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Asking for a taste in a restaurant


FabulousFoodBabe
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I just posted on the New York thread about our meal at the Kittle House in Chappaqua. I pointed out that an irritating moment was when I asked for a bit of something, just to taste it.

My request was refused, which I found to be kind of odd, since I've asked for the same sort of thing before at the KH, and have been happily accommodated; I've done this for years at other restaurants and have never been refused; and I've prepared tastes myself for customers when I've been cooking, at restaurants less nice and much nicer than Kittle House.

Just to be clear, we were talking about a garnish for a soup.

I'm interested in what others -- customers and cooks -- think of this incident, and my request.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Back in my ice cream scooper days, Baskin-Robbins offered pink taste spoons that we used to proffer tastes to customers. Ever the salesman, I would hand out tastes of spumoni, daiquiri ice and my other favorite flavors to customers, some of whom would scrunch up their faces when they didn't like my flavour du jour.

Honestly, who wouldn't like Golden Delicious Apple Sherbet?

Now, tasting was part of the B-R culture, and while the occasional knucklehad would come to sample six different flavors and not buy ANYTHING, we were happy to offer samples. But it seems that offering tastes is more common at delis and places with counter service as opposed to sit-down restaurants.

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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Can you be more specific? What was the garnish, exactly? And why did you want a taste?

the garnish was pear-cardamom fondant; I wanted to see how it was done. I was having foie gras, didn't really want the soup just for the garnish. I told the waiter they could just (a) bring a half-portion of the soup, or (b) park the garnish on a b&b plate. No dice. Snif.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Nothing at all wrong with your request. :huh:

A lot wrong with their response. :unsure:

.........................................................................

If you have been there before and have been accomodated, it would seem even more off-putting to have it happen this time.

Perhaps it was a new or inexperienced server. . .maybe a new guy on the line who had some definite ideas of how the food should be uh, "approached", hopefully *not* a new written or verbalized policy. :sad:

The only other explanation I can think of is if they have gone to computerized tabs and whoever was manager at the time could not figure out how or if they should or could charge you for these changes to standard procedure/menu pricing.

Fear of foodcost f**kups, you know.

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Nothing at all wrong with your request. It is simply good customer service to provide a taste of this or that, especially if it is a garnish!

If it ever happens again, I would sniff even louder in your position. A third time, well, three strikes.

It is a service driven economy and lifestyle in the world these days. And garnish, you just do bunches and bunches of it up in prep, and end up throwing a significant percentage out anyway. Unless it is a particularly hot item for the evening, that is. Even then, scant the next six plates and give someone who is curious a taste.

MOO, of course. :biggrin:

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I think I would be a bit uncomfortable asking for a "taste" of something at a restaurant, but yes, I do think it was a bit odd that you were refused your request. What exactly did the server say was the reason that he was refusing to give you some of the garnish?

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Nothing at all wrong with your request.  :huh:

I really do wish the posters who had such a problem with this would explain why. Heck, I can think of a dozen times where I'd send a little something to the table for people who seemed interested in it. It paid itself back a hundred times and the customers were so happy (not to mention the waiters, who got some extra $$$ for their part in it).

And Fresser, I would have pegged you as a Mr. Softee driver, instead of a B-R counterdude. We got tastes from the Mr. Softee guys straight out of the "tap." Oh, it was an innocent time.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I think I would be a bit uncomfortable asking for a "taste" of something at a restaurant, but yes, I do think it was a bit odd that you were refused your request. What exactly did the server say was the reason that he was refusing to give you some of the garnish?

Yanno, I've never felt weird asking, but I've never asked for a bite of steak or foie gras, or half a creme brulee (and I always volunteer that I'll pay). I've asked to taste a dressing, a garnish, a vegetable, sauce or foam, etc. Once I was asking a lot of questions about how a place did some of their sides, and the server insisted on bringing a "sampler" of three or four of the ones that didn't accompany my meal.

The waiter in this case simply said, "no." That's all. And I didn't want to kick up a fuss, even though it WAS my birthday, dammit! Maybe if I'd worn my crown, they'd have coughed it up ...

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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MOO

My Opinion Only

Keeps me out of much trouble here and there. I have been known to be opinionated. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or anyone else's opinion for that matter! I try to include the acronym when I am being particulary opinionated on any one point. Keeps me humble, because my opinions, no matter how firmly stated, are my opinions only.

:wink:

I spent a lot of time in the front of the house, some time in the back of the house. Back in the day, ya know. Through high school, college, military wife, single mother, back in college. Great job, flexible and pretty lucrative if you are good at it and service oriented.

The most valuable skill I learned in the front of the house, was dealing with people in the back of the house. After all, it is so hot back there, and this little girl comes in communicating a customer request or complaint! It is hard when you are up to your ass in alligators, in the weeds, behind, hot, tired, seen to many of those plates already, cut yourself twice today, burned yourself once, and the dishwasher called in sick so you have to do it, to be patient with this little slip of a girl, who makes more in tips than you do for a night's work. when she bounces up to the window and demands something, for her customer, who will tip her generously if she accomplishes the mission.

The server may not understand the concept of "polite, but FIRM" or more importantly the concept of a glass of wine or an ice cold cocktail at the end of the night. But more importantly, the management of the restaurant should be, ideally, familiar with the concept of customer service and all of it's ramifications.

MOO, of course.

:smile:

Annie

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[" Heck, I can think of a dozen times where I'd send a little something to the table for people who seemed interested in it. It paid itself back a hundred times and the customers were so happy (not to mention the waiters, who got some extra $$$ for their part in it)."

Excellent! Exactly my point!

I hostessed, waited tables, ran the front, worked the back, ran the back, sometimes ran the whole thing when the ower(s) were a little deep into the bottle.

I also, cannot tell you how many times I sent a little something to the table. Not to mention the times I placed a tidbit tray at the hostess station with some of the sauce from the special, or just brought a bit of something to the table with the silly water pitcher!

Those were the days! My body simply will not tolerate the loaded tray and buspan anymore. Sigh.

Not to overlook the very simple and straightforward exclamation I have heard all over NY, large or small place, fine dining or dive:

"YOU WANT ME TO LEAVE?"

Edited by annecros (log)
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I think I would be a bit uncomfortable asking for a "taste" of something at a restaurant

Yeah, I don't think I would ever do that.

On the one hand I can't recall having specifically asked for a taste of something in a restaurant. On the other hand I've been offered tastes of various things, generally in restaurants where I know the staff and have asked a question about the item or items.

Given that the taste in this instance wasn't something that would require much (any, frankly) prep and would have been difficult to replace (unless, perhaps, this fondant is made in extremely small batches) I don't think it's an extraordinary request. And given that the party was spending a pretty large chunk of change on dinner in any case I don't think that the request was out of line.

But maybe the kitchen really was running very short on the fondant. Or maybe the server had already pissed off the kitchen and wasn't going to risk asking for any more favors.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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"Yeah, I don't think I would ever do that."

Why not? Do you normally purchase a car without a test drive? Would you buy a house without having a walk around the inside? Date someone without finding out at least the basics? What do you do if you are unsure if you would like an unfamiliar menu item, or a special even?

Not order it? Just to be safe? What exactly do you do if you have never tried something before, or if you have eaten an item before, but are particular in the preparation method? How would you know that the change you drop on the special is worthy, if there is some doubt?

Myself, and the best restaurant owners I have come into contact with, would much rather the customer ask for a taste, than not order something at all. Especially if they are not sure if they will like the item or not.

A happy customer likes the food. If they don't like what you have to offer, well fine. Then don't get a great big honkin plate of it, complain to others that you don't like it, and never patronize the establishment again, because you feel like you were ripped.

I always wanted happy customers. Chef's want happy customers. Every owner I ever met wants happy customers.

I guess I am probably coming across as a little pushy on this issue, and please don't take this personally if you do not feel comfortable asking for a bit of sauce or a garnish.

Sorry. But, service fed me and two kids when things were not good. Outstanding service always pays off.

And, I understand that other's may not feel comfortable making such a request. But, I don't think that it reflects poorly upon anyone who does, either.

I will shutup now. I promise.

:biggrin:

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Myself, and the best restaurant owners I have come into contact with, would much rather the customer ask for a taste, than not order something at all. Especially if they are not sure if they will like the item or not.

I would have absolutely no problem asking for a taste if it was something I was thinking about ordering. But I think I might feel uncomfortable asking for a taste just out of curiousity when I didn't actually want to order the item.

However, I don't see why such requests shouldn't be honored and I would guess that this waiter either never had such a request, had recently worked in place where such requests were not fulfulled, or (as therese said) was already on the kitchen's bad side.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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Nothing wrong with the request, certainly. At a previous restaurant where I worked, if someone asked for a "taste" of soup, I was instructed to offer that I'd simply bring a bowl, and if the guest liked it, he or she could finish the bowl, but if it was not satisfactory, the bowl would be taken away and I'd simply never ring it on the tab. And putting the garnishes on the side, so that they could be tasted aside from the soup, would be no problem.

Bringing the whole bowl was simply a matter of efficiency. Most of the time, the soups were very good, and people would want a bowl, anyway, so the extra time/effort/labor of bringing a taste, checking for satisfaction, then bringing a bowl was inefficient. The soup, itself, in that particular context, was not as expensive to throw away, on the rare occasion that someone didn't like it. And you also kill the other bird (the person who just wants to have a free "buffet" of "tastes") with the same stone, since most freeloaders in restaurants try not to be too obvious by sending back too many dishes/drinks/etc. A few of the scammers are capable of going well beyond normal limitations on ordering things and sending them back to the kitchen, but that's a matter for being dealt with by other methods, and certainly another topic.

Personally, I can't think of any times I've asked for a taste of anything, but I have been offered a few tastes of wine or food at some places, similar to what therese mentioned. I think the comparison to car buying/house buying/relationship decision isn't quite fair, though, given that those are some pretty expensive and serious decisions. If I go to my local McDonald's and ask if I can get a sample of the $1 McChicken sandwich, I think the owner would be right to refuse me, whereas if I were purchasing a $500,000 home, I'd be irate if I couldn't see it before locking myself into the mortgage.

There would seem to be some sort of sliding scale there, don't you think?

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My experience has been I've sold way more food by offering a taste than I have given away. As in many instances when people do not dine alone, one or more of the groups may be more daring when it comes to new things. Roasted squash soup ?!? No way. Give the daring on a taste they start raving about it and you have sold the whole table.

No to a granish? I don't understand.

Unfortunately, the "do you want me to leave" line only gets a shrug or a "whatever."

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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I wouldn't feel comfortable asking for a taste of something in a restaurant, ever, no matter whether it was upscale or down, whether I was a regular or not. It would just feel weird. Presumptuous. Diva-like. But that's just me.

I was born without the correct entitlement gene for this action. :sad:

If it was just a matter of being curious how something was prepared I'd ask the waiter to describe it; if that didn't satisfy my curiosity then I'd simply order it.

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:biggrin: I can see how it might look that way - that there might seem to be that lurking sense of entitlement in asking for a taste.

In my case (I can't remember ever doing this but it is possible that the urge might hit me one day) the place that the request would flow from would be a deep curiosity about the food, a wish to not make a mistake on what was a sort of important dinner, a sense of being comfortable in the restaurant, and also almost perhaps feeling that the kitchen might be pleased to have someone interested enough in the food to sort of "closely examine it" as someone once said about cheese, before eating it - a form of flattery, really, to the kitchen. :wink:

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I wouldn't feel comfortable asking for a taste of something in a restaurant, ever, no matter whether it was upscale or down, whether I was a regular or not. It would just feel weird. Presumptuous. Diva-like. But that's just me.

I was born without the correct entitlement gene for this action. :sad:

Oh, geez. Diva, moi? Don't let the shoes fool you. :rolleyes:

MOO (I love that!): It's more a sense of entitlement to demand sauce on the side, substitute green veg for yellow, steamed something, prepare a dish without butter or salt, or get a last-minute vegan meal. No one blinks at that.

It's one thing to act queenly, or see how fast I can make someone hop; to snap fingers (figuratively or literally), and hiss when one's small whim is not met. It's another to be at a table ordering lots of food, having a great time, and to ask, "hey -- any chance we could get a taste of this or that?" and to show lots of appreciation when the request is granted.

If only it were as easy as a gene. After years of working, studying/teaching, and writing about this industry -- and years of living -- I've learned that it never hurts to ask.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Count me as one who would never ask for a taste, but my hats off to those who will. It is rare that I even think about asking a restaurant to take something back to the kitchen.

There is a great soup place near my work that offers taste of all of their soups. It is great because they often have some interesting items like boar chili.

Any decent bar will give you a taste of a microbrew or import if you are considering ordering it. It was in a microbrewery in St. Louis and I was offered a sampling of 2 pale ales that I was considering. I ordered one and then the bartender provided me with samples of about 6 of their beers as well.

Explore the food, beverages, and people of Wisconsin EatWisconsin.com

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