Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dining Out for Non-Foodies

June 7, 2011

The Fun of Dining Out

Recently, after posting a Yelp review I perused some of the reviews for the restaurant which my husband and I had thoroughly enjoyed.  This led to some further perusing and some mental meandering on peoples’ expectations and ideals when it comes to dining out.

What my conclusions were is that many times the expectations of diners and what standards are for most restaurants are not aligned.  The restaurant reviews that inspired these thoughts showed a lack of understanding for what are considered to be the SOPs in upscale casual and fine dining.

This inspired me to create a list similar to the one at the end of the book Waiter Rant… but with a slightly softer tone.

So, in the spirit of increasing pleasure for all those dining out…foodies, non-foodies, couples, families, singles and groups.

  • Make a reservation and keep it—also, be sure to confirm it.  There is no shortage of times when reservations can be lost due to glitches on computers or with reservations systems.  Also, be aware that if you make a reservation for a second seating, it is possible the party who was seated in the first seating may not get up exactly when needed.
  • If you have not made a reservation and walk into a restaurant on Saturday night at 730 and insist that because tables are open they should be able to seat you, you must understand that the people who made 800 reservations for those tables actually want them.
  • Be aware that booking systems track reservation habits.  If you do not show up for three reservations most will not take further reservations.
  • Service—the standards vary between different levels of restaurants—be aware of the differences and more pleasant dining experiences will follow.  Hostesses will present your menus in casual restaurants, servers in finer restaurants.
  • Timing of service—in nicer restaurants one should expect to have food coursed and enjoy course breaks.  One should expect to have 10-15 minutes between courses…not as I witnessed one of the uninitiated do and berate a server for not having entrees on the table at the same time as we (I was dining with the uninitiated)were still eating appetizers, also, please allow time for everyone at the table to finish before expecting to move to the next course.
  • If there is a problem with the food, address it politely.  It will sometimes happen that a dish is not cooked properly or an errant hair will end up on a plate.  Give the server or manager a chance to fix the problem—especially if the hair is not the color of the server or kitchen staff.
  • If you have a question about portions sizes, ask.  In the reviews which inspired this line of thought, there were numerous mentions of the size of the salads (which in all three cases were ordered as entrees)…this, despite the fact that the restaurants’ menu clearly has them listed as appetizers.  Simple communication can avoid many problems and many disappointments.
  • Tip commiserate with service…be aware that most servers make a little over two dollars an hour and their tips are both taxed and are also their primary income.  Smile, say please and thank you, just as we were all taught.

If you would like to know more about cuisines from different regions do some research. Many of the restaurants in the US alter the food quite significantly from what is traditionally served in the country of origin.  The more you research and find out about different cuisines the more you can enjoy the dining experience.

Travel to Italy: Packing for Spring and Fall

April 12, 2010

Packing for Italy the Right Way

As both a fairly seasoned traveler and a resident of Italy, I have some experience in packing for travel here to share with you.

Packing for summer and winter are fairly easy here…in the winter it will be cold and rainy or cold and snowy depending on how far north or south you are in the country…in the summer it will be hot, damn hot…in August you will melt…you need a bathing suit and sunscreen.

In spring and fall the weather here is extremely variable.  This is not just based on where you will be in the country, of course the more northern regions, like Milan, Como and Venice, will tend to be cooler.  But within regions temperatures and weather can vary significantly…and by significantly I mean within 10C/20F within a day or two.

Because of the tendency for weather to change and for most travelers to want to experience a fair amount of the country in a fairly short amount of time here are a few tips to keep you dressed comfortably for the weather:

  • Pack layers—this is key, when you set off in the morning you will want an average of three or four…by late afternoon you could be down to the final layer.  I prefer skinny strapped tank tops, short sleeved shirts, light sweaters and a light jacket.  These all pack easily.
  • Always pack a bathing suit…you never know when a gorgeous beach day will present itself…it could happen in April or October.
  • Sunglasses are a must.
  • Do not forget to pack shoes for various climates…cold feet do not make for comfortable walking tours.  To save packing space wear the bulkiest shoes you will be bringing on the plane.
  • Pack the smallest umbrella you can find…there are generally people selling them when storms pop up, but it is nice to have one ready and it will rain in both the spring and fall.
  • Make sure to reserve some room in your luggage for shopping…if you do not find at least five adorable things you want to buy here then you are, indeed, unusual.
  • If you are arriving on a Sunday make sure that you have all of your necessary toiletries…depending on where you are staying it may be difficult to find them on Sundays (or especially the Monday after Easter) and going two days without a toothbrush is never pleasant.

On a final note, make sure to get a good sized memory card for your camera and pack extra batteries…you will take a HUGE amount of photos here.

A Taste of Tuscany

March 3, 2010

Tuscan Food Festival at its Tastiest

For all lovers of real Tuscan food, Slow Food, artisanal food, essentially all things yummy and delicious, there is another event coming up that you will either completely enjoy or be completely jealous of me for attending.

The weekend of 13-15 March, Taste will be held in Stazione Leopolda.  This is more than just a simple walk around and nibble tasty examples of what local producers have to offer.  Instead, there are actually lectures and speakers whose love of food and intensity in speaking about it can inspire even the most staunch consumer of mediocre cuisine to aspire to culinary mastery.

There are, of course, a huge variety of incredible foods available for purchase.  For those who will, by chance, be in Florence that weekend, these make fabulous gifts to bring back with you…if you are able to hold off on eating them yourself.

Everything from olive oils to cured meats to wine to chocolate is available, as is a wealth of information on a bevy of products and production methods.

For those who must live vicariously through Florentine residents, I will be posting notes and photos after the event.  Maybe they will inspire you to either move to Italy or at least take a well-deserved trip to travel Tuscany next year.