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Everything posted by TheFoodTutor

  1. Ah, if only that were true! Nearly all the places I've worked had comprehensive menu training for the staff. You can lead a horse to water, as they say... I agree with the original poster: Clearly, this is a management issue. When a neighbor of yours has dogs that run wild and tear up your yard, do you blame the dogs? Or do you blame the neighbor? When a parent comes into a restaurant with kids that screech at the top of their lungs, do you blame the kids? Or do you blame the parents? I've worked front, back and management, and every position that a restaurant has available. If service staff don't know the menu, it's because the FOH manager hasn't shown the importance of menu knowledge, or the Chef has totally slacked on giving up details of menu changes and specials, or most likely, both of them just don't really care enough to communicate and coach what needs to be taught and learned. Personal pet peeves? I worked at one restaurant for about a year where we weren't even allowed to eat the food, never mind getting a discount. No family meal, as a company policy, and not even allowed to buy food to take home at full price at the end of the shift. We did get to try a good portion of the menu when we were in training, but after training, if the menu changed, it was entirely up to the server's guess as to what most of the newer menu items tasted like. Occasionally, if the Sous wasn't too coked up, drunk and moody at the time, we got to taste a single plating of a new special that we were supposed to sell. Unfortunately, if this happened during Ramadan, one of my co-workers would scoop half of the new Sea Bass entree into a plastic container so that he could eat it after sundown, leaving the rest of us with the remnants on the plate to taste between ourselves. If we couldn't scrape any of what was left, too bad. If our one day off for the week was on the day the new dish was introduced, too bad. Don't blame the dogs, or the kids, or the servers. (Sorry to make such an unfortunate analogy.) Most servers in upscale restaurants really, really want to do a good job, and they scrape pretty hard to get the knowledge they need to do as well as they can.
  2. Thank you! I was hoping someone would point this out. As someone who lived without a toaster for years and years - for no particular reason, other than that I needed room for my rice cooker, my ice cream maker and numerous other appliances - I'm very used to lubricating the pan to make toast. So, I didn't grow up with this dish, and I'm not sure what to call it in my own personal experience, but I first heard it called Toad in the Hole, and that was on a television show. I think it was a Louisiana cooking show, if it matters, but I grew up in Ohio. When I first saw the idea for the dish, it instantly occurred to me that, since I like my eggs up, and yet I also like my toast crisp on both sides, I should cut the hole with a cookie cutter, toast the bread in the pan on one side, flip, then pour in the egg. Throwing away the hole from the middle of the bread never seemed like a good option to me. Edited to add: I don't cover, and yet I also don't flip the egg. I find it pretty easy to cook the egg enough, sunny side up, without flipping or covering. Any runny whites seem to get absorbed by the sides of the hole cut in the bread, and I do like my egg yolks pretty darned runny. As someone who totally ruined my first fried egg on the stove, made for my father at age 12, because a bubble of fat and air under the egg made the egg literally explode on me, I think this is pretty much a great way to idiot-proof making a fried egg. Damn. Now I want to make this for breakfast. Would schmaltz be a good addition? I don't have any bacon today.
  3. The dog is too anxious to be left alone outside? So the answer to this is to possibly bring this "well-behaved" dog into the dining room? I'd make a comment about this point, but frankly, I'm speechless. Incidentally, all of the "storage areas" in a restaurant, or at least every restaurant the I've worked in, are food storage areas. Yes, even the dry storage area has food in it, and other items that are meant to be clean enough to eat off of, such as table linens. These areas are all in the area technically known as the kitchen. Bringing a dog into the kitchen of the restaurant is a much more egregious violation than bringing one into the dining room, and I don't think that even the guide dog exception would help out here. The restaurant would very likely be shut down if the Health Inpector were there. And Holly: Your comments regarding the Health Department allowing one incident to slide because of circumstances (possibly with a wink!) indicate to me that it's been at least 2 or 3 decades since you've actually dealt with a Health Inspector personally from the perspective of someone on the restaurant side of things. Health codes have gotten much, much stricter as of late, especially within the past year or two. I have been working in restaurants in the Atlanta area for about 12 years now, and I've worked with a lot of Inspectors, and many of them are even people I know. Never in those 12 years have I ever seen an Inspector let anything slide, not even if it was a very tiny infraction. The tiniest gap between the rubber seal on the back door and the concrete floor brings a write-up, even if no bugs or evidence of bugs is present. Meat that is thawing without cold, running water pouring over it is forcibly thrown in the garbage. I could go on and on, but the most amazing example was when an Inspector stuck a temperature probe into a hermetically-sealed packet of non-dairy creamer for coffee that was held in bowl with ice: The creamer inside was 1 degree higher than it should have been, which resulted in an 8-point violation for "food held at improper temperatures." Seriously, after the things I've seen Health Inspectors pick at, I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine an Inspector knowing of a dog in a restaurant kitchen and then shrugging it off, saying, "Well, it is really pouring outside. . ."
  4. A very good point. A closed restaurant is providing exactly zero stars worth of service. In the area where the restaurant where I work is located, it definitely could and most probably would happen. All it would take would be a competing restaurant owner dining in the same dining room (even on a slow Monday), realizing how much he'd be able to benefit from our very busy restaurant being shut down, even temporarily, by the Health Department, and that call would most definitely happen. Edited to add: Actually, I can imagine some of our competitors even voting, "Yes, let the dog into the dining room." And then calling the Health Department. Places around here are really hurting, and given that our restaurant goes on a wait every single meal period, it would be a tremendous boon for all of them if we were shut down for even one day.
  5. I've become obsessed with Japanese food, cooked at home, ever since I discovered the Cooking With Dog series on YouTube.com. I'm actually going to buy a takoyaki pan as a result of it, and I'm not ashamed to say that. And no, I don't know the lady in the videos. Or the dog. Edited to add a link to Cooking With Dog: Cooking With Dog
  6. I made meatloaf tonight, almost for this very reason. For some reason, I thought I didn't like meatloaf, but my fiance requested it, so I went out of my way to do it. I thought I always had made it, I always hated it whenever I had it, except for a few times that I made it myself and it was great, but it turns out that it's been ages since I made or ate meatloaf. Tonight's dinner was very, very good. Earlier this week, we had lasagne, which I also think that I always make, and yet I only rarely make, and it was also pretty darned good. Now, off-topic, matzoh ball soup is something that I only make once in a while, but the last time I made it, it was a Revelation. I'm almost askeered to make it again.
  7. Only when I'm on a bender. Heh. Just kidding. That sort of thing hasn't happened in a long while. In all seriousness, I did scorch a batch of homemade, but frozen, potstickers last week. I was clearly thinking about too many things at once, while drinking a much-deserved glass of wine. It can happen. Cooking skills don't go away, even with Alzheimer's. You just tend to forget what you're doing more often then.
  8. I've heard stories about servers or bartenders denying Cokes to pregnant women, but don't have any knowledge first-hand. It would be interesting to hear stories from women who have been pregnant as to what their servers have allowed or not allowed them to have. Rare cheeseburgers? Caffeinated beverages? An occasional glass of wine?
  9. We see a lot of that around here, too, but I also see a lot of overweight people who clearly aren't on diets drinking Diet Coke. It's a personal preference. Some people like Diet Coke because it's sweeter than regular Coke. For a lot of people, Diet Coke is their second choice of beverage when they find out that my restaurant doesn't serve sweet tea. Sometimes, a Diet Coke is the perfect beverage to help wash down a platter of fried chicken tenders, french fries and cole slaw. There's no telling why, really.
  10. This I would find extremely irritating, and I'd probably actually tell a manager about it, unless I was certain that the waitress misheard me, both times. The implication, otherwise, is rather insulting and rude. I would never ask if someone wanted Diet Coke instead of Coke, unless people were shooting beverage orders at me, rapid-fire, and I was so flustered at trying to write it down that I wanted to clarify. I do sometimes ask, while I'm picking up the glass for the refill, "Was this Diet Coke or Regular," just in case I wasn't the person who originally took the order, or it wasn't written down, and there's none of the original beverage in the glass, in order for me to easily see which one it was. Incidentally, long-time servers can tell the difference between Diet and Regular Coke by the color. Diet is a shade or two darker, enough to notice if you see it a lot, and while that is not by design in the product, it does make it easier to tell the difference, as one is setting the drinks down on the table, so that one can deliver the appropriate type to the person who orders it. There is no such color difference in any other beverage that I know of, such as the difference between sweetened and unsweetened ice tea. Those are indistinguishable without tasting them. Aside from the rudeness of suggesting Diet Coke to a person that one thinks is overweight, it's also self-defeating, on the part of the server. Diet Coke either has crack in it, making patrons drink more of it much more quickly, or it has a much faster evaporation rate, ensuring that many more refills will be necessary, and hence, more footwork. Actually, I can confirm that the former is true, rather than the latter, because I am a drinker of Diet Coke, and I sip it during most of my shifts, but never during my time off, when I drink water or wine or coffee or beer, or some combination of those. (OK, not mixed - don't go thinking that I'm drinking a water/wine/coffee/beer cocktail from hell.) Best case scenario: Maybe she's a Dental Assistant by day, and she's hoping to help you stop washing your teeth in sugar? OK, probably not. If it's a really good restaurant, I'd go back and tell the manager to tell her not to superimpose her beliefs on her guests. Otherwise, I'd seriously think about not going back and taking my business elsewhere.
  11. Eh. I don't feel like it's patronizing. I just assume that my server must think that I'm Royalty. Happens all the time, actually. Really, my biggest problem with these threads about "biggest pet peeve about servers" or "biggest pet peeve about the quality check," is that pretty much every possible way of quality-checking a table is disqualified by someone in some way or another as annoying, obtrusive, pedantic, etc., and by the way, it's not like it isn't already really difficult to come up with something to say. Like, let's say that we whittle it down to one way to ask if everything is delicious, or acceptable, or "OK," or cooked to specifications - one way that won't offend anyone, or piss off anyone, or irk someone enough to start some tip decay happening - then, how does one say that same thing, over and over again, without becoming so robotic that the tone itself becomes irksome? And then you have to throw in the other side of the equation: The things that the restaurant completely disallows us from saying. For instance, I'm not allowed to say what our "specials" are for today. Do you know why we don't have "specials?" Because all of our entrees are "special." And yes, this is why I'm bitter.
  12. Because it's actually the only review of her restaurant on that site, which is to be expected, since it's a raw vegan restaurant, so the place doesn't have a whole lot of customers to begin with, much less customers who are registered to post there. To her credit, notice that Denise did not respond by registering under an assumed name so that she could pose as a customer and shill for the restaurant, while denouncing Ms. Gleason's review and/or possibly insulting her for her poor taste. She was honest about the fact that she owns the restaurant, which is why we're seeing her comments here, instead of on the website where she sent them.
  13. No. You always have to ask, actually. Sometimes, the asking is just making eye contact and ensuring that everything is alright, giving the patron the opportunity to say something if something is not perfect. Sometimes, the asking means standing nearby until someone cuts into a steak, popping over to check the color and saying, "Oh, that looks like a perfect medium to me. Is it to your liking?" Sometimes, when people are really caught up in conversation, it's enough to walk by, raise an eyebrow and give a questioning "thumbs up" gesture, trying to be unobtrusive, but still offering an opportunity to ask for ketchup (yes, even if it's for a steak.) I've seen plenty of cooked-through steaks sent back to the kitchen because they weren't "cooked hard" enough, or perhaps they had a bit of moisture left in them (that's what ketchup is for, you know.) My most annoying was a waiter who asked me at a brunch buffet if I was still "working on" half of a chocolate, chocolate chip muffin that I was enjoying rather slowly. It was really the tone he used to ask it that annoyed me more than anything. I looked up at him, just as sullenly as he had looked at me and said, "Why? Do you want it?"
  14. $5.95? Wow, it's really gone up. ← Yeah, wow. You know, at $3.99, it was a large amount of disgusting, almost inedible food for a small amount of money. At $5.95, I may have to think twice.
  15. So, how about sending the restaurant owner a private message, stating that you'd like to give her an opportunity to present her opinion, but that you think her response letters are too antagonistic in tone? Or there are some other possible options. I recommend researching the paths that Yelp has taken in addressing business owners who feel that they've been wronged by the sort of relatively anonymous reviews that appear on sites like yours. I do not recommend offering to remove negative reviews in exchange for advertising revenue, as Yelp has been accused of doing, but looking into some of the controversies and responses they've experienced is a good place to start. This forum, while it does provide helpful information about lots of topics, is probably not the best place to get advice on this sort of thing. You won't post the owner's response on your own site because it violates your posting policy, and yet you choose to post it here? I'm afraid I don't understand that.
  16. I'm not hard-core "either or" either. I used to be a raw food vegan years and years ago, but since then I've changed a lot, and now I eat everything. In fact, I couldn't fit in very well with a vegan crowd because I openly admit that I eat Foie Gras. I do still like to eat salads, however, and I not only eat gazpacho, I make my very own favorite version of it, but I'm still willing to try it at restaurants to see if anyone knows my tastes better than I do. However, when I write reviews of restaurants on the internet, I never give a write-up to a Golden Corral or a Cici's Pizza. In fact, I don't often write about buffets unless they are exceptional, and I most definitely wouldn't write the majority of my reviews about buffets and whether they have enough bacon on them or not. I think this is someone with a very loud opinion who is writing on a very small, little-used website and I don't trust that opinion at all. If I were in the vicinity, I'd patronize the vegan place just to spite her. On top of that, I think that the fact that the owner of the website in question started this thread is, um, possibly not quite appropriate. It seems that there are multiple agendas at work here.
  17. I actually looked over a good deal of this person's other reviews, and those are my thoughts exactly. I'm actually thinking this might be a set-up of some kind. Does Ms. Gleason know Denise somehow, and because of past relationships, want her restaurant to fail? I'm sorry, but I just can't conceive of a situation where Ms. Gleason would want such a sharp relief from all of the mass quantity consumption at buffets that she would even think about eating at a raw vegan restaurant. In one of her reviews, she even points out that she regularly commutes an hour round-trip for a particularly good pizza buffet at $5.79 per person. It seems pretty clear what her preferences are. Of course, Denise sounds like an extremist, but she is a raw food vegan. Isn't pointing that out kind of redundant? I would be very surprised if there isn't more to the story here.
  18. Making a semi-gourmet menu from pretty much exclusively Sysco ingredients. At least I'd think that's kind of hard. I don't know of any restaurants in malls that really have a lot of fresh ingredients on-hand, and frozen products can be kind of nasty. I watched that episode and I really didn't think he had a wealth of gourmet ingredients to choose from. I don't really understand the hatin' on Robert Irvine, frankly. As far as his recipes being gross, I don't know for sure that I could come up with anything better, given how much packaged food he has to use, because that's what's available most of the time. Yes, pasta salads are outdated, trite, lame, bland and dull, but if you've got to feed a large group of people, many of whom will admittedly not be foodies, but all of whom will be hungry, and all you've got is frozen seafood and dried pasta, it is one of the first things that comes to mind. I don't remember Michael Symon's food as standing out in any way above what Robert Irvine made, but admittedly, I only tried to watch a couple of his episodes, and I haven't really watched a lot of the episodes with either of them overall. If someone could point to specific examples of how much better Michael Symon's food was, compared to Robert Irvine's, I'd find that especially helpful. I think they should just fire them both and hire me instead. I'm better looking than either of them, anyway.
  19. Funny. My first thought when I heard that Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie were married was that she clearly must have something going on in that space in between her ears, or else he wouldn't have been interested in marrying her. Then again, maybe even fabulously brilliant men just really like sleeping with models. I kind of wish there were a Hardee's near me so I could find out what that burger tastes like. I hate to think of going out of my way for fast food.
  20. In my opinion, they're bringing him back because he's a much better and more interesting host than, um, that other guy. You know, the guy who's so boring I can't remember his name at the moment. I honestly don't care if someone lied on his resume to get the job, if the show is better with him than it is with someone who came by it honestly. Similarly, I'd rather eat food from a "Chef" who lied about going to culinary school if his food is better than that of a CIA graduate. Frankly, I noticed the "scandal" when it all came out, and I thought to myself that it was rather funny that Irvine had pulled it off, because he sure acted like someone who has that kind of experience. And then I watched the show with the new host and couldn't get through a single episode because it was just that boring. I'd have to say that this is one of the very few television programming decisions that I've ever agreed with in my life.
  21. I would probably call the restaurant and tell them about the mistake and, given that you had a good time, I'd probably be satisfied with a gift certificate of roughly the amount that you overtipped. I would make sure not to sound miffed when I called, since it sounds as if the server was not trying to cheat you or trick you into tipping twice. You had a good meal, you paid a price that you thought was accurate and then you realized later that you may have overpaid for the service. Incidentally, are you sure your table had gratuity added? I mean, you obviously know whether you had 6 people in your party or not, but if you didn't see the actual bill, it's hard to say whether gratuity was added or not. Sometimes, a server forgets to add gratuity, and then other times, a server "forgets" to add gratuity. For example, I work in a restaurant where we state on the menu that we add gratuity of 18% for parties of 5 or more. However, we have regular guests that are known to tip more than 18%, and given that knowledge, when they bring in large parties, I leave off the auto-grat specifically because I know that if I grat them, they will not only get angry, but I will be cheating myself out of a larger tip. In other situations, sometimes a server just likes a certain table and imagines that they are probably pretty good tippers anyway, so why not leave off the gratuity and trust them to tip properly. Of course, the problem with gratting certain tables and not gratting others is that accusations of discrimination can follow. One mustn't grat all of the tables of purple people while never gratting tables of green people, because that would really cause a stink that would most likely involve lawsuits and such. But, I'm just saying that sometimes it does happen. Call the restaurant to find out for sure, and then see if anything will be done if a mistake was actually made.
  22. This is very difficult to do by tearing, actually, as I've seen it done a number of times. Almost always, one half of the bill is larger than the other. One can, however, make sure to hand the server the smaller "half," but that negates part of the philosophy behind your method, that the tip is wasted even if it doesn't get earned. And the bank won't replace half dollar bills. Normal banks will replace any mutilated bill, as long as both serial numbers are intact and visible on the bill. If you have less of a bill than that, you must take it to the Federal Reserve Bank, where they have a template to determine whether you have more than half of the bill, and then they will replace it. Your server would need to know this sort of information, if he or she wanted to cheat you out of the rest of his or her "unearned" tip. How do I know this? Well, I've seen this exact trick done, not in tipping me for service at a table, but in a sort of "negotiation" on the part of an amorous customer. He ripped up 8 $100 bills in front of me, then proceeded to give me halves of them, one at a time, in an effort to get me to go to his hotel room, where he'd presumably give me the other halves. He was rather tipsy, however, and I was rather wily, so I managed to get the larger halves of almost all of the bills.
  23. Well, I was one of the ones who always forgot, hence the paper bags that I usually brought my lunch in. I also had a messier locker than most people, and it wasn't too unusual for me to forget that I'd even brought my lunch, then buy my lunch in the cafeteria and then find my old, uneaten lunch in my locker a week later. I'm pretty sure you were a better kid than I was.
  24. They look cool. That's really all I was thinking about. Insulated bags don't look terribly cool. Funny you should mention the part about refrigeration. I don't remember a single time in my whole grade school through high school experience that I ever refrigerated my lunch, whether I brought meat and cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly. I always just brought my lunch in a paper bag and left it in my locker until I was ready to eat it. I guess we just didn't think about things like that as much back then. Bento boxes do come in many varieties now, so I'm sure that if you wanted one with a container for soup, it wouldn't be hard to find. I'm not much of an authority, though, since I don't have any kids and I haven't packed a lunch for anyone in years.
  25. I think the popularity of that is based entirely on the packaging. Children like the bright colors, the disposable box, the little squeeze packets, the miniature plastic knife/spreader. I'd say that one way to get past this would be to buy bento boxes for your children, and put some effort into packaging them in a cute way, and you could even make the lunches together with your children. However, that still doesn't take away the fact that after lunch, the kid has to take the bento box back to his/her locker, or wherever the rest of his stuff is stored, and then remember to take it home, none of which they have to do if they can just throw the lunchables box into the trash on the way out the door to play on the playground. Much better for the environment and cheaper with the bento boxes, though.
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