Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
Old School is "Old School" for good reason.
February 12, 2009First up, I must admit to be proud to be "Old School". All the kids I work with all call me that (a "kid" is anyone who is younger than clothes I still wear and I have a Springsteen concert t shirt from the 1980 "The River" tour...). Frankly, I am Old School. I drive a 1989 Mercedes S Class and still wear the vintage Ralph Lauren I bought new way back and a bespoke suit I had made at Gieves & Hawkes (Saville Row tailors to HRH Charles, Prince of Wales) in 1983. Well, OK, not the whole suit anymore, but the jacket still looks great with jeans. I deplore New World wine making and worship wine making that respects and reflects the terroir.
"Old School" is Old School for good reason. It means appreciating something basic that is expertly made, finely crafted, comfortable, durable and respects quality and strives for perfection.
So, last eve Yr. mst. hmbl & obdt Srvt the Austin Wine Guy was invited to a preview dinner at the newest Fleming's Restaurant at The Domain here in Austin.
OK, I hear the groans already from certain suspects who I know read this. "Fleming's" a CHAIN restaurant (boo hiss) at The Domain that evil MALL of Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Sur La Table and overpriced clothing oozing pretense in our Keep it Weird Austin??
As Archie used to tell Edith "STIFLE YOURSELF." Yeah, Flemings has a bunch of restaurants, 68 now, and the Domain is upscale, but don't paint it all with the same brush.
Flemings is a chain not because some mega-corp is trying to conquer every mall in the world. They have so many of them because THEY WORK. They GET IT, they DELIVER what a whole bunch of people want. and YES, I would go back and happily dine there again any time.
Flemings is Old School personified in a restaurant. They cook Prime steaks and similar basic, good comfort food and do it well. "Now, look, I can go out and buy a great steak and fire up the grill", you protest, "so why pony up big bucks to go out? " Good question. The answer, young Jedi, is because they do it better than you can! and they do the dishes.
Fleming's is defined by their entire attitude, which works Old School. The staff is friendly and attentive, but THANK GOD they aren't out to entertain you. They just want to make sure everything is PERFECT for you. Sevice is unobtrusive without being obsequious (look it up). From walking in, ordering food, getting your meal, the whole nine yards, they strive for perfection.
The wine list is easy to navigate. Now, some wine geek friends raise a good point that it looks like a "who's who" of Wine Spectator and Parker darlings. Well, it is. BUT it has something for everyone and I mean everyone. From the merest novice, to well, me. And thats the point. They are trying to make sure that anyone who wants wine can find something they know, like or appreciate. The really cool part is offering 100 wines by the GLASS! Now, I don't know any wine person who can't appreciate not having to order a whole bottle to get a glass of something good.
I had a delightful and engaging conversation with Marian Jansen op de Haar who is Fleming's Director of Wine. Notice the dedication and commitment to having a "wine director" in the first place. Marian is a "wine guy", well ok "wine gal", but as another guest noted, we each recognized the other as wine folk as we chatted away about trends, bottles, winemakers we knew etc. Trust me on one thing. I don't care who you are, but if you like wine, you WILL find something you like on the list and Marian wants it that way. She even teams up with very good wineries every year to have a special "Fleming's" bottling and trust me, it isn't plonk with a fancy label. This year it's Pouilly Fuisse that even this Burg Hound found praiseworthy and a good value.
Is the list "My" list? Nope. But, I'm not the average Fleming's customer. But I like the list for what it is, for their target audience, and even I can easily find things I actually want to drink and not "settle for". THAT is the key to this place, THAT is their success and their appeal.
You can take anyone you know to Fleming's and they will enjoy their meal and experience. It's safe, it's GOOD, it's well crafted, well chosen and perfectly executed. They are dedicated to what they do and devoted to the devil in the details. To their food and wine and service, everything at Fleming's is expertly made, finely crafted, comfortable, durable and respects quality and strives for perfection. In short, Old School.
In today's climate, isn't it nice to know that when you want to spend precious dollars on going out for a meal that there is someplace you can go and practically be guaranteed to leave happy? I think that's very valuable. Fleming's succeeds for good reason -Old School, Dawg, Old School. Peace Out.Laters.