Saucy Responses

By | November 1st, 2010

Like many club and resort properties, the culinary staff at Alpine Country Club, in Highland, Utah, has taken to making its own dressings and sauces, as part of its greater emphasis on providing fresh, natural fare through all parts of its menus.

And, as other clubs have also discovered, the response to this extra effort was so favorable that many times, Alpine’s culinary staff was asked by diners to put some extra sauce or dressing in a styrofoam cup or other container, so a member could also enjoy more of it at home.

That has prompted Alpine to take the extra steps needed so it can now bottle its signature creations and include sales of the sauces and dressings as part of a member’s dining experience.

“Members can just order [a bottle] when they order their meal, and we give it to them when their meal is over so they can take it home for their daily use,” reports Emanuel Vidolin, CEC, Alpine CC’s Executive Chef (“Well-Traveled But Not Well-Aged,” C&RB, September 2008).

Alpine’s line of bottled sauces and dressings currently includes a dozen different varieties: thousand island, balsamic vinaigrette, ranch, blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette, ginger sesame, tomato vinaigrette, honey mustard, BBQ, chimichurri, roasted garlic marmalade, and a steak sauce dubbed “A18,” in recognition of Alpine and its golf course.

When it became apparent that an extended market for these products existed, Chef Vidolin started the process of developing a “bottling operation” by first doing an Internet search for a bottle supplier. He found one that only requires minimum orders of 12, so he could first present samples for approval to the club’s GM and House Committee.

For labels, Vidolin drew on experience he gained when helping to run a family bakery in his native Argentina, using the same software to design and print labels that could be affixed to the bottles.

Currently, Alpine is not bottling the sauces in advance, but only as orders are placed for a specific variety. “My credo as a chef and in my everyday life is to waste as little as possible,” Vidolin says. “So our starting point for now is to bottle a sauce or dressing as it’s ordered, just like making a steak. We can do this because the sauces that we have for sale are the same that people order with their food.

“In the future,” he adds, “we might hopefully get to the point where we have to have some [varieties] ready in advance. But for now, the plan is to have people order a bottle when they order their dinner, and that way we will have a few minutes to bottle their sauce or dressing to take home when they’re done.”

This process also means Alpine doesn’t have to worry about the freshness of anything that would be bottled in advance. But it also means that some varieties provided in the club’s dining rooms are not currently offered in bottled quantities.

“Because we bottle the sauces and dressing by order and are continuously making them for the line, we don’t worry about expiration dates,” Vidolin explains. “For what we are bottling now, we just advise customers to consume the sauce not later than 10 days after it was purchased, and to keep it refrigerated.

“But the only sauces and dressings we [currently] bottle are those that are more safe to handle,” he adds. “For example, I love our caesar dressing, but because it has fresh egg yolks in it we can not sell it; there would be too much risk.”

The price of a bottle of sauce or dressing, Vidolin says, varies according to its type and also the cost of the bottles being used. “We try to have one price and an average of 36% food cost,” he explains. “But the cost of the bottles can vary depending on how many we’ve bought at a time, and the homemade steak sauce and chimichurri also have some ingredients with higher costs.” Prices currently range from $4.99 to $6.99 for a 12-ounce bottle.

Vidolin is happy with the initial response to the availability of bottled sauces and dressings, which began officially in mid-October. “At this point, we are happy with any sale that we can add, plus it gives members a much better presentation than a Styrofoam cup with a plastic lid when they want more of the sauce or dressing that they had with their meal,” he says.

“It’s a new territory for us, so it’s hard to say how much we could [eventually] sell,” he adds. “We can’t sell beyond our membership [of 400], but we will start promoting the products through our servers and our menu, to make members aware that now they are available at any time. We may also try to have some special sales, such as maybe a gift box with four sauces.

In the future, Vidolin says, the ultimate sign of success would be if “we might have some people coming to buy sauce and then stay for dinner…since it all started the other way around.”