Tag Archives: New York

“Don’t Pee for Me Argentina!”

23 Jan

I find myself really losing my “censor” at the table.

Tonight I had a PPX (that’s super important for you civilians) 12-top of asses. One of the guests, let’s call him Ken, was particularly successful at making my shit-list, and raising my heart-rate.

Ken prides himself on being an investor for a worth-less-than-piss South American wine. His wine is so bad that it is our designated freebee; we just give it away to people. He insisted on ordering liters upon liters of said Third-World Kool-Aid for his table, and taking the opportunity to make of photo-op of the dinner, thumbs-up and all, holding his wine as if to say, “Look mom, I made a wine.” Did I mention that he didn’t know what a Malbec was, and he makes wines south of the border. Hmmmmm.

Ken was an alcoholic. How do I know? Well, he was as nicely dumb as could be, until he got five drinks in him and became something larger than life, a reality TV show caricature of someone playing “incensed.”

The table was flawless, but, as usual, there had to be drama surrounding the birthday. Always drama around a birthday; I need to write a whole separate post about birthday dramas. Anyways, I was slammed at the moment the 12-top needed dessert. I managed to get six orders from the drunken idiots, but then needed to great a table, and come back to them. I honestly didn’t think anybody would notice I was gone for one minute, considering I had to literally clap my hands to get them to see me.

Ken didn’t like my plan. When he noticed I didn’t get the rest of the table’s dessert order in one sweep, he got up, came over to me, and while I was greeting my new table, grabs me by the arm and he starts to lambast me, “You didn’t take half the table’s dessert order. Where’s my wine I ordered? It’s her birthday and you didn’t even offer her anything for dessert!”

I waived down another server to pick up the greet where I left off, and then returned to Ken’s table. Ken pointed to the birthday girl and started yelling, “It’s her birthday… don’t you know! And we ordered a bottle of wine twenty minutes ago, where is it?” He’s yelling at this point.

“Sir,” I said. “You’re wine is right here, I’ve been maintaining the glasses all the time. Now, can you see anyone else who needs a glass? No. And yes, I know that half the table has yet to order dessert. My apologies. I was just about to finish that, if you would be so kind as to let me complete the order?” And yes, I do speak with people in this kinda stilted British over-the-top way, just to shame the fuck-faces.

He looked a little dumbfounded and commanded me, as if he was a silly little Dauphin, who had a Whipping Boy his whole life, “I need a glass of wine! And she needs DESSERT!”

At this point, the censor was gone.

“Just sit down, and lemme’ do my job, okay? Thanks,” I said.

That shut him up. Poor Ken. Drunk on his own Argentinian produced piss. He tried to apologize in his own popped-collar manner, after I had brought out the bday girl’s cake. I wasn’t accepting apologies tonight. When he asked where his wine was, I just put some coffee down in front of him and said, “Drink this. It’s better for you, at this moment, Sir.”

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Waiter, I’d like a “Pinot.”

13 Oct

“I’d like a Pinot,” many a guest will tell me, perusing the bottle list.

Unfortunately, “Pinot” has become the accepted moniker  for “Pinot Noir,” and the phrase “I’d like a Pinot,” is often a red flag for snobbery, much like the word “appee” is a sure sign of douche-baggery (See my post Spreken Ze Douche.)

If I want to one-up the snobs I reply with, “Would you like a Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, or Pinot Grigio?”

Inevitably they want a Pinot Noir, but the real problem is that people who say “I want a Pinot,” really have no idea what they want, even if it’s a Pinot Noir.

There is ONE underlying factor that determines what someone who says “I’ll have a Pinot” wants, and it has nothing to do with region, taste, year, or food-pairing.

Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Waiter: “What region?  Would like an old world Burgundy, or something from Oregon, California or perhaps New Zealand?”  

Snob: “I don’t know.”

Waiter: “Well… are you looking for light, soft, fruit-foward Pinot Noir, or something darker, earthier, with more tannins and spice?” (Of course, the best wines  may have all these qualities, but it’s a start.)

Snob: “Ughhhh…. I don’t know.”

Waiter: Let’s go by food pairing. You’re getting the filet, and she’s getting Monkfish, so how about something dry, medium bodied, with ripe fruit for the fish, yet enough tannins for your filet? Let’s look at this Oregon…

Snob: Uhmmm, okay. But I’m still not sure if…

Waiter: I love this winemaker here… (Snob sees price; $162 dollars).

Snob: No— no no. I’ll have to look at this a second…

Waiter: There’s also a similar Pinot Noir, not quite as complex, from Central California… (Snob sees price $54.)

Snob: Oh. We’ll try that. Sure, why not?

See, “I’ll have a Pinot,” also means “take me to the $50 dollar bottle,” which isn’t problematic except when you are being directed to the $50 dollar bottle of Pinot Noir (Thankfully my restaurant doesn’t even bother with $50 bottles of Merlot, “No-no0-na-no.”)

“Take me to the $50 bottle you’d drink,” is indeed a very good question to ask a waiter, because the waiter will know exactly what delicious bottle to recommend. The guy who can ask for his price point right off the bat is certainly going to get a better bottle, than the snob who pretends to not care about the price.

Lesson learned? I hope so, Mr. Pinot.

It’s not the MOB; it’s Grey Goose.

10 Oct

Last night I had a conversation with the head bartender from a Tribeca hotspot. I learned some very interesting information about liquor sales and distribution in Manhattan.

First, he confirmed what I’d always suspected: “Hot” restaurants get huge discounts from liquor companies for featuring their products in house made cocktails. Liquor sales reps don’t offer discounts to just any bar or restaurant. They only court high-volume establishments that will help promote their brand name, to an “in” crowd.  Apparently the only vodka that doesn’t have to do this kind of restaurant  recruiting is Grey Goose; it sells itself. No surprise there, but what do these discounts mean on paper?  

It plays out like this: A Svedka representative says to the restauranteur, “Svedka will give you ten percent off our product, if you make a signature Svedka cocktail, and run it on your menu for three months.” Then management tells the bartenders, “We need a Svedka cocktail.” However, if Chopin all of a sudden says, “No, no, we’ll give you twenty-percent off,” the Svedka cocktail quickly is changed to a Chopin cocktail. This explains why the vodkas are always changing on new featured cocktails at my restaurant.

“Just how inflated are drink prices then, if restaurants are receiving these discounts?,” I asked.

“Well,” said the bartender. “A two oz. pour of a premium vodka might cost the restaurant less than $1.25, and we charge $14 dollars for the drink. Does that answer your question?”

Yes. It did.

Additionally I learned why some popular liquors are “86’d” for months at a time at my restaurant.

For example we were “86 Patron” for months. Do you know what it’s like telling people you don’t have Patron? Management kept saying, “Oh, we’re working things out; we’ll get a shipment.”

I never understood what was really going on: the restaurant was playing hard-ball with Patron, punishing them for not giving the restaurant a discount, essentially saying, “We can run fine without you. You think you’re so hot you don’t need to give us a discount? Well, watch us not sell your product for a couple of months.” Of course, in the end, a deal was struck, and management finally said, “We got our shipment of Patron.” Yeah right, what you got was a discount, finally.

I hope this information is helpful the next time you order a $22 dollar Stoli Elite cosmo.8

Follow The Fold

29 Sep

The Industrial Revolution failed; people still fold napkins.

Every night, a restaurant’s staff  folds thousands of napkins, in order for them to be unfolded, soiled, cleaned, pressed, and then folded again. It’s an endless enterprise.

Over the course of one evening, the house stockpile of folded whites, rises and falls, like the tides.  Usually around 11:30, the last reserves have been snatched up, and reset on tables.  Only after the saddest, off-white  folds begin circulating into service, do the bussers begin to prophetize, “No napkins soon! No napkins!” Service must stop, folding commences, and the famine is kept at bay.    

Folding is time intensive.  The more elaborate the fold, the more time it takes.  The past three restaurants I have worked in have used the same exact basic fold.  So I’m quite comfortable with this particular tri-fold, and can produce the napkin in 8 seconds flat. 

At 8 seconds a napkin (I just timed myself), 50 napkins should take only 8 minutes, but that doesn’t seem reallistic. In fact, 50 napkins usually takes 10-15 minutes, even at a pert pace. There must be some breathing room in there that I’m not counting? Ah yes, gossip.

I just calculated that I have folded a minimum of 31,200 napkins, in the last three years.

(Minimum of 50 Napkins a day)* x (Average of  4 days a week) x (52 weeks a year) x (3 years)

=31,200

*Some side-work requires 200 napkins. Number of napkins folded does not include silverware “roll-ups” for the patio.

31,200 napkins is a substantial amount of gossip. Lots of sex has been relived over those clean linens, lots of dreams shared, and lots of tears shed.

Not everyone socializes over folding. I once had a manager named Sally, who folded napkins like a solitary Catholic reciting her rosary. She had an alcoholic boyfriend, and slowing stacking the perfect piles of white, seemed to give her solace.  It took her about 200,000 napkins before she decided to break up with the brute for good, Hail Mary!”

There was a girl Lilly, from Tennessee, who could talk faster than a cotton-mouth could slither, and who could fold faster than she could talk.  That girl could talk n’ fold, and talk n’ fold, like she had been doing it for all of eternity.  She even could take an espressos break, tell you about her last bikini wax, and still be a good fifty napkins ahead of you.  I once tried to catch up with her and nearly folded myself into an anxiety attack.

 And then there was Ahmed, a quiet, stoic Bengali, who approached napkins, much like he approached waiting tables (And life for that matter): absolutely precise, but without a hint of urgency.  Ahmed wouldn’t have folded fifty napkins a night, if Allah Himself had commanded it (He had not).

So many folds, somany friends. Tonight I taught a new server the tri-fold I’ve had in my hands for the past five years. I can’t remember who taught me my first one; I’d curse the sorry soul, but, I think it was Sally. Poor Sally. She’s probably still praying over a fold in some back server station, planning her escape, one napkin at a time. Aren’t we all?

Welcome to New York, asshole.

16 Sep

 

“Does it have to be this noisy in here… are the portions really this small..  is this beer really fourteen dollars?”

I am very sympathetic –too nice– when it comes to people adjusting to the ways of New York.  Instead of administering tough love, and letting them swim on their own, the Midwesterner in me wants to help (i.e. Seeing French people freak, when they find themselves headed Uptown on an “A”-Express-train, headed straight for Harlem); however, I have no tolerance for visiting Americans who are dead-set on hating New York.

Why do Americans become so  enraged at New York for  being, well, New York?  You came here because this city is known for being loud, fast-paced and over-priced. Yes, when you leave the door of your hotel, you will pay ten dollars for breathing air, but what did you expect? It’s New York City .  Aren’t you here because the air does cost ten dollars?  Where else does a breath of air cost ten bucks? Nowhere, so fucking enjoy it, you Connecticut fuck. You don’t go to Italy, and then complain that the people are gesticulating with their hands  too much, so why are you complaining that this place, in the words of Daft Punk, is “Harder, better, faster, stronger?”

After comping  half of this guy’s check,  for asinine complaints that not even a corporate fun-house like Houston’s could honor, he still accused me of taking advantage of him. It was insulting. 

Do you honestly think that I care  for fourteen more bucks on a bill?

The daughter of this man was mortified, voicing my precise protest,  “You’re in New York,” she insisted. “You’re being ridiculous.”

Ironically, the man who was so concerned about his “un-opened mussels,” didn’t even check the bill when it was handed to him. You’d think a man so neurotic about an expensive beer, would atleast look at what he was paying for, before handing off the credit card; but no, he cleary was so rich that it truly didn’t matter what was going on the Amex. What mattered was the “principle” of the thing.

“A beer shouldn’t be $14, ever, not even in New York.”

The Midwesterner in me said, “No problem sir, you’re upset; I’ll take it off,”  but my manager wasn’t going to let this man suck up New York’s pride.

“I’m sick of these games,” my manager said. “He drank it. Gimme the check.” And my manager marched over and demanded that he pay the bill in full.

Sometimes you don’t know you’ve got it good, till a veteran New York manager is making you feel like the cheap piece of shit that you really are.

“Fashion” Night Out

11 Sep
Even before I got to the restaurant, I knew that desperate people were out: every store on Fifth Ave. had strobe lights, a doorman, and European tourists snapping photos outside.  Girls unaccustomed to heals were falling into  intersections. The whole energy of the street secretly whispered, “Somebody, look at me.”
    
Apparently it was “Fashion Night Out,” a city-wide event for Fall Fashion week, sponsored by Vogue. Nobody had warned me. I had seen a fashion show being set up earlier in the day at Lincoln Center, but I didn’t realize there was a singular night designated for the faux fashonistas to prove their worth in consumption.
 
After I clocked in, and entered the service alley, I noticed that not only were the patrons overdressed for 6pm, September the 10th, 2010,  but so were the front of house girls. The hostesses looked and smelled like they were off to some Christian-Dior-80’s-whore-bath, and happily modeled their costume of choice for the occasion.
 
     -“Fashion night out is Halloween,” I observed.
    
 I was relieved when I realized that all the real models were actually going to be working tonight, and I wouldn’t have to contend with the Aliens this evening (Aliens, def: women from the Netherlands: inexplicably tall, over-featured, and demanding) . Incredibly, there are several evenings a year, where the Aliens must hit their angles, and trot about, for that yearlong supply of sugar-free RedBulls.
    
 With the Aliens off at work, there was a lot of freed up table space for the common folk, the pilgrims from Jersey, and Long Island.   And so the typical patron profile of the night included  1) Consumer women in their thirties who wished they were models, and are still trying to be models, despite living in a city where there are several thousand Aliens ; and 2) The insecure men who fund aforementioned women, for sex, and marriage, and constant emasculation. The evening was table after table of socially programmed pairs, still in awe that they scored a corner-booth downstairs.