My Top Restaurant Pet Peeves

Having worked at Westchester restaurants as both a waiter and bartender in the past, I have the utmost respect for those in the service industry. It’s a tough juggling act to maintain an extensive knowledge of the menu and wine list, to ensure the food and beverages are presented properly while also making sure your customers are content. That being said, its not freakin’ brain surgery. The best servers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic (without being annoyingly peppy) and are able to recognize the table dynamic in a matter of seconds. But even the worst of servers should be able to follow a few of the most basic guidelines as to not ruin a customer’s dining experience.

1. GET THE DRINKS TO THE TABLE

Anyone who has ever been to a restaurant with me knows this is far and away my biggest pet peeve. Within the first few minutes of sitting down a server should greet the table and take a drink order and I would expect to have the drinks shortly thereafter. No drinks and no server makes WWG an angry customer. Remember servers, drinking customers are happy customers.

2. OPEN THE BOTTLE OF WINE AT THE TABLE

I understand that at a local pizza place they may not go through all the proper wine service steps. I don’t even mind if they don’t offer to have someone at the table try the wine first to make sure that it is drinkable. My expectations are pretty low. However, I do not like when they bring the bottle to the table opened with the cork stuck back in it. Call me skeptical, but I have seen some shady things behind the scenes and I’d like to make sure what I am drinking is what was put in that bottle by the winery, not by someone in the back of the restaurant.

3. CONDIMENTS MATTER

I always try and order all the extra sauces and add-ons when the food order is being placed.  Regardless, whenever I order buffalo wings with ranch dressing instead of blue cheese 4 out of 5 times they forget to bring it. Sometimes they rush right back to the kitchen and bring it out which is fantastic. But more often than not they completely forget as it is such a small thing and I am stuck staring at my wings for 5-10 minutes as they get cold and I get frustrated.  The same goes for ketchup with a burger and fries and crushed red pepper with pasta. Call me crazy, but I’m not eating the dish without the condiment that enhances that dish! The condiment can be just as important as the dish itself, so having them come out at the same time or shortly thereafter is a crucial aspect of basic service.

4. WATCH THE SWEAT AND BE SURE TO PUT ON THE DEODORANT

As I mentioned earlier, I worked as a server in a very fast paced environment and I understand these guys are busting their ass. However,  sweating and stinking is not a good look for a server.  Even worse is when drops of that sweat make their way into the drinks on the table… gross.

5. THE FUGAZI KNOW IT ALL WAITER

I admit, I can be a little high maintenance as a diner. I ask a decent amount of questions as I am curious about the dishes and wine list, and am always looking for further insight from someone in the know. However, if it seems like the server is uninterested and is just an order taker that’s fine too and I lay off with the interrogation. But what drives me crazy is the server that gives the wrong information regarding the dishes or the wine pretending they know what the hell they are talking about. If you don’t know, say you don’t know and see if you can find out the answers. I am much happier to wait for the right answer than to find out later the immediate answers given were wrong, especially when a dish comes to the table completely different than described.

Some of you may read this and say “Stop your bitching and just eat the food”…at least that’s what my wife tells me. But when spending your hard earned money to enjoy a meal out of the house, it is disappointing when the simplest of things ends up ruining your dining experience.

Oh, and that’s not me in the picture above…but I feel that dude’s pain ;)

What am I supposed to do with that bottle?!?

It’s happened to all of us. Somehow or another you get stuck with a magnum of some super cheap wine that you have absolutely no interest in drinking. Maybe your great aunt bought it over as a housewarming gift, or someone who prefers quantity over quality thought because it had Carlo Rossi on the label it was a solid bottle of Italian red and brought it over to your last gathering. So now you have this giant bottle of swill just taking up space on your kitchen counter, and has been doing so for way too long. So what do you do with it? Here are a few ideas.
If it’s a red, try using it to make sangria. Really inexpensive wines tend to be very fruity or sweet. This is a perfect style of wine to use for sangria. Just grab some nice fresh fruit (orange, apple, blackberry, strawberry, etc), triple sec and brandy and mix it all together. If the wine isn’t sweet enough (not bloody likely) you may want to add some simple syrup.  Put it into a big pitcher and you have a party on your hands, and that annoying bottle out of your life for good.
During a trial and error experiment I came up with a great concoction using an inexpensive Pinot Grigio. I was at a party and it was a little early in the day to really start drinking but the hosts were serving magnums of PG and homemade lemonade. I decided to add a splash of the PG to a glass of lemonade…for a goof. The acidity cut right through the sweetness and made it quite refreshing. By the time I was on my third I realized a 50/50 mix was the perfect combination for flavor and texture while getting a little bit of a buzz on too. You could really do this with any light and crisp white wine, which is often what ends up in those cheap magnums.
Use it for cooking! There is a theory that cooking with bad wine will lead to a poorly prepared dish. I buy that to a degree, if it is a key ingredient in the recipe. But if you are cooking up a giant batch of marinara sauce, there is no reason not to use an inexpensive red wine to add some flavor and a hint of sweetness. Same goes for white wine when cooking white clam sauce or even stir fry. However be wary if you let it sit out and turn bad to use as vinegar. Turning wine to vinegar requires a secondary fermentation with a rather volatile bacteria that converts the rest of the alcohol. So while a turned wine can have a vinegar smell and taste, its not something you want to put on a salad. But if you are looking for a vinegar flavor to cook with though then go for it, as the heat from the pan will essentially burn off the rest of the alcohol anyway.
The last option is just to put it over a ton of ice and drink it anyway. I mean, at the end of the day it’s still booze right? ;) The moral of the story is that you don’t have to sit around looking at that nasty large bottle of wine that has been staring you down for the last few months. Open it up, put it to good use and move on to some of your better juice to enjoy with good food and good friends.
Cheers!

Another Killer CDP (Chateauneuf du Pape)!

Brotte Collection  Châteauneuf Du Pape DOMAINE BARVILLE

This is a wonderfully true expression of CDP. It seems a bit guarded on the nose, still a young wine. But all of the dark brooding fruit, peppery spice and hints of olive and smoke show themselves on the palate and keep on going through the long and dry finish. It is a big and powerful wine now with dense fruit and gripping tannins, but you can tell this is going to be fantastic over the next decade or longer!

Fun Facts: The Brotte family runs the largest negociant firm in Chateauneuf. Bottlers of the Pere Anselm brand among others, they also are owners of a few prime Domaines in the region and this is one of them. Domaine Barville is a 36 acre vineyard located on the heights of Châteauneuf du Pape, with two of the oldest and best terroirs of the appellation. The vines are 50 years of age now and give full expression. Famed Oenological Consultant Philippe Cambie oversees the winemaking. A blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, aged for 12 months in foudres.

Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 Domaine Barville, Brotte