Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
Same Driveway, One Week, Two Hundred Feet and Light Years Apart.
April 07, 2009It was an odd Yin/Yang thing in the air. After all, it was exactly a week after the "Crash and Burn" event (as so dubbed by a local foodie/writer) at Shoreline, when the same group was showing up literally next door at the Four Seasons Hotel for the media/food blogger event at Trio to launch their new "Happy Hour". Same verbiage in the evite: Meet the Chef, Meet the Sommelier, Sample the food, try the wine. The similarities end there, gentle Readers. They end there.
The invite mentioned complimentary Valet parking. Nice touch. I pulled up at the exact same time as the previous week, in that same driveway, but went left to the Four Seasons Port Cochere. The Doorman opened the door for me with "Welcome to the Four Seasons". I mentioned the event, as instructed in the invite. He asked my name for the parking ticket. As I went to the door, I heard a cheerful "Enjoy Trio, Mr. Moshein!" Just inside the door, a lovely woman in Four Seasons livery greeted me with another "Welcome to the Four Seasons. How may I help you?" She personally lead me downstairs to the door of Trio, where I was handed a card, identifying me as their guest, and I was told just relax and enjoy and to order anything off the menu I wanted, compliments of the Four Seasons. Nice touch. "No passed nibbles chosen by the kitchen, no standing in line for wine we chose for you. Nossir, we want you to act as if you were just showing up. Get the full experience of the place. Relax. Chill. Hang." Nice touch, Trio. Am already impressed. What a differrence two hundred feet can make indeed.
Greeted yet AGAIN at the bar, warmly welcomed with "I've been wanting to meet you!" Mark Sayre, the Somellier for Trio came right up to help me choose some wine from the by the glass list. Yet again a fellow "wine guy" I could tell right away Mark "gets it". The list is good, thoughtfully chosen. He strives for that delicate balance between "cool and groovy" "old school quality" and "wine geek". Not a bum choice out of the 30 wines in the bar list. Gutsy choices included a killer Alsatian Pinot Blanc, Old School German Riesling, a serviceable yet tasty Chablis, and an amazing Douro red from Portugal- cool and groovy meets uber wine geek with elegant layers of earthy chewy goodness. Mark remained a cheereful, helpful, and pleasant fixture all evening. I made a new buddy.
The food was equally good. My favorites were the tuna tartare, crab "fondue" (think crab bisque meets cream gravy) and lamb sliders delicately flavored with garam masala (I could have eaten the plate of three all by myself!). Todd Duplechan, the Chef de Cuisine, was totally available to chat and answer questions, making time to stop by every one, and send out some off the menu treats. He is a talented and dedicated chef, and while a couple of the items were a bit over spiced for my palate, I have no doubt that the rest of Austin will appreciate them (I'm a bit of a spice wuss for my food, I find it interferes with the wine, but then I'm very much in the local minority on this point, and freely so admit.)
Service was a long ball home run out of the park. Attentive, friendly, consistent and tuned to what was needed. Water brought unrequested just when I felt thirsty, dirty plates exchanged for clean without request when the next round of apps appeared. The crowd was not too small, not too large. Just enough for a plesant evening. Chatting with old friends, making new acquaintances both in the crowd and from the Trio management. Every single person working at Trio and the Four Seasons I encountered made the effort to engage me, and I noticed did so with all the other guests.
I made my goodbyes, Mark and I promising to hang out for some wine together, and as I left, being reminded to make certain to have my valet ticket stamped so there would be no charge. Waiting for the car under the port cochere, the doormen engaged me again in pleasant chat, asking if I enjoyed Trio, then wanting to chat about my old, old school Mercedes and how it was in perfect condition. I tipped the valet $5 as a thank you to the hotel, instead of feeling it being ransom for my car. I left a very happy camper.
Now, many of you are thinking "OK, well its the Four Seasons" with that certain "sneer" in the voice from Austinites which translates to "yeah that expensive snooty hotel where the hotsy totsy celebraties and uber rich UT alumni stay when in town and the average joe can't afford to park much less buy a drink" Well, Austin, the times they are a'changin. That was true before, and the staff at the Four Seasons freely admits it. Now, however, Trio asks you to consider it as a place worthy to hang out and spend your hard earned leisure bucks. They dare you to bring your highest expectations, and they challenge themselves to exceed your expecations. So they do, to be honest, very much exceeding them. And, in gracious yet elegant style to boot. The food is great, the wine list is superior, and now the really cool part. "Regular" prices at Trio aren't bad. Wine and Apps priced between $6 and $14 bucks a pop. The BEAUTY part is Happy Hour! Everything is HALF PRICE! So check it, peeps. Do the math. For say $5 for a great glass of wine and $7 for a plate of lamb sliders you can have a nice light after work bit to eat for TWELVE BUCKS. Heck, your local TGIMcFunsters charges those prices for swill at Happy Hour. Now add in the amazing welcoming service, cool comfortable atmosphere inside, and the best view in town from the patio outside and you have one of the best experiences Austin has to offer. Frankly, I'd love to bring my "been there ate that" Sister the Maven from Beverly Hills to TRIO, where even she would have a great time because in the summer you can have all that AND watch the Bats! Come on, cool and sophisticated meets Keep Austin Weird.
It's about having, bringing and exceeding expecations, Austin. The old days were "expect nothing, we'll have a keg of beer and some chips n'salsa" and you left happy cuz the beer was free. Today, you can actually HAVE some realistic expectations, you are welcomed to bring them and have them exceeded for a reasonable price. Bring it on Austin. TRIO is happy to have the challenge and looks forward to meeting you. All you need to do, is the same simple thing I did. Bring it and Show up.