SER steakhouse hosted a champagne dinner even Madame Clicquot would have loved

Saddiq Mir and Jeannie LeBlanc at SER steakhouse

Saddiq Mir and Jeannie LeBlanc at SER steakhouse

the scallops at SER steakhouse in Dallas

the scallops at SER steakhouse in Dallas

When I’m fortunate to attend an event for  EscapeHatchDallas, such as the La Grande Dame Champagne Dinner at SER

last night, my usual take away is delectable food and choice beverage pairings. However, since I was seated next to Saddiq Mir, the Director of Food and Beverage for SER, I was also treated to fascinating behind-the-scenes insights about the workings of one of Dallas’ most imposing restaurant venues.

“I make sure everyone is trained to give guests a memorable experience, a gracious experience” Mir said. “I start by asking them, ‘How do you like to be treated when you go out to dinner?’”

Well, I like to be treated just as I was, with well-choreographed service and an overall welcoming ambiance. It’s easy, in an opulent space surrounded by people in suits and black dresses, to feel a tad stifled, but there was small chance of that at SER. Besides the great service, the successive glasses of fine bubbly and cabernet sauvignon definitely put everyone at ease.

After all, champagne is the coquette of beverages, or so I say. Someone else has also probably said that, but I’m going to claim credit here.

Patrick Mangan, Senior Regional Marketing Director for Moet Hennessy USA, flew in from Naperville, Illinois to offer up tidbits about what is quite possibly the world’s most storied champagne producer. Case in point: La Grande Dame herself, Madame Clicquot, invented the process of riddling. For the uninitiated, riddling is the process in which champagne bottles are turned upside down during the second fermentation so the dead yeast will gather near the cork. Once settling is complete, the wine near the cork is frozen and the cork and frozen plug are removed in a process called disgorgement. After that, additional wine is used to refill the bottle to its proper level.

But I don’t want to diminish the impact of the splendid dishes turned out by chef Antony Van Camp. I savored every bite of the grilled diver scallops with celery root, granny smith apples, and winter truffle—it was probably my favorite dish of the evening, but then the wagyu spinalis with foie gras bon bons, dino kale and shallot-jalapeno marmalade bordelaise reminded what it is that a chef like Van Camp does, versus my own significant skill in turning out a great holiday turkey. I’m a solid cook, but Van Camp is a freaking genius.

Some of the more interesting diner reactions came from the local arugula salad with seared pineapple quince, black pepper, and balsamic brown sugar reduction. The servers came around and offered the usual freshly ground pepper, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced pepper quite like that—it was the essence of pepper, the penultimate of pepper—strong enough to push you back in your seat and make you reach for the brut rosé pairing.  But the rosé actually sparked the pepper and made it even more intense, and so I just had to wonder if I was loving or hating it. I think the final verdict was loving it.

But the main thing is, the pepper/rosé pairing made me go, “Hmm.” And that’s why I go to a place like Ser. If I want tasty but ordinary, there are any number of casual dining spaces in Dallas to satisfy. SER is all about the extraordinary.

As the evening wore on, the crowd got louder and more convivial by the moment. My dinner guest and I lingered on after the last course  for a bit of girl talk, but I was starting to wish I could get one more glass of champagne to take with me to a room. A suite downstairs in the Hilton Anatole with a panoramic view of the Dallas skyline was mighty tempting. I  could don a terry robe, pull the covers back, and just drift off without having to head back up the North Tollway.

No such luck—maybe another evening.