Things on Tuesday: Dining Out

By no means the last words on the matter

Dining out Don’ts

  1. Be an asshole – Last week we purportedly squeezed the 7 billionth person on this planet. I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are already more than enough jerks here. Don’t be another one. Don’t dine angry. Leave your fight with your boss or your SO, or your road rage at the door. You chose not to cook and not to order-in because you wanted hospitality. A restaurant is one of the few places you can go where everyone working that day wants you to have a good time. Deserve it.
  2. Take it personally – Look, everyone is appropriately sorry that the kitchen got your steak wrong, the house is out of your favorite appetizer, the new waitress spilled a drink on you, etc. But it’s not proof that the universe hates you or everyone on staff that day is trying to ruin your life. Sheesh paranoid/narcissistic much? And the house absolutely wants to make amends. See No. 1 and let them.
  3. Get skanky with the staff – I spent a long evening at at bar next to a man who told me he thought  tattoos were dirty, showed poor judgement and an absence of good character. Of course he would not stop asking our gorgeous tattooed bartender where on his body he should get one and what tattoos she would find sexy. Yes, lots of bartenders have thick skins and consider such behavior an occupational hazard. But is that your goal in life? To be an occupational hazard?
  4. Berate or belittle the staff, even sotto voce to just your date/companion(s). – Restaurants really seem to bring out the latent classism in people. A bartender offered to make me a purple-themed drink once. Ever curious, I started trying to think of what on the bar is purple. I was brainstorming out loud to my girlfriend when she snootily corrected me “No, no sweetie. That’s his job.” In one sense she was right, I am paying for the bartender’s craft and ingenuity, but what’s with the ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude? I could get on the high horse about parity and decency but instead I pose this question. In history class when you were discussing societies that are strictly ruled by class or  in which class is a matter of birth, did you think all that elitism and oppression was cool? Again, is that who you aspire to be? The snobby, tyrannical Bourgeoisie?
  5. Order food for its meaning rather than its flavor or your desire – The 80’s are over. Eat for your palate, your digestion, your allergies and your waistline. And don’t make a prime-time drama of it.

Dining out Dos

  1. Be grateful – Yes, to the staff. But more just for the moment. Someone always likes to point out that a lot of the world lives on just $2/day. So if you can afford to go out to dinner even once every other month…to the 99…with a Groupon, you’re doing better than a whole lotta people. A moment of realization and gratitude for that will feel good. I promise.
  2. Be present – That scrumpdillyicious guanciale on your charcuterie plate took at least 8 months to produce (not counting the pregnancy of the sow). And it’s good. And a pig died so you could eat it. And did I mention how flavorful and yummy it is? Have a sip of wine, a bite of meat. Parcel it out to try with all the accoutrements on the plate and one piece extra so you can have your favorite combo twice. Breath deeply. Chew. Feel the flavor and texture on your lips and your tongue. Eating is fantastically sensual. Take the time to let it be. It will feel good. I promise.
  3. Enjoy your meal and let those who prepared and served it for you know it – Not too long ago a bartender thanked me for bringing my laughter into his bar. I’ve had chefs come out and talk to me because I had a detailed opinion on a dish. The “And how is your meal?” question has become the “Hi. How are you?” of the dining out experience, de rigueur and rarely thoroughly or honestly answered. Break the mold! If you are being present you will notice a lot about your dish. Share it. The only thing better than an (honest) kind word, is a kind word and a good tip.
  4. Tip well – I’m judging you. I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you want or need to tip the minimum that’s fine, but tip at least the minimum. And if everything was really awesome, be extravagant. This also feels really good. Yes, I promise.
  5. Whatever Kai tells you to do – For this you will have to eat at Bergamot, at the bar. Do it. You will love being in his hands.
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