Maya and I (Nicole) have no doubt that Rusty and Marie always go over-the-top when it comes to treating their staff at Christmastime. In lieu of the traditional big company gift-exchange and dinner, this year we all agreed that a dinner would be more than sufficient. With Maya on her fifth year at Southgate Coins, and I coming up on my third-year anniversary, we all felt we knew each other well enough that time spent together would be a gift in itself.
Read on to hear about the fantastic meal and exemplary service we received at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in Reno.
This Saturday, December 17, 2011, the Southgate crew arranged to meet at Grand Sierra Resort (home of the esteemed Charlie Palmer Steakhouse) at 5:30 p.m. for their annual Christmas dinner. Rusty had recently dined at thef Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in Costa Mesa while visiting Greg Roberts, CEO of a major auction house, who also happens to be partial owner of the renowned steakhouse. It was there where Rusty met the young assistant general manager for the Reno’s Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, Aaron Murninghan, which prompted us to try the deluxe restaurant for our anticipated end-of-the-year Christmas dinner.
This restaurant was by far the most first-class dining experience I have ever had the privilege to enjoy, let alone for the time I have spent with Southgate, surpassing any other restaurant we have ever been to. With perfect lighting, candles, extravagant chandeliers, and colossal beaded curtains separating the various dining rooms, the atmosphere was fit for royalty. Upon arriving, our table had been prepared and awaiting our company, where we were greeted by the friendliest faces. I cannot boast enough how impeccable our service was, with our server Rob K. and at least eight assistants going above and beyond to make sure Rusty, Marie, Maya, and I were treated as royal guests—truly pampered—exceeding all expectations. Rob knew exactly what to surprise us with, in perfect portions, where we all got to enjoy the finest delicacies, without stuffing ourselves to the brim before the main course even arrived—not to mention we were able to save room for dessert!
Here’s Maya to tell you about the food we scrupulously relished at Charlie Palmer, their five-star menu, and how our night concluded:
The food at Charlie Palmer’s was indeed scrumptious. And what was even more wonderful is that we had an incredible wait staff, headed by Rob K., that attended to our every need and made sure that each course was just enough to tease our palettes and lead into the next course. No portion was too big, and Rob made sure that we were enjoying the spread until the very last plate was served.
The evening started out like a dinner at any other restaurant. We were seated, and then we ordered our drinks. Shortly afterward, we met Rob K., and were served a huge breadbasket with unsalted butter discs to start the night off. Once we got the “normal” dining traditions out of the way, the rest of the night was full of surprises.
With the bread being passed about, we had a round of 20 questions with Rob. We asked what certain things on the menu were, and how they tasted. He was pleased to find out that we had already agreed to all order steaks as our main entrees. We placed our order of four different steaks and 3 different starches, and Rusty asked Rob if it would be too much if we got the carpaccio in addition to what we’d already ordered. Rob just smiled and said “we’ll see.” We weren’t really sure how to take his reaction, and assumed that he must have thought adding the carpaccio would be too much.
Our first unexpected delivery was a delicious Truffled Risotto Cake for each of us. Although we were not sure what these little fried balls were at first, we all enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth taste. Rusty even asked why these weren’t offered as appetizers.
Right after we’d each woofed down our risotto cake, out came a plate with a small pile of greens, two sauces, sliced cheese, and thinly sliced meat. We all heard Rusty exclaim, “you got the carpaccio!” Rob said that since Rusty had already inquired about it, he made sure that we received it as a mid-course.
Now, Nicole and I did not know what this “carpaccio” dish was, but in honor of the occasion, we agreed to try it for Rusty, before we were told what it was. After each of us piled some greens, meat, cheese, and sauce onto thin, tortilla-like crackers, we sampled our unknown mid-course. Nicole and I both agreed that it was different than anything we’d had before, but that it was very good. Then Rusty told us. “You two just ate raw meat.” All I have to say is raw meat is pretty tasty!
Before the entrees arrived, Rusty and Marie split a chopped, baby iceberg salad, complete with a dissolve-on-your-tongue piece of bacon. Right as they were finishing, a perfectly-timed crew of wait staff came to serve us our entrees and sides.
The orders were as follows: Rusty had the Bleu Cheese-Crusted Top Sirloin, Nicole had the Petit New York Strip (blackened and peppered), Marie had the New York Strip, and I had the Petit Filet. Since the side dishes were each served family-style, we chose three starches to share amongst the group: a cradle of CP Fries–complete with a seasoned mayonnaise-sauce and ketchup, a Twice-Backed Truffle Potato, and gooey, Parmesan Potato Gratin.
We were all pleased with the presentation, but the appearance was nothing compared to the taste. Each of the steaks was so tender you could cut them with a fork. In addition to the entrees and sides, Rob brought a tray of three sauces to pair with the steaks. The first was a tradition béarnaise, the second was Charlie Palmer’s secret-recipe steak sauce, and the third was chimichurri. Nicole loved the steak sauce, and I loved the chimichurri—a puréed blend of cilantro, parsley, and basil in a high-quality oil.
Each of us sat quietly, enjoying our perfectly-prepared steaks and sides, and almost all of us were able to finish our plates with room for dessert. (Marie boxed some of her New York Strip to enjoy later.) As the wait staff took away our dishes, we were surprised yet again with two, huge dessert plates. We didn’t even order dessert, but Rob knew exactly what we would like.
The first dessert was a vanilla bean cheesecake, complete with shaved white chocolate, seasoned pears, and a sprig of spearmint on a lemony cookie crust. The cheesecake was irresistibly smooth, and the lemony hint made it very appetizing. You’d think it would have been too rich following the steak dinner, but it was a perfect compliment.
The second dessert, which we had spoken to Rob about earlier, was a chocolate peanut butter bar. The bar consisted of layers of peanut-chocolate cookie, chocolate mousse, and peanut butter mousse, topped with heavy whipped cream, and a drawn sugar spiral. It also included a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drizzles of both chocolate syrup and a sweet liqueur. Absolutely mouthwatering.
At this point, we were actually starting to get full from all the wonderful flavors we’d enjoyed over the course of the dinner. Just when we thought we were done for the night, Rob surprised us once again by bringing an after-dinner treat tray. The tray included candied walnuts, sugary raspberry gelees, macaroons, and cinnamon biscottis.
After we enjoyed the last morsel of luscious post-dessert desserts, we knew the night would be ending shortly. But before it could, we made sure to give Rusty and Marie their this-is-not-actually-a-present present, along with a Christmas card. They were surprised that we gave them the card and a little reindeer ornament (personalized with their names and their puppies’ names).
As we wrapped up everything, we exchanged hugs and well-wishes for the weekend, even though we’d all see each other again on Monday morning back at Southgate.
I know that this was by far the most lavish Christmas dinner that Rusty and Marie ever hosted for the Southgate staff, but it was a wonderful, intimate experience with flavors we are not soon to forget.
Thank you so much for your generosity, Rusty and Marie. We loved our outing, and we hope that you have a wonderful, Merry Christmas.
Nicole and Maya