Roderick Daniels has been General Manager, Wine Director, Sommelier and Service Director at FarmShop and Auburn in Los Angeles, and now Perle in Pasadena, CA.
It seems like Perle has been the everlasting gobstopper of restaurant openings, how has that been?
Oh man, tell me about it. The opening just kept hitting delay after delay, which—let’s be honest—that always happens. People tell you when their new place is slated to open, and you automatically say to yourself, oh, cool, so, six months from then… Perle was no exception to that. Finally, finally, we were ready to open, and had just started to do our first “friends and family” services, where we practice for a few days to iron out the kinks before we open to the public, when—bam—COVID hits. We never even got to do a single, proper service.
Come June, we came back, ready to get open again. We prepped for takeout and reduced indoor dining, we spaced out the tables and created barriers so our guests and staff would be safe. We did, maybe, four days of indoor dining, and then we got hit with another closure order, and shifted to outdoor dining. Now, we have 11 tables outdoors on Union Street in Pasadena.
How have the guests responded to the outdoor dining?
Our guests have been really excited for us to open. There’s a great dining community in Pasadena, and people want to get out and do something, and experience Chef Dean’s cuisine. The majority of people are appreciative, and we have lots of regulars. They’ve been understanding, and get the limitations and difficulties we are facing by placing tables in the street. These tables are literally on the sidewalk and in the street, taking up a lane of traffic, protected by concrete barriers. The comments are great, “Oh, I love this, it reminds me of Paris” or, “Are you kidding me? I’m so excited to be dining out, I’d lean on a fire hydrant.” Sure, we have our issues: a table might lean (they were never designed to be in the street), or headlights from cars exiting the garage across the street might ruin your entire evening. People are people, and we do the best we can.
Has your wine program changed to reflect all the changes?
My general philosophies are constant: a wine program should be educational, and the whole team needs to know all about it. If the team is excited about the program, that will transfer to the guest. Why would we pour you sauvignon blanc when you could get that anywhere around here? I want you to experience something special; otherwise, why bother? I poured gewurztraminer the other day for someone who’d never had Alsatian gewurztraminer before. She’d only had Californian gewurz. I said, “Well then, you’ve never really had gewurztraminer.”
The list is smaller in scale than we’d originally imagined, but I like how it fits. We’ve got two sparklings, five whites by the glass, five reds. The 60-bottle list quickly pared down to 25 bottles. It’s manageable, and it works for us. We’ll probably expand it later on, but, for now, it’s easy to rotate and stay fresh, so I can keep up with Chef’s cooking.
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