucho Bellevue’s lunch menu, of course!

A full comparison taste test!

A full comparison taste test!

Lonnie: Our tour began in the visitor’s center at Maker’s Mark. Our tour guide explained the Samuels family story, and the recent generations of Bill Samuels, Sr., who created Maker’s Mark.

Dasha hand-dipping Maker's Mark bottles

Dasha hand-dipping Maker’s Mark bottles

Dasha: All in all, this was an amazingly fun and educational trip. Not only did we get to hand select a great product to bring back to our guests, but we had the opportunity to see first hand the care, craftsmanship, and years of experience that goes into that product. Our barrel of Knob Creek Rye will be on our back bars in the next few months, and we will be bringing our guests delicious cocktails to highlight it.

More photos from our trip:

Jim Beam building

Jim Beam building

Barrels, barrels, and more barrels!

Barrels, barrels, and more barrels!

Family tree at Jim Beam

Family tree at Jim Beam

Beautiful barrels!

Beautiful barrels!

Jim Beam old warehouse

Jim Beam old warehouse

Barrels to taste at Jim Beam

Barrels to taste at Jim Beam

Knob Creek testers  to taste

Knob Creek testers to taste

Jim Beam - the masher

Jim Beam – the masher

Blog Jim Beam units to add yeast

Lonnie tastes from the barrel

Lonnie tastes from the barrel

Knob Creek labels

Knob Creek labels

Maker's Mark grounds

Maker’s Mark grounds

The old days of transporting whiskey

The old days of transporting whiskey

Maker's Mark building

Maker’s Mark building

Drink Whiskey, of course!

Drink Whiskey, of course!

Menu showing the offerings of rare bourbons

Menu showing the offerings of rare bourbons

Warehouse K at Knob Creek

Warehouse K at Knob Creek

whiskey trip tasting glasses whiskey trip sample whiskey bottles whiskey trip Dasha and Lonnie's personal bottles

Dasha making his own Knob Creek

Dasha making his own Knob Creek

The thumbprint

The thumbprint

A personally made and signed bottle by Dasha Mulein!

A personally made and signed bottle by Dasha Mulein!

The tag that will adorn the El Gaucho Barrel when it arrives next month

The tag that will adorn the El Gaucho Barrel when it arrives next month

Whiskey Trip Maker's Mark whiskey trip masher

The Maker's Mark wax ladies

The Maker’s Mark wax ladies

Maker's 46 barrel - extra waffers for 18 months.

Maker’s 46 barrel – extra waffers for 18 months.

Maker's Mark quality control room

Maker’s Mark quality control room

Chihuly glass ceiling adds some color to the store room at Maker's Mark

Chihuly glass ceiling adds some color to the store room at Maker’s Mark

A bit of Seattle at Maker's Mark - Chihuly glass

A bit of Seattle at Maker’s Mark – Chihuly glass

whiskey trip Maker's Mark comparison tasting

Notes from a bourbon lesson at Maker's Mark

Notes from a bourbon lesson at Maker’s Mark

The Maker's 46 process

The Maker’s 46 process

El Gaucho Chefs recap their trip to Wooster, OH to learn more about our favorite topic – BEEF!

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

 Two of our chefs – El Gaucho Seattle’s Executive Chef Matt Brandsey, and El Gaucho Bellevue’s Sous Chef Sarah Brinlee, were invited to attend the Certified Angus Beef ®Chef Summit held in Wooster, Ohio last week. The Chef Summit is a chef only event with sessions covering meat science, menu ideation, and product utilization. Chef Matt shares about his experience.

El Gaucho Bellevue Sous Chef Sarah (Brinlee) Scott and El Gaucho Seattle Executive Chef Matt Brandsey ready to work and learn at the Certified Angus Beef Chef Summit.

El Gaucho Bellevue Sous Chef Sarah (Brinlee) Scott and El Gaucho Seattle Executive Chef Matt Brandsey ready to work and learn at the Certified Angus Beef Chef Summit.

Up until about three months ago I had never heard of Wooster, Ohio, let alone point it out on a map. Where’s Wooster, and what’s so special about it, you ask? It sits 35 miles south of Cleveland, and is home to the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) Headquarters, our primary beef partner since our founder Paul Mackay opened El Gaucho Seattle in 1996. Twice a year they hold a “Chef’s Summit,” an invitation only, two-day event on beef education, training, and chef networking.

Sarah (Brinlee) Scott, El Gaucho Bellevue Sous Chef, and I arrived late one evening after a full day of travel (there is no easy route to Wooster, we discovered!), and were welcomed to their newly built Culinary Education Center. It’s a massive building containing a restaurant, conference area, and classroom. It’s impressive, and we were ready to learn!

Chefs Matt and Sarah arrive and are ready at the Certified Angus Beef Chef's Summit in their new Education and Culinary Center

Chefs Matt and Sarah arrive and are ready at the Certified Angus Beef Chef’s Summit in their new Education and Culinary Center

After a brief brand overview and introductions, we got right into what we do best…eating and drinking, of course! Our meal was crafted by the genius of CAB corporate chef, Michael Ollier, Tony Biggs, and Amy (last name unknown…but her desserts were KILLER!). We feasted on 70-day, dry-aged New York Strip, scalloped potatoes with a beef bacon crust (OMG), and grilled romaine Caesar salad. It was good… damn good.

Sarah, Matt and other students learn about all things meat at the Chef's Summit.

Sarah, Matt and other students learn about all things meat at the Chef’s Summit.

That night – I’m not going to lie – I was like a kid before going to Disneyland. I couldn’t sleep. How could I? The next day we were to watch Dr. Phil Bass, CAB’s very own Meat Scientist, break down a half of a cow. That’s right, a doctor of meat science and an amazing teacher. I was stoked.

The next morning, we all met in the back kitchen, and there it was in all of its glory, hanging by a hook from the ceiling. For the next five hours Dr. Phil Bass guided us through the entire process of breaking down one of these bad-daddies, and it was nothing short of educational and entertaining. I’m going to say that it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen. I know Sarah can attest.

That night we were served another awesome meal provided by Chef Mike and his staff. The weather held out, so we all sat on the patio. After dinner we headed to the court yard, where a fire pit was blazing, music humming in the background, and a bunch of chefs sitting around like sailors telling tales of their journey through this never static industry.

This door opens to the Certified Angus Beef Culinary Education Center, in Wooster, OH

This door opens to the Certified Angus Beef Culinary Education Center, in Wooster, OH

The last day of our trip we had the awesome opportunity to listen to Waldorf Astoria’s former chef, John Doherty, talk about leadership. John spent 25 years with the Waldorf Astoria and was the hotel’s youngest Executive Chef at age 27! He was also a graduate of the C.I.A, and garnered more awards than Michael Phelps. He shared the ups and downs of his time at the Waldorf, and how he coped with running a gigantic institution and balancing his personal life. He was so inspiring.

Chefs Sarah and Matt participated in an Iron Chef-style cooking competition as part of their trip.

Chefs Sarah and Matt participated in an Iron Chef-style cooking competition as part of their trip.

The Summit concluded with an Iron Chef-style cooking competition. We were paired into groups and had 90 minutes to prepare an appetizer and an entrée using the bottom flap of the sirloin and a judge’s choice of steak.

As luck would have it, Sarah and I were paired together, and we were given the coullote for our judge’s choice steak. I couldn’t have been happier. The coullote is one of the best parts of the Top Sirloin. If cooked and cut correctly it has tremendous flavor and tenderness.

We all made a made rush to the pantry and started gathering ingredients. Sarah and I prepared a beef carpaccio, with a honey and brown sugar mustard, sautéed mushrooms, and arugula salad for our appetizer.

For the entrée, we grilled the coullote with crispy leeks, cauliflower puree, pickled onions, and shallots with bordelaise sauce and chili oil. While we didn’t win any food awards, we were presented with the “Most Zen” award, which meant we were honored as the most calm, cool, and collected team. I’ll take it!

Chefs Sarah and Matt during the Iron Chef-style competition

Chefs Sarah and Matt during the Iron Chef-style competition

Looking back, the action-packed trip was an absolute blur, but it gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the people “behind the scenes,” – the people who put a tremendous amount of hard work into helping create such a phenomenal product. I left with a deep sense of respect for, not only the animal itself, but the farmers who raise them, and complete gratitude for our partners and the relationships our company has built, like with Certified Angus Beef,  so that we can continue to offer our guests the very best the world has to offer.

Seattle’s New Minimum Wage Increase

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community with tags , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

Last week, after months of debate and speculation, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, the highest minimum wage in the country. This new plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase — four if they provide health insurance. Smaller employers get seven years, which is the category into which we fall.

This certainly presents many challenges for numerous Seattle businesses. If these changes were to be implemented today, it would be a $700k increase in wages for our two Seattle restaurants. Certainly the phased-in approach helps, but now that a path has been clearly laid out for us, it’s time to get to work and integrate many of the new mandates. We’ve already solicited feedback from Guest Advisory Boards at our Seattle-based properties, and will also have conversations with our employee teams about what is important to them, and how we can best work together.

The El Gaucho Way

Because of the core values of our company, we will not compromise on these elements as we work to navigate through the challenges ahead:

  1. Succeeding is our only option. We will continue to come up with smart and creative ways to grow the business and manage costs where it makes sense for us. We will also be a sustainable business – our employees are counting on us.
  2. We revel in celebrating lives. We will not sacrifice what we do for our guests. We will not compromise on the quality of our products, nor the services we provide.
  3. We will not sacrifice what we do for our employees. We will continue to be a great place to work, and offer great income and potential for our employees, as we have since the beginning.

We will continue to place an extremely high value on providing the best in everything we do: the best experience and level of service for our guests, and the best working environment for our team.  My dad founded this company on seven core values, one of which is that hospitality is a profession, and we’ve created over 350 jobs and well-compensated team members. Our employees are offered full health care benefits at 25 hours a week for individuals and families, a generous 401(k) match, and excellent employee development and training. We are proud that our team members can afford to buy homes, have families, and live the American dream.

Why This Matters To Us

Our concerns are that the increase in minimum wage doesn’t solve the pay inequality issues in the restaurant industry, and it doesn’t take the importance of tip income into account. The IRS, banks, mortgage companies, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and most importantly, our team, all recognize and value tips as income.  In addition, in order to comply with the new minimum wage laws, the vast majority of raises will go to the service teams, which will widen the income gap between them and our culinary teams.

We will all be affected by this change, whether as a guest, employee, or business owner. We would love to hear from you with any ideas or recommendations you have as we face the challenges presented to us. It is the feedback from our invested community of guests and our valued employees that will help us continue to be the world-class establishment that we strive to be.

This is only the beginning of the conversation. We look forward to gathering input from you and our employees, and we will keep you posted on our decisions and progress.

Sincerely,

Chad Mackay
President and COO

on

El Gaucho Beef – The Evolution to Include Grass-Fed, Kosher, and Wagyu

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

This is the last segment in a four-part series detailing our beef program and what makes it so special.  While our owner and founder, Paul Mackay, helped to create the most elite, sought-after Angus beef program with Certified Angus Beef®, and took that a step further to create a natural program, our guests are also a driving force in what we offer. Since the beginning, we wanted to offer our guests something so exclusive that they’d be hard-pressed to find anything like it anywhere in the world. That still holds true today.

Before we add a new product to our menu, it needs to align with our sourcing philosophy and our stringent quality requirements. Basically, it has to be the best.

Before we add a new product to our menu, it needs to align with our sourcing philosophy and our stringent quality requirements. Basically, it has to be the best.

Our owner and founder, Paul Mackay, has been an innovator in creating the elite Certified Angus Beef® Prime brand, and continuing with Niman Ranch for a natural program (read our past three articles for the complete story). Our guests are also an important catalyst for what we offer, and those recent additions include grass-fed beef, kosher beef, and a unique “splurge” item to truly wow guests.

Since our mission is simply to find the best for our guests and patrons to enjoy, we revisited our three-part sourcing philosophy: 1) to find the best products in the world, 2) to source locally, when possible, and 3) to source natural or organic, when possible. We understand the local movement in terms of looking for quality, but we also don’t want to overlook product that may be better produced or available from other regions. Before we add a new product to our menu, it needs to align with our sourcing philosophy and our stringent quality requirements. Basically, it has to be the best.

Grass-Fed Beef

Guests have been requesting a grass-fed beef option for some time now, and to be honest, we were hard-pressed to find a partner that met our company’s specifications for taste, quality and tracking. After many taste tests, research and phone calls, we were introduced to Estancia, with ranches predominately in Argentina and Uruguay. Fitting, isn’t it, that our very namesake “El Gaucho” refers to the horsemen who roamed the Pampas (open plain) in Argentina?

The Estancia mission is to provide the best tasting grass-fed beef, and that means coming from the best cattle ground – not a feedlot.

The Estancia mission is to provide the best tasting grass-fed beef, and that means coming from the best cattle ground – not a feedlot.

Just as with our domestic partners, the Estancia mission is to provide the best tasting beef, and that means coming from the best cattle ground – not a feedlot. Estancia’s beef program is completely transparent from pasture to plate, working with ranchers to produce animals of the highest quality, raised in the healthiest manner that is sustainable and good for the environment (yes, a natural process, so it’s good for the environment!). Just like “terroir” refers to wine having a sense of place, so are grass-fed cattle raised in free-roaming areas with plenty of water, eating nutrient-rich soil and plenty of space to graze. This produces great tasting beef.

Estancia produces 100% grass-fed beef

Estancia produces 100% grass-fed beef

 

In addition to the taste, health, and safety profile of Estancia Beef, every steak produced can be tracked back to the box, plant, ranch, and steer it came from. This process results in one of the most advanced traceability systems in the world. Estancia meets all USDA “Natural”, “Grass Fed”, and “Free Range” Protocols.

We currently offer Estancia grass-fed filet on our menu, and is also included as an option on our new Iconic El Gaucho Experience menu, launching this Sunday at all El Gaucho locations.

Kosher

We also proudly offer the first 28-day dry-aged Kosher Certified Angus Beef® steak in the country. We do not operate a kosher kitchen, but we have many guest requests for a Kosher steak option, and we now proudly offer a bone-in Rib Chop, certified Kosher, with just a two-day notice upon reservation. Our Kosher bone-in Rib Chop is served with a bordelaise sauce.

Imperial Wagyu is the first certified Wagyu beef brand in the U.S. Of all the beef raised in the U.S., only .008% meets Imperial Wagyu designation standards, which is why it demands a high price.

Imperial Wagyu is the first certified Wagyu beef brand in the U.S. Of all the beef raised in the U.S., only .008% meets Imperial Wagyu designation standards, which is why it demands a high price.

Want to wow your guests? Try Imperial Wagyu beef

While our steaks are the best that can be found, we listened to our guests to offer an occasional “splurge” item – something truly special with a “Wow!” factor. Our answer? Wagyu – which literally translates to “Japanese cow,” and is known for its marbling characteristics and quality.

We are proud to partner with Imperial Wagyu, the first certified Wagyu beef brand in the U.S. Like our beef partners Niman Ranch, Certified Angus Beef® and Estancia, Imperial Wagyu cattle genetics are meticulously tracked and maintained, and are the backbone to creating this extraordinary beef. Of all the beef raised in the U.S., only .008% meets Imperial Wagyu designation standards, which is why it demands a high price.

Because of its breeding and abundant marbling, Wagyu is graded using the Japanese Beef Marbling Standards Scale as a guide instead of the USDA Grading Scale.  The Imperial Wagyu we offer consistently reaches a 10+ rating – the highest grade rating given on the Japanese scale, and even higher than Prime grade on the USDA quality scale (the highest grade given). As a comparison, USDA Prime rates as a 5 thru 7 on the Japanese Beef Marbling Standards Scale.

Just like our other beef partners, Imperial Wagyu are fed only all-vegetarian diets and are never given growth hormones, stimulants, or other antibiotics. They are grain fed for over 400 days which promotes the even, high-marbled, and smooth texture, creating the characteristics for which Wagyu is known.

The Imperial Wagyu we offer consistently reaches a 10+ rating - the highest grade rating given on the Japanese scale, and even higher than Prime grade on the USDA quality scale (the highest grade given).

The Imperial Wagyu we offer consistently reaches a 10+ rating – the highest grade rating given on the Japanese scale, and even higher than Prime grade on the USDA quality scale (the highest grade given).

We offer Imperial Wagyu NY strip loin and Tomahawk on our fresh sheet periodically. Since Wagyu is so rich, it’s a great item to share.

Since opening our doors, our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy: no excuses and no compromise. This is why relationships with our key partners are paramount. We will not settle for anything less than the best, and our family of restaurants constantly works to bring you the finest the world has to offer. Bon appétit!

Since opening our doors, our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy: no excuses and no compromise.

Since opening our doors, our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy: no excuses and no compromise.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers

%d bloggers like this: