Monday, January 17, 2011

One Market Dining Review

The wife and I stopped by One Market on whim last Friday night. Wanting to see a movie, we got waylayed by the typical SF traffic, so rather seeing another dumb comedy where the funniest scenes are in the commercials, we opted instead to hit up One Market. Strangely, I've never been there despite working in the vicinity for 10 years and having many friends who worked there at some point.

Other than the crazy guy swinging his arms at imagined bumblebees, getting in was fine. We were asked if the "exhibition counter" would be fine and, thinking that sounded fun, we went for it. It felt more like eating in the kitchen with the overbright lighting, heat from the stoves, and mess of a waiters station that greeted us. No matter, our waitress was prompt and very efficient (and struck perfect notes on the charm/leave us be meter). We went for the food of the week tasting, which was pork, my favorite. Unfortunately, the preparation were tired or derivative without much flair (other than the desert).

Course one was seared pork belly over spaghetti squash. Though it reminded me that I like Spag Squash more than I remember, the pork belly itself wasn't terribly interesting. The sear was more tough than tasty crunchy and the vaguely asian sauce was too sweet to give it a needed push.

Course two was a well executed shellfish and pork sausage stew? soup? broth? sorta thing. Calamari, clams, and sausage. But I've had better iterations of this with more verve at Spanish restaurants.

Course three, while well intentioned, really disappointed. Menu said pork shoulder, which is my favorite cut when slow cooked, but the sous vide version just didn't get me excited, lacking the rich, robust flavor I'm accustomed to. This might be an expectation thing as I think I expected something like a gourmet rendition of Carnitas rather than a fairly bland meat with an unexpected texture (I haven't decided if I liked the firm yet tender texture, but I think I do. Just wasn't expecting it). And I've already forgotted what it was served with.

Desert was a hit, with bacon ice cream and a chocolate cake. Tasted great though lacking inspiration.

Service was fine with a few missteps (the first course came well before we finished our cocktails and well before the wine pairing), but the waitress was on her game, extremely attentive without going overboard despite what looked like a pretty big station.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Little Work Diddy

I got a call from Fedex for a package my company was sending. The address was 12 New Terrorist, Suite 12. After calls with security from my organization and Fedex, we found that the correct address was 12 New Terrace. Someone jacked up the spell check.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why waiters love you

I've been on a rant about waiters in San Francisco, but there are a lot of things you can do to make a waiter happy outside of a big tip. Here are a few things to do to look like a true pro when dining. Failing to do these does not mean that you will be hated by a waiter. My one big assumption is that the waiter actually cares about the quality of your dining experience. And these are all things you can choose to do. The inverse should not get you any less service than everyone else, but it will set you apart from other diners.

1) Leave a tip in cash. Different restaurant have different policies concerning how to declare tip or allocate to the support stasff. A cash tip puts the power in the hands of the waiter. Whether or not you agree with wait staff reporting less in tips, cash is always appreciated.

2) Request them by name when you return. I'm from the school that a good waiter never introduces themselves by name, especially in high end places. But as a patron, I will ask at the end of a particularly good meal so I can both complement the waiter to the host staff/management and ask by name for future visits. Failing this, most checks nowadays have the waiter's name on it.

3) Close your menu when you are ready to order. This is the biggest clue for a waiter to return and take your order. If the menu doesn't close, then simply put aside.

4) Ask for an opinion. This is probably a bit divisive, but every waiter should have enough of a handle on the food to offer an informed opinion. If a restaurant doesn't have sommelier, wine steward, or someone else with wine expertise, the waiter shoud also be able to provide solid wine recommendations. The better waiters I've known are happy to discuss the food or wine, as long as it isn't a lengthy discourse.

5) Be clear on your food/time requirements. At the very least, indicate food allergies, like dairy, peanuts, or wheat as well as vegan/vegeterian requirements. Some people with complex allergies present cards that indicate common items that they cannot eat. It may seem like overkill, but a waiter's job is to ensure that you leave happy and getting the right information is critical. If you have a movie, play, or just have need for leaving at a certain time, let your waiter know. They should be able to steer you in the right direction if something will delay you. Keep in mind that most places at lunch work on the goal of getting you out within an hour, not necessarily because they want the table turned (although this factors into it), but more because that is the expectation of most people dining.

6) Leave a taste of wine for the waiter. This is especially true if you brought your own or order an expensive wine. By no means mandatory, it shows a lot of respect for the waiter and the staff.

7) Use nonverbal communication. Pointing to an empty wine bottle, a subtle pantomime of signing a check, and even silverware placement are all clues as to your needs.

8) Look appropriate for where you are dining. Sure, a backwards hat, a Patrick Willis Jersey, and sweats works fine for a greasy hangover cure at Mel's on Saturday morning, but not at the hottest spot in town. Good waiters take pride in where they work and notice when someone respects their restaurant.

9) Be discreet with any complaints or mistakes. One time, after an anniversary meal, the waiter mixed up my check with another table. Happens and no big deal. I discretely called over the waiter. When he went to change the checks, the other table had a huge guffaw over how much I spent, going so far as to comment to me directly. Discretion is always appreciated.

10) Smile. Seems silly to mention it, but if you are enjoying yourself, smile. It's one of the clearest indications that you are enjoying yourself, which ultimately is the waiter's job.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writers on Waitrons

Usually, I enjoy the mindless articles at SF Foodie from SF Gate. But sometimes, they write some seriously dated and retarded stuff. Here's one of my favorites. The comments show how dumb some people are.

They give four reasons Why Your Waiter Hates You and not a single one gives any insight. It's basically three reasons why anyone would hate you and the most pretentious clabber about corks I've seen. Here are there reasons:

1)You're more interested in your smartphone than dinner. Uhh, doesn't this anyone anyone? Insert just about any word for dinner and it's still annoying when people are paying more attention to their iPhone.

2) You stay all night. Called campers, these are people who waste your time by either sitting through an extra seating, costing money, or stay past closing time, forcing staff to stay late. Duh. Anyone like having to stay late at their job when you're not getting anything for the effort? And does anyone like to lose money because some re-united old birds want to review the last 20 years in pictures? Really? This is news?

3) Bad Tipping. If you don't know by now that failing to provide at least a fair tip is a way of pissing off wait staff or anyone who counts tips as even part of their wage let alone almost entirely their wage, then I expect that you will have fun at your prom. The author makes a good point about tipping on booze, which is a real hot button topic for some people, but if you don't tip on booze, your waiter will hate you regardless if you thinkg it's ok.

4) Sniffing the cork. Nobody should hate anyone for being a wine novice. We all started somewhere. Sure, a few snickers will come, but this is far from something that's going to get you the stink eye if you go back. And then the writer completely misses the point on the reason for cork presentation. The only reason anyone should look at a cork is to confirm the wine's authenticity. Even if wine has leaked through, it doesn't mean a wine has gone bad. You taste the wine to determine if there are any faults. This is pretentious jibber jabber from someone who thinks they know more than they do.

There are quite a few things you can do to annoy a waiter, just like anyone else. Here are a few of mine.

1) Wear too much perfume or cologne. Too much scented stuff interferes with the sense of smell. While you are welcome to destroy your meal or wine, doing it to others is unforgiveable. Save that stuff for afterwards.
2) Children. Not children per se, but taking children who are too young to behave or in generally poorly behaved to a fine dining place is a no no. Even worse is the couple who brings in their children and expects the staff to play nanny for an hour. But the worst is changing diapers at the table, something I've seen done far more than should ever happen, even at fine dining places.
3) Sending food back even though nothing is wrong with it. If you want your steak well done, ask for it well done. And if you have allergies or speciic tastes, let your waiter know before you order.
4) Talkers. On a busy night, nothing is worse than getting a table that requires ALL of your attention. It's fine to ask questions, recommendations, etc., but be concise and spare the discussion about your Rat's menstrual cylce (happened to me once).
5) Showing up drunk. I've worked at some places near marinas and by far, the most annoying people I've dealt with as a stereotype are boat people. They've been swilling wine all day in the sun on their boat and show up half bombed thinking that they are the funniest people in the world. They're not.
6) Being wrong. I can't tell you how many times I've had people try to give me an idiot lesson on a wine region. Look motherfucker, I know my wines. It's my job. If your dumbass insists that Syrah is from Burgundy one more time, I'm going jab my corkscrew in your eye. And if you send a wine back, it should be for a fault, not because it doesn't taste like you remember.
7) Drink coffee through dinner at a high end joint. Coffee destroys your sense of taste. While you are welcome to do this, you will be ridiculed behind your back.
8) Act the perv. Nobody likes a perv. I've had a few propositions while working that I've taken people up on, but you'll know real fast if I'm intersted. If I'm not, shut up. And don't ask me about my co-workers. They are probably repulsed by you.
9) Hit your neighbor or get belligerent in any way. Okay. Obvious. But it happens, more often than you think. I've seen several low level fracases break out, usually because someone is too noisy and a couple looking for a romantic meal is seated next to them and asks them to "get those monkeys (kids) under control."
10) Expect freebies. I'll comp what needs to be comped. If your meal takes too long, I'll get you a desert. If we sat you half an hour after your reservation, I'll get you an appetizer. But I'm not giving you a free desert because you think I like you. I'm building a rapport to get tips and the kind of jackass who thinks this entitles him to a freebie is the kind of jackass that's too cheap to tip well.

Next list, why your customer hates you.

Adventures in Day Care

My daughter got bit at day care. Through her tears, she took a paint brush filled with paint and went afer her attacker, painting his face.


Thoughts on the Lisbeth Salander Trilogy.

I've been crushing books lately. I think it's mostly because my favorite two people at work left about six months ago, so I've turned to reading. But since I didn't post anything for six months, I figured I'd start with some short recaps.

The Girl who...Trilogy:
The Dragon Tatoo was great. A bit over the top at the end, but still exceptional. And Lisbeth is one of the most exciting and original characters I've ever encounterd.

Played with Fire: This is now one of my favorite books. Lisbeth kicks ass and doesn't bother with names. An amazing work with great pacing and an astonishing finish.

Kicked the Hornets Nest: Okay, but not enough Lisbeth doing her thing. She spends most of the book in a hospital, leaving Michael to do the work, but it's just not the same. And some of the conspiracy stuff goes a bit over the edge. Still immensely enjoyable, just not as much as the second.

Blood Meridian Movie

For anyone that's read Blood Meridian, making a movie from it sounds like insanity. Although there's enough action to satisfy audiences, the brutality deliberately makes the action almost unbearable. On the flip side, Judge Holden is one of the most compelling characters I've ever run across. Equal part preacher, sadistic thug, and renaissance man, treating Holden in a film would be the most important element. Get the casting/screenplay wrong, you get an over the top cartoonish self satire. The filmmakers have to avoid the scenery chewing types like John Malkovich. It works in some films, but not in one that needs to be this brutal. Or go the other way and get a brooding, morose mess like Brando's General Kurtz, which is another awful direction. Holden has to be charismatic, a bit playful, but utterly brutal and untethered by normal human emotions. I want to say psychopathic, but that doesn't go far enough. He has to realize his evilness and revel in it, without seeming to outwardly enjoy it. Personally, I vote for James Gandolfini, who has the right imposing physique and has done charming psychopath to great success before.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Now Reading: Dreadnought

Wow, this book drags early. I've slogged through almost 160 pages and nothing is happening. A couple of decent action sequences, but the characters are without definition, the dialog is forced and Nurse Mercy is getting by on the kindness of others in a world where kindness should be impossible to find. Just once I'd like to see Mercy have to actually think or act her way through a problem rather than having people just randomly give her stuff. I hear that it picks up soon, but I'm getting impatient.

Back at it

I know nobody is reading this, so I'm not going to care anymore. Maybe it's cause I have four posts and nothing since April. But work is a slog right now and I need a distraction. So, my commitment is more posts about things other than just wine.