Sunday, February 8, 2015

Episode XXXIV: Hudson Grille (ATL)

I have been in the ATL for almost three years now and I am officially an ITP (inside-the perimeter) snob. These days I am more likely to cross I-285 in a plane rather than a car. I am not totally opposed to going OTP but at least it is a conscious decision these days.  So when I got an invitation from the Holy Cross Club of Atlanta to go to the Hudson Grille in Sandy Springs I was willing to make an exception.

 New York Deli Reuben
Half-pound Certified Angus Beef® corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 island dressing, toasted rye

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
It is toothpicks like these that show how much work this blog still has to do. One day the Reuben Ranger’s aversion to toothpicks in food will be so well known that they will just disappear. It is now painfully obvious that no one at the Hudson Grille has read this blog before. You could kill a vampire with one of those things.
Good job on grilling the bread and getting a nice color on the crust but not enough to salvage a high score from this food blogger.

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.9/5.0)
 The quality was fine. I got the vibe that everything in the kitchen is very controlled and regulated. This is a chain so I am sure there are corporate standards for everything that comes out. More on this cookie cutter approach in the JNSQ section.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
$10.95 is an ok price but maybe a bit expensive for an OTP venue. This place is huge and there are lots of TVs everywhere so I can see they need to cover costs. At least the fries were included with the Reuben.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.6/5.0)
The Hudson Grille is a great place and sells itself as a gathering place for large groups and I can see why.  The Holy Cross event was actually hosted by the Bucknell Club of Atlanta, which invited the Holy Cross Club out.  The two schools were facing off in basketball that day in probably the only nationally broadcast game of the year for either team. I think we outnumbered the Bucknell folks 3:1. We took over the event. Holy Cross lost but no one was really watching. You don’t go to Holy Cross for the sports.  We manage to pull off a big upset in a few sports every once in a while and that is good enough for us.

The Reuben suffered from a lack of imagination. It seemed like it was built by a robot. I am sure the beef was prepared to exact internal temperate and put in the oven for an exact amount of time. The sauerkraut was probably prepackaged at corporate and the dressing was probably dispensed by one of those caulk guns that ensures the exact amount was used.

A lack of imagination can kill a Reuben. If you have read Guns, Germs, and Steel, you are familiar with the Anna Karenina principle.  Here is the description from Wikipedia:

The Anna Karenina principle describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel the author references this principle to explain why there are so few breeds of domesticated animals.  All domesticated animals needs certain traits. Animal demeanor is one of them and Zebras are mean buggers that otherwise would have been great to domesticate. Gazelles are too jittery and would rather ram themselves to death against a wall than stay fenced in. All domesticated animals are alike but each wild animal is different.

I had just finished reading this book when I had this Reuben and I think the same principle applies to Reubens. All good Reubens share many traits but the absence of one of them can mean doom.
-         Imagination
o   Each Reuben needs to have some moxie, needs to be created with love and imagination

-          Strong individual components
o   Corned beef has to be a quality product and seasoned just right
o   Sauerkraut needs to have just the right Ph
o   The rye needs just the right caraway flavor, too much is lethal
o   Thousand Island is a cool binding agent that does not dominate the show
o   Swiss cheese half the time just has to show up. A flimsy slice won’t do it.

-          Balance
o   It is hard enough getting the five individual ingredients just right but balancing the portions is even harder

-          Texture
o   Tender beef
o   Toasted bread
o   Melted cheese

-          Correct temperature
o   Have you ever had a leftover Reuben? Probably not. If I don’t finish it then it is not worth bringing it home and trying to reheat.

When I left the Hudson Grille I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about because there was nothing overtly wrong with the Reuben. I still can’t quite put my finger on it but it just lacked heart. Each piece of beef was a uniform dimension, the sauerkraut was made for the masses, even the fries were just kind of there. The whole Reuben was just a bump on a log.

Taste – (8.2/10.0)
The Reuben tasted fine. It did not exactly knock my socks off but it was fine.

Overall – (23.4/30.0)
Would I order it again? No.  I would definitely go back to the Hudson Grille especially to watch a game but I would order a burger or wings.

It was great seeing my HC buddies and I am glad I ventured OTP.

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