Thursday, January 25, 2024

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville 

Son Ryan and D-in-law Michelle treated us to dinner at Gordon Ramsey's RK Kitchen in downtown Naperville (IL). This was our first visit to the trendy restaurant that opened in our hometown last summer to much fanfare. 

Readers of these pages know I write often about dinesites and our food and wine restaurant experience. But, up until now I've not had a metricized qualitative or quantitative rating or review system against which to evaluate and compare such restaurants. Based on tonight's, and recent experiences, I felt such a evaluation method with criteria was required and after much thought devised a system to try. 

Using my new system, I evaluated tonight's dining experience. I then went back and retrospectively scored a half dozen recent restaurant experiences as a basis of comparison, evaluating the evaluation system, so to speak. 

Here are my criteria for evaluating a restaurant dining experience, and the associated weight applied to each:

Food - 35 - Selection, quality, creativity or ingenuity, presentation, course pairing, wine pairing

Wine - 35 - Breadth and depth of selection, range of options at various price points, suitability and applicable pairing with the dinner courses

Ambiance - 10| - atmosphere, vibe, comfort, stylishness, general aura

Service - 10 - delivery, attentiveness, professionalism, attitude, overall experience

Value - 10 - value for quality, service, atmosphere, experience

Wow Factor - Lastly, what I simply call the WOW Factor - additional scoring, weighting based on special consideration or  extra credit factors that contribute to the overall experience such that they warrant attention - food and wine pairing - site architecture, location, historical significance, specials ... other ... potential for +10 points

So, here we go, for tonight's experience - 

Food  - 31 - Food was superb in creativity, ingenuity, preparation, quality - downgraded the rating for the only thing lacking, bread or depth of selection choices - only the limited menu choice detracting from score.

Wine - 31 - Same as food, the minimalist winelist offered various options for each course, at multiple price points, but lacking depth and breadth of multiple choices for minimal options for effective wine pairing with each course.

Ambiance - 8 of 10 - chic, stylish, artful, warm, lively and vibrant but a bit noisy and boisterous for optimal comfort. 


Service - 9 of 10 - Starting with the host station, going the extra meal to seat us promptly, attending to checking our coats, superb food service, adequate wine service. 

Value - 5 - Expensive, especially taking into account the ala carte sides, and the somewhat limited number of options or alternatives. 

WOW Factor - 8 points extra credit for the up-beat, stylish, quality fixtures, furnishings, layout, design, artfully designed and implemented for a positive experience. 

Total - 92 points.

Our dinner - 

We started with a Wedge Salad which they conveniently served almost family style like a chopped salad making it easy and convenient to share around the table.

Wedge Salad- iceberg, blue cheese, glazed bacon, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onion, chives.

With the salad course we had from the WBTG offerings two sparkling wines - 

Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose'

Lanson Brut NV Champagne 

For our main source entree selections, we had to try the house specialty, Ramsey's signature dish, the Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellingto, potato purée, glazed baby root vegetables, red wine demi, served medium rare.

RK offers a Daily Special so in the spirit of trying out the gourmet chef's selections, Linda ordered the daily special - Lobster Pot Pie -butter-poached lobster, lobster bisque filling served aside for preparation at the table by the diner, pouring into the puff pastry.

We ordered two side dishes, Potato Puree with sour cream and chives, and the Roasted Heirloom Carrots with harissa yogurt, za’atar, brown butter, marcona almonds and mint.

For dessert we ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding -warm date cake, sweet cream ice cream and english toffee sauce.

Our wine accompaniment pairing with the dinner was a robust full bodied Red Blend. 

Ridge Lytton Springs Red Blend 2021

Once again, as happens often, we drank this same wine, from our cellar, about this same time, two years ago, almost to the day for another dinner tastings - Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek ValleyZinfandel 2014. At that time, I wrote about the producer and wine in these pages, Ridge Vineyards  and Lytton Springs.  

We always keep a selection of big robust fruit forward wines for pizza and barbecue - Zinfandels, Syrahs and Petite Syrah varietals to name a few. We typically hold a half dozen different labels from the various offerings of Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards are a legendary producer of a broad portfolio of wines with an extensive line-up of Zinfandels, all from single vineyard designated label sites. 

Ridge has a rich history dating back to 1885 when Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, he planted vineyards and constructed a winery of redwood and native limestone in time to produce the first vintage of Monte Bello in 1892. The historic building remains to this day serving as the Ridge production facility.

Ridge have been producing Lytton Spring vineyard wines since 1972 with 100 plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Genache. The site has produced the quintessential example of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. 

The Lytton Springs site lies just north of the town of Healdsburg, just west of Highway 101 in the Dry Creek Valley. The topography consists of a benchland and gently rolling hills. The climate provides foggy mornings turning to warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. Soils are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay, which aids in moisture retention, ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. The Lytton Springs terrior with weathered, agronomically poor soils in the benchland have proven to be an ideal site for Zinfandel vines to produce classic Zinfandel varietal wines.

The Lytton Springs vineyards were part of land once owned by Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the nineteenth century developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.” 

According to the producer's website, Long after the death of Captain Litton, controversy continued in regards to the change from “i” to “y”, as the accepted spelling of the Litton property. According to the text of Once Upon a Time by Julius Myron Alexander, the spelling was changed “because it was proper”. Then, in a 1969 Press Democrat article, Healdsburg City Clerk and local historian, Edwin Langhart, offered a different opinion, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

Ridge Vineyards dates back to 1959 when three scientists from Stanford University's Research Institute (SRI) and their families formed a partnership and bought a property owned by Dr. Short up on Monte Bello Ridge high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of them, David Bennion, made a half barrel of cabernet from the ten year old vines. The partners re-bonded the winery and named it Ridge Vineyards in 1962. That year they produced their first Monte Bello vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ridge produced its first Zinfandel in 1964 from 19th century vines on the Pichetti Ranch near the base of the Monte Bello Ridge. Ridge produced it's first Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel in 1966, from vines planted in 1882. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year.

Paul Draper joined the partnership as winemaker in 1969. He was a Stanford graduate in philosophy, and a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. He had recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range. He oversaw the restoration of the old Perrone winery and vineyards acquired the previous year. 

He first saw the Lytton Springs vineyard in 1972 and, based on its age with 80 years old vines, purchased grapes and produced Ridge’s first Lytton Springs bottling that year. In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of their first vintage, Ridge purchased the Lytton Springs winery and the old vines surrounding it, making it a true estate vineyard.

Paul Draper went on to become a legend with Ridge Vineyards. The Ridge brand grew to a broad portfolio of more than four dozen single vineyard designated label wines from more than two dozen different vineyards. They operate two wineries and hospitality sites, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg up in north Sonoma County and Monte Bello high in the Santz Cruz Mountains above Silicon Valley. 

Paul Draper retired in 2016 at age 80, after 47 years as winemaker. Ridge continued on expanding with additional vineyard site purchases include the purchase that year of Whitton Ranch, a 36-acre parcel in the heart of Geyserville.

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Red Blend 2021

This is a single vineyard designated label, sourced from the Lytton Springs vineyard in Northern Soboma County. The vineyard lies just north of Healdsburg on the benchland where the gently rolling hills separate Dry Creek from Alexander Valley. 

Lytton Springs is named after Captain William H. Litton and two naturally occurring springs that were located on the original property. Litton worked as a ship’s pilot in the San Francisco Bay in the mid nineteenth century before acquiring the large tract of land in 1860. The property straddled the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys that extended from the southernmost boundaries of Geyserville to the northern limits of the fledgling town of Healdsburg, with the Russian River serving as its eastern boundary. The property was originally part of the Rancho Sotoyome land grant of the 1840’s. By 1867, Captain Litton was considered the fourth largest property owner in Sonoma County. 

In 1872, the San Francisco and Northern Pacific Railroad linked Healdsburg and points north with the Bay area. In an attempt to attract tourists, Captain Litton and three partners built a resort hotel on the site in 1875, known as “Litton Springs” for the popular soda springs that were located half a mile uphill from the original hotel site. The naturally carbonated seltzer, or sweetwater, springs were considered to have medicinal value for their mineral properties. The springs still exist today and their presence was one of the primary reasons that underground caves were never built underneath the winery.

Captain Litton sold the 2700 acre property, including the hotel in 1878. Over the next couple of decades, the resort property was bought and sold and subdivided into smaller parcels by various owners. 

 According to the producer's website, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

 The vineyards were first established on the property in 1901 with the hillside vineyard blocks on the eastern portion of Lytton Springs, followed by vineyard blocks on the flats in 1910. To this day, Lytton Springs is home to those 100-plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Grenache.

 The site is ideal for Zinfandel with foggy mornings, warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. The agronomically poor soils are gravelly clay which holds moisture ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. 

This label was first produced in 1972.

I write regularly in these pages about the pairing of wine with food. This wine was too bold and rich for the Beef Wellington, which would've been better suited with a more balanced and finely integrated Red Blend. 

This vintage release is a red blend of 72% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Cinsaut and 1% Counoise.

This label release was awarded 95+ Points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous, 94 Points by Zinfandel Chronicles and 94 Wilfred Wong of, and 93 Points by Owen Bargreen,

Winemaker Notes

"Rich blackberry and plum on the nose with notes of aniseed. Full-bodied with dark bramble fruit and well-coated tannins on the palate. The long finish reveals layers of black licorice and dried sage.'

"Lytton Springs has become synonymous with classic Dry Creek zinfandel. It shows potent, ripe boysenberry and blackberry, but also a pronounced rusticity and earthiness often attributed to its blending varietals; petite sirah and carignane. Acid and tannin are firm, yet not overwhelming; in youth, at least, fruit predominates. This balanced, powerful wine becomes more nuanced with age, and it often holds for more than a decade."

Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, a cacophony of bright, vibrant expressive, full round ripe red and black brambly fruit flavors accented by sweet spices, clove and cinnamon, full tannins on the finish. May be better with some age to further integrate.

RM  92 points.