The Personal Touch Effect

Living the Ridgway by Tony Ridgway

I was talking with a guest at the inside bar the other night and she hesitated during our conversation to search for the perfect word to describe the restaurant. After a long pause, she finally said "personal."

I liked her choice. It very much describes what Tony's and Ridgway are all about.

Our wine selections are made by Sukie with her personal tastes as the guide.
She is often in Tony's to personally help wine buyers.

Likewise, my menus measure my personal taste and style views at a point in time. Over the holidays, I had many opportunities to discuss the menus with our guests. I love doing that and our guests seem to as well.

The garden, one of Wynne's passions, is very personal, needing hours of care each day. When it gets attention, it makes us proud.

The spring season in the garden is showing serious signs of arrival. The Jasmine vine has its first blooms, and the orchids have almost seventy new spikes with the first expected to bloom later this week. But it's the Queens Wreath, with a few tentative purple blossoms, that is creating the most bloom anticipation for guests and staff! It's certainly a great time to dine in the garden as the days are filled with cool breezes and the night's temperatures drop low enough to keep the bugs away.

The garden is the perfect place to celebrate romance. In fact, we were recently honored with a visit from Barbara and John Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, who just loved sitting in the garden during lunch.

It's no surprise the garden has become one of our most popular seating requests. With that in mind, I will be creating a Valentine's Day menu to make the day extra special. You can make a reservation for VD HERE, but if you want to guarantee a table in the garden, you'll have to call us with the request at (239) 262-5500.

Details are important and are also what make every dish delicious. In fact, I'm about to give a refresher lesson to the kitchen staff about how to hand-pack our burgers.

Excellence is in the details. I hope you agree.

Give 'em What They Deserve

It is not only ownership and family who make things personal around here. Our staff feels the same way and are proud of their work place and what we offer and it shows. Many of our staff love to dine here and they tend to be our most severe critics.

Of the record setting days, I'd say that 98+ percent of our guests were very satisfied. That is great, but we'd like to do better. We aim to do our best and recognize that perfection is a goal worth striving for.

So what can we do to recapture that last two percent? I think we need to be more watchful of the gaps and encourage guests to freely give us feedback or ask for a problem to be remedied quickly.

Sometimes it's a simple miscommunication or more likely a non-communication. From a man who is surrounded by family that loves to dine out and has very specific wants and needs-a simple and frank discussion with a server or restaurant owner can be very helpful (and is typically very much appreciated).

Communicating verbally is the best way to deliver a message - even in this too-fast-paced world we now live in.

Bottom Line: To the 98.5 percent of those who love us, we feel the same way about you. Can't wait to see you again in the coming weeks and months. In fact, when you do visit make sure you also visit the garden to see the Queens Wreath, orchids and Jasmine come into full bloom. Your enjoyment makes it all worthwhile and so personal.

40 Years to Make One Cake Perfect

Here is the story behind the details of my Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake has been in my culinary vocabulary for decades. It all started a very long time ago when TSGT Jeter, with whom I worked while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, offered me his wife's Carrot Cake recipe. I tried it, loved it, and as they say, the rest is history.

The original recipe from his wife, well-loved and well-stained, is framed and on display at the counter in Tony's Off Third.

But as most chefs do, I love to be creative, so the recipe has had a few modifications over the years. We continue to use the freshest ingredients including real carrots and butter, but I have increased the volume of spice a little to get a stronger but equally pleasant taste.

I have no idea how many thousands of Carrot Cakes we have baked at Tony's or will continue to make. Our Carrot Cake is just that: no nuts, pineapple or raisins. My favorite way to enjoy the cake is as a cupcake, fresh from the oven and still warm with its spice perfume still in the air.

It amazes me how something so simple can be so good. The Carrot Cake slice served at Ridgway is a generous one. It is not some au currant take on carrot cake; it is the real deal. Easy to share with others or splurge for one.

Baking is in my blood and I find great pleasure in exploring new variations on every recipe. This passion is also shared by the bakery staff at Tony's and in the kitchens at Ridgway and Bayside. Yet above everything, taste trumps creativity and we've found that a choice piece of fish or meat needs little more than perfect grilling to win over the critics.

Sometimes the best things in life are the things we hold dear from the past - like our loyal dining guests and a simple slice of freshly baked Carrot Cake.

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