Collected Peeve Posts -- I Peeve. You Peeve. We all Peeve.
FORK PLAY March 12, 2008 PEEVES
"How are you tonight?" the bread man asks me at Kerry Heffernan's South Gate in the Jumeirah Essex House. What's going on? The bread man? Puleeze. Make this guy the maitre d'. He's got too much personality for bread. Has no one told him he must just succinctly tell the choices, serve and fade into the background?
"How is the tripe done?" we ask.
"I don't know," says our server at Merkato. "I don't think I've tasted it. Dullet spiced tripe, it says here on the menu," she adds.
Yes, we can read, my dear. Just say: "Good question; I'll get the answer." And stop calling us "You guys" please.
I have peeves I didn't know I had.
Why are chefs suddenly pickling everything? Is it the myth of Momofuko's pickles? Is it the press acclaim and rediscovered passion for sour pickles at the revived Second Avenue Deli?
That long curl that looks like sweet red pepper in the pickle dish that I just popped into my mouth is a fiery jalapeño. Even after a month of chile training with habañero in Mexico, I'm burning. And the delicacy of sweet raw shrimp in Eighty One's amuse is overwhelmed by the marinated cauliflower.
A friend who loves to start the evening at the bar writes:
"I hate it when bartenders don't measure what they're putting into the drink, especially in those $12 and $14 cocktails.
"I hate having to ask them to put Vermouth into my martini. A martini has Vermouth in it."
"I hate barstools with no backs. And the backless wooden cubes at Momofuko too."
BITE: March 19, 2008 Peeved: I do not ENJOY
Last week in my newsletter Fork Play I complained about constant intrusions at dinner, waiters, maitre d’s, hosts wanting to know, “Are you enjoying everything?” I asked readers to email me their pet peeves.
Kirsten Nobman lists her three biggest pet peeves:1.When servers refill your wine glass after you've only taken 2 sips! I always tell the server I will pour my own wine.2. When servers clear plates before everyone at the table is finished dining. It's an American thing, but it's downright rude. 3. When you don't receive new flatware between courses. I don't want my dirty fork back!!
Penny Pollack, Dining Editor at Chicago Magazine responds:I hate flavored butters. Comes under my blueberry bagel rant. If I want blueberries baked in something, I eat a muffin. If I want butter on my bread, that's all I want: fabulous pure sweet creamy butter. Not herbed butter, not oil-infused butter, not butter rolled in kosher salt or flecked with Italian parsley. Please pass the butter means just that.
Authors and wine columnists Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg sent a list:1. Seeing TVs anyplace that's not a sports bar, but especially in otherwise upscale restaurants. 2. Being called "guys" (as in "Hi guys" or "How are you guys doing?") by an invariably 20-something waitperson we've never even met before. 3. The over-pouring of bottled water, especially in larger groups where the focus is on conversation so you might not even notice until you see how many bottles of unordered water end up on your check -- and see how many full glasses of water are left on the table. 4. Serving from an open bottle the wine you ordered by the glass, and then not even bothering to let you taste it first before pouring. 5. Wine served at an improper temperature. 6. Desserts that are too sweet (more common in the 1990s) or too-salty (more common today). 7. Bringing 7 petit fours for your table of 8.
Zarela Martinez writes: I hate overpouring of wine and I resent that they always serve the man more. We've stopped that by telling the server that we'll pour our own wine and it works. Jamie Gillis, her companion adds: I no longer let servers pour my wine. I want to feel more as if I am home with my own servants. -- I find it intrusive even when done by the best of them. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: "That server is best who serves least" and I don't want to be infantilized by them telling me to "enjoy" or asking me "Is everything ok?"
Maurizio de Rosa, Italian Wine Specialist at Southern Wine & Spirits, emails: When I go to a restaurant with a confirmed reservation, but am not allowed to sit unless every member of my party has arrived. And when I am waiting for a reserved table and it is evidently not ready, a drink should be offered as a gesture of apology. That seldom happens.
Restaurant publicist Steven Hall: Hates when runners give lengthy descriptions of the food as they place it on the table, and you have to wait to start eating as they go through the dishes ordered person by person.
Susan Toepfer, editor of Quick & Simple: Hates waiters who take away one plate before others have finished. [I might add…how about grabbing the bottle out of your hand so they can pour after they’ve neglected your table for a course or two? Or taking your glass away when there’s still an ounce or two of icy diluted cocktail you’re having such fun sipping?]
FORK PLAY, March 19, 2008 More Peeves
"After reading the Peeves catalogued on Insatiable Critic this week, Michael Brown emails: "My biggest peeve that went unmentioned: Any use by a server of the first person plural pronoun, as in 'How are WE this evening?' I promise that one day a server in going to catch me in just the mood to respond - 'This part of WE is looking forward to your part of WE serving dinner to us.'"
BITE: March 24, 2008 And Peeved Again
No surprise at all. Restaurant peeves keep coming in. I’ve even had emails from two restaurateurs wanting copies of all the peeves collected so far to discuss at a staff meeting to possibly incorporate in training sessions. At least we’re not just crying into the wind.
Weinoo is unhappy about: servers and bussers who do not understand that food is served from the left and bussed from the right. Wine and water - poured from the right. Servers and bussers that reach across your face while doing their jobs. Soggy French fries. Please,” he asks,” How hard is it to cook a French fry properly - in a restaurant kitchen with a fryolator?"
From Phylsueco.com: "The waiter clearing away your wine glass when there's a bit left in it. If I'm paying $12 and up for a glass of wine, I want to finish it even it there's only one sip left. All they have to do is ask if you're finished.
“Same with your plate. You don't dare place your fork and knife on your plate to rest for a bit for fear they'll whisk away your plate with half of the entree left. Again - all they have to do is ask if you're finished.”
Naomi wants salt and pepper on the table and a sauce spoon with a saucey dish. She writes: “As much as I hate being asked if everything is “alright,” I resent not being asked if I leave most of the food on my plate uneaten.
“I also hate to see so much food on the plate that it looks like the kitchen doubled my order or au contraire: one of the items (usually the sauce) indicated on the menu as part of the dish turns out to be three or four little dots or tiny dribbles for decoration. It’s even worse if it enhances the dish but is gone after one or two bites.
“Also: loud music the house turns up louder as the patrons up their own decibels trying to converse over the noise.Also: specials that are offered verbally without the price stated – especially if it’s out of the general price range.”
Vicki finds that currently fashionable deep bowl to be an annoying affectation when she can’t get the knife at an angle to cut the fish.
Gael adds: ” I suppose now that everyone is saving money by dispensing with table cloths it’s not so disgusting to set the knife on the table rather than watch it slide into the sauce when set on the edge of the latest sculptural plate.”
From Pat Weaver: “Ah, yes, my latest peeve is to order my usual Bombay Sapphire Martini, straight up, with olives and have the cocktail waiter/waitress (server?) ask me what vodka I would like to order. Even worse, at our local steakhouse "Chuck" comes to the table and then drops to his knees to take the order. There's something very comforting about looking at the menu, never making eye contact with a server who is standing tall next to the table and having no interchange with that person. When you hear from the stratosphere the words ‘will that be all?’ and you answer ‘yes,’ that should be the end of it until ‘May I clear?’ instead of ‘Are you still workin' on that?’ The French may be many things but they still don't try to turn their tables every 45 minutes and if I need a new best friend it certainly isn't going to be Chuck. Ah, that felt good.”
Back at Fiore in Williamsburg this past weekend, I am delighted to see that desserts, buried in white flurries the week before, have lost their cloying confectioner’s sugar blanket in response to my exasperated peeve in last week’s newsletter, Fork Play. “I like comments from my customers,” Chef-owner Roberto Aita assures me, stepping out of the kitchen after the press of the dinner rush.
But I’m not going to give up rate yet.
When I ask for New York water, don’t respond “Fizzy or flat?” as if your brain has been removed.
Stop apologizing when you set a plate down from the proper direction. It’s only when the server’s arm crosses in front of my face to reach a diner in an inaccessible corner that I’d like an unobtrusive “excuse me, please.”
I’m also philosophically opposed to marshmallows scattered around my venison. Cute but annoying.
And if I seem a little upset, don’t pat my arm. Yes, that’s fox on my jacket. Stop stroking it please.
What are your least favorite words in a restaurant? Mine are, “we can’t seat you till all your party is here.”
Peeves from Restaurant Reviews,
BITE: February 4, 2008 Falling in Like with Adour
[About the muzak at Adour]…I cannot believe there is music at Alain Ducasse in Paris. And it's cliché hotel music here, not sophisticated jazz to go with the delirious bubbles and the brilliant silverleaf-strewn scrim stretched over walls that blurs but does not try to hide the architectural details of the old Lespinasse. And the captains and waiters constantly asked if we were happy and how we liked every dish. I am sure that is thought to please New Yorkers too. Maybe so, but not me.
FORK PLAY August 28, 2007
Now I know I’m back in New York. We are tasting Michael White’s dramatic new menu at L’Impero but we could be anywhere. “Enjoy” has become a social obligation. The contagion is rampant. By the fourth exhortation to “enjoy,” we are giggling and with the fifth, my friend Naomi suggests we make a rule: “Deduct $1 from the tip for each enjoy.”
“They should be caned,” her husband suggests.
“The FBI should be allowed to tap their cell phones to see if they’re using it with casual friends,” she goes on.
We finally agree that each restaurant should be allowed only so many “enjoys” a year starting immediately. Twelve thousand seems generous enough. With “enjoy” being the new hiccup, they should all be used up by October.
As long as I’m consulting gratis on service manners here: I would rather not know your name. I didn’t ask which was your favorite dessert. I think your standup cowlick is cute but hearing, “Goodie. You ordered the best things,” is just annoying. Just paste a gold star on my forehead if you must.
While I’m at it, remember the great restaurant guru Joe Baum’s rules for ladies room: Every stall must have a hook and a shelf. (Architects: Clutch bags are back.)