Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Last night I did something I had never done: had dinner at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. I love steak, but rarely eat it in a restaurant, preferring to cook at home. But last night I was a guest. It was one of the more memorable meals of my life. I’m not kidding.

My host is a regular there, and says the Baton Rouge Ruth’s Chris is different from others in the steakhouse chain. He pointed out the owner of the BR restaurant, who was working the room, and said that man is a meticulous manager who leaves nothing to chance. And he said that the waiter who comes with the table (we were at my host’s regular table) is one of the best my host had ever seen.

On the waiter front, I can say it’s true. We had a level of service that I only associate with high-end New Orleans restaurants, and Europe. We started with drinks — bourbon on the rocks for my host, dirty vodka martinis for his two guests — and then ordered salads (well, two of us did; the third had the homemade beef carpaccio). Is there anything quite as refreshing as an iceberg wedge with bacon and blue cheese dressing? It was so old school, and it delighted me. The restaurant itself could have been straight out of 1958. The decor is pretty much all brown, there’s nothing on the walls except … brown, and the soundtrack is heavy on the Sinatra. There is nothing remotely modern about the joint — but boy, does that become an advantage, because it puts all the attention on the food.

And what food it was! You will notice above that we three male persons declined any further greenness, though I did order a side of mushrooms. In all my nearly 50 years, I have never had a steak as delicious as that medium-rare T-bone you see in the foreground. It was as if we were supping on the cattle of Helios. The friend you see sitting across from me (he had a ribeye) and I looked at each other with bugged-out eyes, not quite believing that such heights of deliciousness was possible. And the mushrooms were little butter bombs that detonated in our mouths with a burst of deeply satisfying umami.

It all went down with an exquisite Pauilliac, and lots and lots of conversation about Catholicism, Louisiana, and the Benedict Option. I passed around my smartphone highlighting this photo of the Godfather of the Opzione Benedetto, Marco Sermarini, standing in his olive grove on a hillside in the Marche, and said, “Gentlemen, this is the man we want to be.”:

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It was a very, very good evening.