Tag Archives: waiter story

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.

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The Dragon Lady [PartI]

8 Oct

“Jamie? Sammy? Daaaaaaaavid? Where IS everybody? I’m here!”

Our most infamous regular had arrived. It was only 4:30pm,  the restaurant was empty. And I was the only person on the floor. It was just me, The Dragon Lady, and the bruised shadow of her Ego, secretly hiding in the dark folds of her waist-length black hair. 

“Where is everybody?,” The Dragon Lady asked again, this time with suspicion. The creature in her hair was already roused, assessing the threat, ready to attack.

I waited on Nikki, The Dragon Lady, for the first time on October 8th, 2008.  I was at my old restaurant then, a small french bistro on the Upper East Side.  Nikki struck me as so eccentric, that I held onto the waiter-pad from that night (I was thinking about TheInsideWaiter blog even then), and I wrote about her in my journal, the whole train ride home. 

The first thing I noted about Nikki was her delicious voice. She spoke like a queen, with heightened speech, and long sung vowels.  Her voice was more than “affected,” it was effective, making even the most stubborn waiter hinge at his waist. 

The Dragon Lady was a modern regal, a stunning, petite woman of  ambiguous Asian descent, and the Ex-wife to a famous New York restaurateur and club-owner. She was highly educated, and yet, there was something just plain cow-town American about her, especially when she said things like, “Awwww’ come on!,” and, “gimme’ a break!”  

Sonny, our most senior server, once told me the story of the afternoon Nikki earned her celebrated alias, The Dragon Lady.  Nikki was one sexual cat, a cougar one might say. In the summer, Nikki’s idea of “Sunday Best” was a coral silk negligee with bamboo print, that she proudly wore, without underwear, to our bistro’s brunch, every Sunday.  Nikki loved to bring her one night stands with her, usually younger men, and make-out with her Johns on the patio, after being emboldened by a few bottles of Peirre Jouet.       

One afternoon when Sonny was waiting on her outside, and her John was in the W.C., she asked Sonny, “Hey Sonny, What do you think of Brazilians?” Sonny didn’t quite understand what she meant, until she uncrossed her legs and opened her silk negligee, and said once more, “Now… what do you think of Braaaaazilians?” And so The Dragon Lady was named (After a racist-sexist stereotype, perpetuated in film and on this blog). 

Sonny once warned me, “Waiting on her is like riding a wild Bull.  If you can ride her once, she’ll remember. But if you can’t ride her, she’ll remember.” Tonight I  intended to ride her for at least 8 seconds, if not for eight courses.

And I was well prepared. This was not my first encounter with the Dragon Lady. I had waited on her many times before, but only as the back-waiter to her favorite servers, the aforementioned Jamie, Sonny and Daaaaaavid (He was as pretty as his long “a’s” implied).

I knew what to expect: In the first place, she was an eater. Secondly, there would be many questions. And most importantly, The Dragon was as indecisive as she was decisive, and the process of ordering would probably take twenty minutes, if not half an hour (Fortunately I had no other tables);  and once the kitchen got the ticket, multiple changes to the order would be made throughout the night. Things were inevitably going to be sent back: “smudged” glassware, “dry” bread, “unsippable” cocktails,  “measly” mussels, “overdressed” caesar salads… you are getting the idea.

I escorted The Dragon to table,  Table 41, her corner-booth of choice. 

“Oh. Let’s try something in the sun this afternoon. I’m cold,” she said, before assuming her throne.

She was testing me already. I knew very well that she would move from “something in the sun” to her old table 41, in a matter of five minutes; but, let the games begin.

“So where is Sonny. Where’s Daaaaaaaaaavid?” she insisted again.

I explained for the third time, that her preferred waiter toys were “off tonight.”  I watched her trying to imagine Sonny in civilian clothing –without an apron– not anticipating her entrance into the bistro. She was clearly nervous to be taking risks with a newbie like myself, but not as disappointed (or nervous) as I was.   

Whatever; I’m hungry,” she said whimsically, pretending that it didn’t matter. “Oh, I haaaaaave to eat. I am FAMISHED. Just FAMISHED!,” and then she began laughing at herself, with those delicious low tones. “I have a new trainer. I can hardly moooove, but feel these abs, feeeeeeeel them. Go head. Feeeel them!,” she demanded.

“Just say NO,” right? Easier said than done.  It would have been more awkward not to touch her, than to touch her, so I petted the cat’s belly.

“Can you believe I’m forty-seven. Forty-seven! Aaaaaaaah!,” and she screamed like a party girl. “And I have five kids. FIVE. Feel that stomach.”

Nice. You have kids?,” I asked.

“Oh my god, yes, they are with him tonight. Thank God,” she said. “Do I want a cocktail? What do you think I want?”

She asked the most dangerous question a customer, let alone a Dragon, could ask: What-do-you-think-I-want? Ohhhh, She was bold, buttering me up like that with her abs, her kids, and then hitting me in the face with a question like that.

“Well— I hate these sweet cocktails. What would you get?,” she queried.

The time had come to ride the bull.

“Honestly, right now,” I said. “I’m craving a dirty, dry, Plymouth martini up.” I thought she’d never go for it, but hey, tell the truth.

“Oooh. I like how you said that! I’ve never had a gin martini. I must have one.”

Bombs were going off in my head. Never had a gin martin? She was a forty-seven-year-old Manhattan socialite, the divorcee of a prestigious bar owner. How could you avoid a gin martini?

“What does it taste like?,” she asked, now concerned by her hastiness.

My God, this was like asking, “what do eggs taste like? What does the sky taste like,” It tastes like eggs, the sky; but still, I tried to muster up some description.

“Well, there’s definitely juniper berries, and herbaceous notes on the gin, with hint of pine. And… the olive juice adds a bit of saltiness? You have to try one.”

“If you think so,” she dared.

“Yes, lets,” I countered. She smiled at my boldness. I turned to place the drink order, before she stopped me.

“What’s your name?,” she asked with a smirk.

“TheInsideWaiter,” I said.

“Well InsideWaiter,” she said, “Do you happen to know what TIPS stand for?”

“Uuuugh— no,” I said.

“To-Insure-Proper-Service. TIPSsssssssss,” and she slid a tightly folded piece of paper into my hand, while looking directly into my eyes.

Indeed, she was a dragon. In the server station, I opened my hand and unfolded the bills. That’s why Sonny was so protective of her, that’s why he worked himself into conniptions over her entrees; he was just insuring proper service. By the end of this dinner date, I would insure that she was my regular, not for the money, but for the material . . . [Pt.2]

 

 

 

The Wine Nazi: “NO WINE FOR YOU!”

7 Oct

You all remember “The Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld? Well, I just met “The Wine Nazi;” he’s a twenty-eight-year-old Lebanese tight-wad (or should I say tight-end?) who graduated from Cornell, works in a PR firm, and who lost three-hundred dollars on Fantasy Football last week (Yes, I got all that information from his conversation tableside).

 Tonight the Wine Nazi thumbed through the wine menu for his party of four. Price was the only factor.  The varietal, terroirvintage and winemaker were inconsequential.

He chose a cheap bottle from a mega-wine-maker, a $72 dollar Malbec that you can get at Trader Joe’s for $13 bucks. 

After he tasted and approved the Argentinian grape juice, I started to pour his guests a small glass (To begin with, I am always conservative when it comes to the first pour; I find that a series of consecutive small pours kills a bottle faster, and ensures a second sale; the guest always thinks there is more coming, and therefore, drinks more liberally). 

I was just about to pour 1.5 ounces on the first guest’s glass, when Wine Nazi threw out his hand like a traffic cop, covering the guest’s glass, and scolding me, “No-no-no! No more.”

I thought maybe his friend didn’t want to  drink much, and the Wine Nazi was trying to help me.  And so on the next pour I went even slower. Sure enough, just as I was about to hit 1.5 ounces (less than half a pour), the Wine Nazi’s  hand flared up to stop me.

It’s not unusual for guests to silently indicate they don’t want to drink more, by raising their hand to the glass (This is a polite and traditional gesture. Blue Monied persons usually just raise the hand without comment, or thanks.  It’s very classy, much like putting your knife and fork parallel to eachother, as a signal to clear the plate.) 

However,  I’d never had the person ordering the wine, physically and verbally command me to “STOP!” pouring, before the first toast.  The Wine Nazi seemed to get a real kick out of ordering a bottle, and then having the power to dispense it over his friends.  It was pretty rude and messed up in my opinion.

The strange part was that he didn’t just pour the wine himself, and looked at me impatiently when his friends’ glasses were empty, as if to say, “Hey lazy, aren’t you going to fill our glasses?” But of course, the moment I started to pour, there was the traffic-light hand again, telling me to stop.

I should have just yelled at him, “NO WINE FOR YOU!”