2009-12-10 / News

Whining about fine dining

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in restaurants – all different kinds of eateries, all over the world, in all price ranges. I have enjoyed countless wonderful meals. Luckily, there have been very few that qualify as abysmal. Lately, however, I am noticing that I tend to leave a restaurant more annoyed than pleased about the experience. Sometimes, the restaurant is at fault. Sometimes, it’s the other patrons.

When we go out to eat, my husband and I typically split an appetizer. We like to share things and we don’t so much need the calories as we are looking to experience a new taste sensation. One thing that really drives me crazy is when the appetizer comes in three pieces. For one person, three oysters or three crab cakes might be a good number – maybe even too many, but for two people, there is always the dilemma about who gets the third piece. Sometimes we try to get creative and split it, but have you ever tried to cut an oyster in half? It’s not easy to do, and almost requires the skill of a neurosurgeon.

Ideally, we are presented with two objects – even better if it’s four. We will also be happy if there are five items because with five, everybody gets two and the fifth one is someone’s “bonus.” Then we get to have the conversation: “You take it,” “No, no, it’s yours,” etc. Now, I completely understand the reasoning behind putting three objects on the plate. It has more to do with aesthetics than it does with cuisine. The artistic goal is to have a central object be the focus of the plate – something to attract the eye – and this can only be accomplished with an odd number of items. Still, for us, three appetizers on a plate is a letdown, not an artistic accomplishment.

Servers are mostly professional and efficient, and over the years, we have struck up wonderful relationships with people. I give them a lot of credit – I was a waitress once and I know how hard it is to please a lot of people. My gripe with servers lately is that they want to give me too much information. If they tell me their names and get me a glass of wine quickly, they get a lot of points. If they know the specials without having to return to the kitchen to ask, they get a few more points. If they tell me their grandmother is in the hospital and they shouldn’t be working because they are too distracted – there go the points.

In Europe, servers are curt and abrupt. You never know their names and you are lucky if you get a “thank you” at the end of the meal. These people are there to do a job and they did not attend charm school to get it. In America, servers are friendlier. I like that, but often servers don’t seem to know when they have crossed the line. I don’t want to know who didn’t show up for work that day. I don’t want to know which other table sent back all of their dinners and backed up the entire kitchen. Just be cheerful and feed me – that’s all.

I have several peeves about other patrons in restaurants. Did you ever notice that people who tend to punctuate their conversations with the “f” word are also the same people who talk loud enough to be heard across the room?

When we go out to eat – especially if it’s a weekend night – we always make a point to dress up. I don’t mean “to the nines,” but we wear clothes that you could also wear to a business meeting or a concert, etc. Recently, we were in a restaurant and my husband commented that he was the only guy in the place not wearing jeans. This was not a burger joint; it was a place where the entrees are in the $25 to $35 range. I looked around and he was right. People have become lazy about the way they dress, opting to stick with familiar and comfortable clothing rather than attempting to make some portions of their lives more special than others.

Summer is by far the worst. I have been embarrassed for people who show up to dine in rumpled sweatshirts, shorts and flip-flops. If this is your idea of acceptable evening attire, please stick to clam shacks on the beach.

Return to top