I’ve written recently about bar eats, and where the best of the best are. But last night I was invited to an event at the Ritz in Georgetown that redefined some of my favorite bar food. Ritz-Carlton hotels across the nation have redone their bar menu, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first in line to taste. I’m letting you know now: it’s phenomenal. How did the bar food get this good? Well, that’s the fun part.
When the Ritz set out to redo their bar experience, they considered tons of options. More than 400 recipes were submitted by Ritz-Carlton hotels’ chefs from around the world and narrowed down to 30 finalists selected by a panel of culinary experts. So what did they choose? DELICIOUSNESS, that I can tell you. It was a total success.
I sampled some of the menu – I ate Chicken and Tarragon Croquettes (yummy dipping sauce!), Southern Style BBQ Pork Sliders (my absolute favorite! SO GOOD), Crispy Calamari, Coriander Ginger Shrimp, Jamaican Jerk Marinated Pork Spring Rolls, Crispy Chorizo Quesadillas (chorizo = love), Mini Black Angus Beef Sliders, Shrimp Samosa’s with Mango Chutney, Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Panini, Rosemary Baby Lamb Chops, Twice Baked Sea Salted Fries (big thick steak fries) and Smoked Salmon and Arugula Egg Rolls. I’m here to tell you I liked every single one. The pork slider was my all time favorite, I’m not sure what they did to it to make them so addictive, but I will food dream about them from now on. I could eat a whole plate Matchbox mini burger style. I wasn’t a huge fan of the samosa’s but my loyal readers will note that’s mostly because I don’t tend to care for indian food. There wasn’t a miss in the whole bunch, truly.
George McNeil, Corporate Chef of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company stopped by and chatted, telling us that they aimed to keep the menu affordable, ranging from about $9 to $15 – the portions are very generous and meant to be shared. McNeil said he kept the food in line with the concept of a girls night where you can pick any four or five dishes (they all go well together) and snack together while catching up. I like the idea of shared food bringing people together on a night out, it’s the perfect attitude.
And of course there were drinks. There were even classy jello shots, with unique flavors such as elderflower and cucumber. (Cucumber was my favorite!) the Blackberry Caipiroska was my favorite drink of the night, with a fresh cucumber cocktail following close behind. I asked McNeil about the cocktails and if they put much thought into pairing them with the food. He said not particularly, noting that people tend to pick one fancy different drink and then resort to their old standby drink, so the drinks were designed to be fun and fresh, but not to match the food. Well played, McNeil, well played. I agree – I know I’ll go out with people like WLDC’s Jenn and drink a creative cocktail to start then resort back to beer or a standby for my second drink, and I appreciate that McNeil thought it through. Though I know some people won’t agree with the philosophy, and argue that cocktails should be matched to food. To that, I’d say you shouldn’t take yourself quite so seriously.
Anyways, I had a fabulous time, and the food was a step above typical bar food, but for the same price. So next time you’re out for a night on the town and you’re looking for someplace swanky, consider the Ritz. It tastes as fancy as it sounds.