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What would you do if a waiter confronted you about your tip?

I just finished reading “Served: The Ballsy Waitress” on SeriousEats.com by Hannah Howard. This new waitress is encouraged by her staff to confront a group of customers when they leave her a small tip.

“You should feel free to say something,” T., the fromager chimed in. “Just go up to them really sweetly. Say, ‘Is this what you meant to leave? Just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a mistake or anything, and that everything was OK.’”

I followed her advice. Verbatim. It was a little awkward, but I played it pretty cool. I definitely made them uncomfortable. They huddled together and recounted their cash.

“Um, I don’t get it?” One of the women in the group asked me after their pow-wow, “Is something wrong?”

“Well,” I said, “You guys left less than five dollars gratuity on a 66 dollar check. That’s less than ten percent, and I wanted to make sure everything was OK.”

What would you, as a customer have done in this situation? I’ll tell you what I would have done, I would have been pissed off. Tips are earned, not guaranteed, and if for whatever reason they felt like being cheap, that’s their problem. To confront a customer about such a matter is rude. I’ve been in several cabs where the taxi driver made me feel bad because I didn’t leave enough tip. Well, the music was turned up loud, the cab stunk, and the driving was terrible. So I left what was appropriate.

Look, I’ve worked as a waitress. I’ve dealt with lousy tippers. That’s just the way it is and by confronting people, you’re just going to encourage them to eat elsewhere. Treat your good tippers particularly well and they will keep coming back. That’s the way it works.

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Posted by on April 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Modern Mexican

Anyone that knows me knows that I utterly despise bad Mexican food. And sadly, most of the Mexican food in the U.S. is bad, bad, bad. Cheesy, refried mush. Tacos dripping with sour cream and more cheese. And lest we forget: the Mexican pizza at Taco Bell. Gross.

So I was thrilled to read about the spread of new Nuevo Latino restaurants opening in LA this summer and fall detailed in an article by Jessica Gelt in the Los Angeles Times. There’ll be no fajita combo or chimichangas here; the dishes are more likely to look like deconstructed mole or fresh seafood cocktails from a ceviche bar.

Some of my favorite Mexican restaurants ’round the country, by the way, are already featuring modern Mexican food — the type you would see in trendy restaurants in Mexico City (or el DF, as the natives call it). Here are my faves:

Rosa Mexicano – Washington DC

Las Palmas – Chicago

Carlitos’ Cava – Santa Barbara

Guaymas – Tiburon

Places I’ve heard are pretty darn amazing that I’d like to try:

Yuca’s – Los Angeles

Super Ricas – Santa Barbara

Got some favorite Mexican food spots to add to this list? I’d love your suggestions!

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2008 in Restaurant Buzz

 

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Best Digital Sources of Foodinspiration

When I’m looking for inspiration on where to eat out, which new ingredients to try, or what to make with ingredients I have at home, I turn to my favorite email newsletters. I’m sure there are zillions out there, but in an effort to keep inbox clutter to a minimum, I pared them down to five:

1. Zagat Buzz

Best For: Reading about the hottest new restaurant openings and keeping up the food buzz.

Get it: At Zagat.com. Although you have to be a Zagat member to browse through the reviews on the site, the Buzz is free.

Too Bad: Only offered in select cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, London, Washington D.C. and Philly.

Get a Taste: Planning to be open 22/7 (closed only from 4–6 AM), New American newcomer Lift is a much needed late-night destination, set on the ground floor of a born-again Hollywood apartment complex; its fair-priced menu lists innovative fare like lobster mac ’n’ cheese, Sonoma duck confit hash and oatmeal crème brûlée, served in a room with 21st-century coffee-shop decor.

2. The Splendid Table

Best For:Perfecting one recipe. The Splendid Table often offers tips for shopping and preparing the entire dish.

Get it: This food read is brought to you by American Public Media. Get it at http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/

Too Bad: There’s usually only one recipe. Don’t like the week’s offering and it goes directly to the trash.

Get a Taste: Fragrant Curried Chicken with Creamy Yogurt: Daunting though it may appear, most of these ingredients are tossed in a food processor for a fresh curry paste. What I like is how no browning is needed for the chicken, saving you from a messy stove top. Finishing with cool yogurt stands up to the nip of chile, black pepper and spice. Basmati rice is the classic partner here.

3. The Dish from Food and Wine (Weeknight Edition)

Best For: Spicing up your meals mid-week, getting ideas for great, inexpensive wines, learning how to pair your meals with wine. Click over to the site for luscious photographs and slide shows that will inspire you to create greatness any day of the week.

Get it: Free at the Food and Wine website.

Too Bad: There is simply not enough time to try all of the fabulous recipes. I’ve saved a bunch of these in my inbox (including “15 Hearty Vegetable Soups, Fantastic Hot Sandwiches” for a rainy day).

Get a Taste: Get a Taste: Our top 15 warming soups are all hearty and delicious. Try the Vegetable Soup with Fennel, Herbs and Parmesan Broth—antioxidant-rich fennel is one of its several good-for-you ingredients.

4. CHOW Digest (Chowhound at Home edition)

Best For: Getting tips from other foodies on weird foods, different places to go out in new locales, and what to do when you have too much of one ingredient.

Get it: Sign up as a member on Chow.com (free) and register for the digest.

Too Bad: While the newsletter is edited by a Chow staffer, you’re getting tips from people you’ll likely never meet. Cook beware.

Get a Taste: Jennalynn requested suggestions for what to do with “a bunch of fresh purple passionfruit,” and Chowhounds responded.
mlgb uses fresh passion fruit anywhere one might use lemon juice, such as fruit salad, yogurt, salad dressing, or fish. “One of my favorite dishes now is pan-grilled salmon with a passion fruit squeezed over,” says mlgb.

5. Daily Candy

Best For: Finding out about cute new cupcake shops, hip cafes and the hottest new dining spot. Aimed at young women, this daily digest also includes fashion, makeup and culture finds.

Get it: Get your daily cuteness at DailyCandy.com.

Too Bad: Like Zagat, Daily Candy is only offered in select cities. Bummer.

Get a Taste: If you’ve got other designs for your day, start it off at BLD, chef Neal Fraser’s (Grace, Iron Chef America) bright, airy new digs, where morning meals are just as important as lunch and dinner. (BLD, get it?). With ingredients from small growers and indie gourmet lines (specialty products like Berkshire maple syrup are sold in the market corner), Fraser uses fresh techniques to make gourmand versions of traditional bites. Like classic egg dishes (try the frittata with Prosciutto di Parma-wrapped asparagus with Gruyère and arugula); bruleed grapefruit; white bean huevos rancheros; and brioche French toast with Cowgirl Creamery crème fraiche. Or choose freshly baked breads and pastries to go with your breakfast cheese plate.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2008 in Food Reads

 

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Less is (Not) More

Does that serving of Chilean Sea Bass look smaller? Notice more pasta dishes in restaurants serving haute cuisine? It’s not just your imagination: restaurants are cutting s_pasta4.jpgback on pricey ingredients and portion sizes as food prices soar reports Juliet Chung from the WSJ (and a close friend!). Juliet’s article is a real eye-opener. Meat scraps that were once the makings of a meal for the kitchen staff are now being gussied up and served as appetizers. Cheap pasta dishes are gracing menus with more popularity (although pasta too is becoming more pricey, so much so that the Italians staged a boycott late last year).

The worst offender, though, is the vanishing portion size. Already, whenever I go to a chi-chi restaurant with the boyfriend, he growls at the Lilliputian-sized portions on the plate. We’ll eat a several-course meal, offer up the plastic card (and, the angel that he is, he more often than not foots the bill), and he’ll end up scrounging for something to eat when we get home. While munching on a bowl of cereal, he’ll decry that that’s the last time we’re eating at a restaurant with fancy food and that next time, we’ll end up dining on cheap burritos or Subway sandwiches.

And now chefs are further diminishing these already small portions? For the same price? I fear our days of eating out at chi-chi restaurants are limited…

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2008 in Restaurant Buzz

 

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