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Archive for the ‘Chefs and Cooking’ Category

“Vacation” is over…

Posted by gratrueities on September 12, 2010

Well…”vacations” may be somewhat more accurate. Let’s just say, for the moment, that we’ve been occupied with things other than GraTRUEities and took a brief (in the big picture) hiatus. That said, our dining and tipping experiences have not gone by the wayside by any means! We’ll soon catch up here on some of that but, for the moment, we’re just going to pick up where we left off…and a few things have caught our attention lately.

For one, the Food Network recently put out this little blurb titled  25 Things Chefs Never Tell You” – you just know this somehow bears a bit of bad news! Besides letting you know which days of the year they most hate to work (warning – don’t eat out on New Years Day) , the fact that they like and eat fast food, cook while sick, etc. we learn that chefs are also discriminating tippers and do tend to punish poor service. Hmmm…interesting. Make of that what you will and be sure to check out the rest of the items on the list. You might be surprised, or at least find your thought affirmed.

More recent news on the restaurant front: Screaming babies not allowed! While, in our opinion, it’s questionable as to whether or not this is discrimination, the concept has apparently been well received by customers. As someone who recently flew seated next to a couple with a baby, I have to say I can see the potential for this idea to catch on. I happen to love babies and can remember when my own children would act out in public so am likely more tolerant and sympathetic in such instances. However, I could see the hackles rising around me as the baby understandably fussed. In any case, we will be watching with interest to see how this trend unfolds or if it is quickly stopped in the legal trenches.

We’ll soon be back to share updates of our dining and/or tipping ventures. In the meantime, tip well and often and “look both ways before crossing the street.” **

** More on this later

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, Fast food, GraTRUEities, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Orson: Gold-Worthy

Posted by gratrueities on December 31, 2008

efkitchen

Yesterday evening friends and I dined at a relatively new San Franciscan restaurant called Orson. Orson is one of chef’s Elizabeth Falkners restaurants, the other more famous one being Citizen Cake, also in San Francisco.  Although Chef Falkner is most famous for her desserts , we had read the reviews of Orson and were excited to give it a try.

As we were dining on Dec 30, the night before the BIG NIGHT, the restaurant was quiet. In fact, there were only a few other diners during the whole three and a half hours of our stay. Orson’s is built in an old steel warehouse so it could have been drafty and lonely, but no, even with very few diners, it was warm and cozy thanks to lots of candles, great music and a cool digital video wall to keep the atmosphere buzzing.

Well, really this post isn’t about the food (although it was all delicious) it is about the amazing waiter that absolutely doted on us throughout the evening and made our experience a total dream. His name is Gabriel, and Gabriel, if you are out there please respond so we can give you more kudos.

From the minute Gabriel first approached our table we were delighted. Firstly, my friend Shannon brough a bottle of wine for us to share during dinner. No problem. Gabrial immediately decorked it (which wasn’t that easy because the cork was soft) and then went the extra step to decant the wine in a beautful glass decanter. He also complimented Shannon’s wine selection (made us feel good) and demonstrated his considerable knowledge of wine.

As we got to know Gabriel, we found out that he had previously worked for chef Nancy Oakes at Boulevard. He is clearly a pro. We ordered a trio of appetizers (called “shorts” at Orson) and a wood-fired pizza to share. After our appetizers were finished we began to wonder where the pizza was. A few minutes later, as if sensing our growing curiousity, Gabriel showed up with little tastes of the evening soups–a delightful cream of fennel and a more fiery roasted red pepper soup.  The soups are not on the menu, but made by the chef  “just in case” a diner is in the mood for soup.

Lastly, Gabriel put the icing on the (cup) cake. We all knew that Chef Falknew was famous for her baking but none of us had ever tried the cupcakes at Citizen Cake.  And, earlier in our evening Gabriel had explained that since the Orson kitchen is so large, a lot of the baking is done at that location. So, we began teasing that we would love to taste a cupcake. Low and behold, as a pre-cursor to our fabulous dessert course, he shows up with, not one,  but three cupcakes that were to die for.

Suffice it to say that at that point, we knew which GraTRUEity was the perfect fit for Gabriel: “You’re  Worth Your Weight in Gold”. We had struck gold at Orson.

P.S. Do you get the connection between the two names, Orson and Citizen Cake? Yes, Chef Falkner is a great admirer of Orson Wells and his landmark movie, Citizen Kane. We were lucky enough to meet the chef on our way out of the restaurant but we forgot to ask why she likes Mr. Wells and his work so much…

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, GraTRUEities In Use, Pop Culture, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A ‘Beastly’ Experience…

Posted by gratrueities on November 19, 2008

in a good way, that is…

After reading that Naomi Pomeroy, chef at Beast (pictured at right) restaurant in Portland OR, was named ‘Chef of Year’ by Portland Monthly Magazine we were anxious to give it a try.

Beast is a small French bistro-style restaurant located in the  Alberta Arts District of Portland.

Let me tell you a little about our dinner and, of course, how it relates to the topic of tipping!

The concept of Beast is simple. The menu is prix fixe, six courses and changes weekly – and it is very meat-centric (an additional attraction for my carnivore husband!). The restaurant seats 24 people at two communal tables, with two seatings per night.

Before making reservations, we checked out the menu online to make sure it was something that appealed to us, as it is clearly spelled out that substitutions are “politely declined!” The day before our dinner, we received a call confirming our reservation and instructing us to arrive promptly at 6:00. The latter struck me as a bit unusual, but I later understood why it was stressed…and they did mean “promptly.”

We arrived in the nick of time, were immediately seated and began chatting with our table mates. It was a festive atmosphere – warm, cozy (i.e. small) with an open kitchen and rustic decor.

The servers greeted us and checked to see if we wanted to order wine (they only order they were responsible for that evening) – carafes of water and a description of the meal were waiting on the on the tables. And with that our meal began!

The courses were nicely paced by the kitchen and the service efficient, pleasant and unobtrusive (actually, it was nearly invisible since the main task was to clear plates and walk approximately 8-10 feet to pick up and deliver the next course). Throughout the meal I considered how this style of dining simplifies the job of the server…no specials to recite, no recommendations to offer, no orders to take, no unusual requests to fulfill, no water to refresh, no attempt to entertain the diners…just service, pure and simple!

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, as well as exchanging opinions and comparing favorite restuarants with the people around us.  When the checks arrived – en masse – as they prepared to clear the restaurant for the next seating, some discussion arose concerning the gratuity. The consensus reached was that the usual 20% was in order, but It was clear to me that I was not alone in recognizing that this was a different sort of service than the norm.

A little more discussion on tipping ensued…basically when, where and why!

I left both content after the delicious meal and convinced that people are becoming ever more conscious of what exactly they are tipping for…and aware of what their tip dollars are saying.

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, Pop Culture, Portland, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »