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Too Much Shmutz on the Table


Ellen Shapiro
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Why do restaurants put so much shmutz on the tables? They have these tiny little tables that would just hold two plates maybe, and they shmutz them up with flowers, candles, salt and pepper, little advertising cards and placards and "tents," a bread basket, a butter dish, an olive oil dish, and olive dish, an olive pit dish, various glasses you aren't using, unnecessary flatware, bottled water if you order it, and other things I'm sure I've forgotten. Can't they figure out that these tables won't hold two dinner plates if they already have twenty other things on them? I would like all restaurants only to put necessary things on the tables unless the tables are really big. Thank you for listening.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Chazzerai is....junk. Commonly used as "stuff." As in oh, why am I shlepping all this chazzerai in my bag?

Drek is...inferior merchandise...used like "crap." As in I went shopping for shirts but all they had was drek.

edit: I checked these in printed sources, just to be sure.

Edited by La Niña (log)
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Chazzerai is....junk.  Commonly used as "stuff."  As in oh, why am I shlepping all this chazzerai in my bag?

Drek is...inferior merchandise...used like "crap."  As in I went shopping for shirts but all they had was drek.

Thanks Nina. Well explained and now I know.

The candles, flowers, s&p, bread and butter are good...even necessary.

Anything else is chazzerai. (Ten times and it's mine.)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Since I don't wish to contribute to derailing this thread into a discussion of Yiddish definitions, I won't, except to say if you want to know what Yiddish words mean you should check the print sources and not rely on what people tell you in an online chat. That will be all on Yiddish definitions for now thanks.

As to the point of the discussion, I most recently saw this happen tonight at One Fish, Two Fish, near my house. Before any ordered food came the table was laden with so many items that there was noplace left to put even the appetizers when they arrived. I see this all the time and will sometimes just gather up an armload of stuff and hand it to the server to take away.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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if there is anything else other then small flower thing your glasses your plate and your silverware on the table then there is just to much shit. Thats the sighn of a poorly run restaurant. Take my place for instance when you sit down you have a small flower thing with a small flame thing for light. You have plate setting in front of you along with your tools and your bread plate. your glasses are there there as well. But after you have ordered your wine and what not alot of the stuff is removed. Anything not needing to be there. But there is plenty of room in my mind because i ate there before i worked there and that thought never run my mind. But again i say this a poorly run restaurant will let the shit build up.

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Absolutely agreed, Ellen. I also find it widespread and irritating. How often have you played table chess ? You know, they bring the butter, and you have to shuffle six other items around to make room for it :biggrin:

Another related crazy fad is where they lay up the table with a giant plate, then as soon as you order they take it away and you never see it again. It was there purely for decoration, and to show they can afford to buy big plates :wacko: But of course, the rest of the table is laid around that huge plate, so it's all squashed up; as soon as they remove the big plate, you have to shuffle the cutlery and glasses so they're in more comfortable positions.

I have two restaurants which come immediately to mind in relation to table size and contents.

The first is Club Gascon in London, where the restaurant 'concept' is intended to work like tapas, in other words a table orders a number of small dishes and shares. There were three of us at a table for four, and they couldn't fit the dishes we ordered on the table so that we could move them around. That made sharing extremely uncomfortable. It was also impossible to pick up a glass of wine without the base catching under a plate. The table was indeed quite small, but the problem was also the number of items they put on it, and the fact that the dishes we ordered were on over-large plates.

The second is Chez Comme Soi in Brussels. They had unusual (to me) tables which were long and narrow. When we arrived, the tables were groaning under flatware, glassware, cutlery and decorative flower bowls. As soon as we ordered, they removed all the unnecessary items. When we ordered wine, they removed redundant glasses. By the time the food arrived, we had everything we needed, and acres of room. It worked beautifully.

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This reminds me of an idea I had for a style of service. I really see no need for flowers on the table -- does anybody really want flowers on the table? -- and in fact I see no need for there to be anything on the table other than what the customer needs and is going to use at a given time. On one of my visits to one of Ducasse's restaurants, I realized that during the course of the meal they were building the table into a composition of sorts. It was a progression from sparse to bountiful, and it was quite intentional -- it wasn't just the incidental effect of bringing more stuff. It occurred to me that it might make sense for a restaurant to start with totally empty tables. Just the surface, with nothing on it. Build from there.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I see this all the time and will sometimes just gather up an armload of stuff and hand it to the server to take away.

We routinely gather up all the extraneous crap and hand it to our server. It's in their best interests, since we are usually accompanied by a small child who sees everything as a potential projectile. :biggrin:

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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It gets even worse at restaurants, like Chinese restaurants, where the entrees are not typically plated on an individual basis. You have the same size table but you need to accommodate family-style platters as well as individual plates. I've learned to be quite merciless in jetissoning superfluous items in such environments. Teacups? Forget about it. The tea sucks anyway. Take the teapot, the teacups, and the sugar away please. And please buy beer glasses that hold an entire bottle of beer so I don't get stuck with a bottle and a glass.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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And please buy beer glasses that hold an entire bottle of beer so I don't get stuck with a bottle and a glass.

Hey, you're right :blink: The glass always takes 98.3% of a bottle :laugh:

That's a great idea, starting with an empty table. It has style and sense, an unusual combination :smile: We could call the place Nappevide, except that would create pronunciational controversy (my estimate would be 473 posts).

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This reminds me of an idea I had for a style of service. I really see no need for flowers on the table -- does anybody really want flowers on the table? -- and in fact I see no need for there to be anything on the table other than what the customer needs and is going to use at a given time. On one of my visits to one of Ducasse's restaurants, I realized that during the course of the meal they were building the table into a composition of sorts. It was a progression from sparse to bountiful, and it was quite intentional -- it wasn't just the incidental effect of bringing more stuff. It occurred to me that it might make sense for a restaurant to start with totally empty tables. Just the surface, with nothing on it. Build from there.

Kudos, FG, for understanding that the table is a composition. One way to approach the composition would be with a "blank canvas", nothing on the table. That would be I guess a minimalist approach of sorts. Of course, other ideas are possible. Most begin with place settings. Flowers and candles are associated with romance, and are appreciated by many couples.

The "blank canvas" idea can be extended further. I once visited a restaurant in Rome that begins each evening as an empty room. Totally empty. As guests arrived, tables were brought in and set.

It would be interesting to think of a dining experience as performance art, and to imagine some of the performances that might take place.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Like the idea of starting with a blank table. As for flowers, my preference would be to have beautiful, fragrant flowers on the table when we're seated, but for them to be whisked away as service starts. Might puzzle some diners, though.

Also, the thread reminds me of the delight I've experienced as a solo diner, especially during second seatings, where I've been given a table for four. Especially with a banquette, so I can spread out. :biggrin:

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While I don't relate to the cluttered table, the whole idea is for the diners to be comfortable and to enjoy the meal. It all comes down to service. If the table is cluttered and food is arriving--with no place to go--the staff should be pulling the unnecessary stuff off the table so the food, the theoretical purpose of the restaurant's existence, can fit on the table.

Certainly Wilfred, flowers on the table when the diners arrive (if they're nice flowers) and whisking them away when the table gets crowded is optimal and I've employed the same tactic myself.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Blank Tables? nice idea , but would you like the price hike to cover the extra waiting staff needed to run back and for setting up around you?

Maybe i should try it in my tiny place, because anything is possible if you seat less than 85 guests apparently :wink:

FYI..My tables..... S+P ,sugar, tooth picks. business card.Cutlery for starter and main, side plate, napkin,side knife, butter, olives, bread.Bread olives and butter removed after first course, unless they want to keep them.Wine cooler

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The whole idea is to make a profit. Small tables mean you can seat more people. My guess is that there is rarely a thought connecting the style of food and service with that part of the reality of maximizing profit for the restaurant. (Just as there is often no understanding of the demands of the menu by the people who design and outfit kitchens.)

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