Maybe you can help me discover a few more great restaurants (not fancy, necessarily–I just want good food, well prepared, for a fair price).
Maybe I ought to wonder whether too much of a good thing is actually good for me. Other people seem to enjoy going out to eat a whole lot more than I do.
But I believe I’m fortunate. I love the food made in my kitchen, the way I prefer, with the ingredients I’m in the mood for, or more often, from ingredients I need for nutritional reasons. I consciously get my nutrients from food (yes, it’s possible–Harvard says so too). Being deliberate about what I’m eating is easiest to do when I know exactly what’s in my food.
My personal chef (my husband) knows everything about food procurement and preparation, including how to butcher (seriously! He can cut up a whole beast into those innocuously sanitary-looking cuts we name with non-animal names–filet of beef, pork tenderloin or saddle of venison instead of cow, pig or Bambi!) Therefore he knows how to talk to any butcher to get the choicest cuts at the lowest prices.
- grow the organic vegetables and harvest them at the optimum time;
- grind grain and make artisan loaves of crusty hearth bread;
- whip up anything I have a fancy for–say prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, smoked pheasant with dill sauce. cioppino, weinerschnitzel, Texan brisket, Memphis ribs, Carolina pulled pork sandwiches with slaw, Korean beef and kimchee, curried lentil stew, cobb salad–whatever I want.
- He even shucks oysters.
And after twenty years of living with him, I’ve learned to do most of all that, too (except butcher; I don’t butcher).
So I’ve become any great restaurateur’s or skilled chef’s biggest fan and any mediocre place’s sharpest critic. I have zero tolerance for those who are:
- living on their laurels,
- cheating by not serving what the menu says,
because I know they could do better.
But I do like eating out. I like the luxury of both of us sitting down to a meal neither of us has to prepare or clean up after.
And I’m a good customer:
- I’m a patient, cheerful and appreciative guest. I know how freaking much work it is to put out dozens/hundreds of meals, day after day. Even if the result of their efforts is mediocre, or even downright bad, they are nevertheless working their little patooties off. And I appreciate their hard work (although I sometimes wish they would work more efficiently and expertly).
- If they make unacceptable errors (the wrong food, incorrectly cooked, wrong temperature) I politely and discreetly point it out and give them an opportunity to fix it. And if they can’t fix it, I don’t go into drama-queen mode because I am not looking for freebies.; I simply want what I ordered.
- I tell them what they did right–I’m liberal with compliments. When they do a great job, they deserve to be appreciated (and well-tipped).
- And I’m very patient with inexpensive, family-owned-and-run diners/joints/dives if they do even a few things well, especially if they’re obviously trying.
But I’m a hard-to-impress customer:
- I always notice what’s not right. Don’t give me: servers who gossip while ignoring their guests; poorly trained staff who don’t know whether the burger is 1/4 , 1/3 or 1/2 pound; cold salad served on plates hot from the dishwasher; entrees that don’t jibe with the menu description (advertises cheddar but this is processed cheese food; says house-made hollandaise but this is definitely Knorr Swiss’s mix). Don’t serve me: over-the-hill ingredients; items represented as house-made but bought frozen/ready-made from Sysco (click on this Sysco link to see why so much restaurant food all tastes the same).
- And my expectations are even higher for fine-dining establishments. So should everyone’s be! They are, after all, in the business of delivering exquisite service and exceptionally delicious, high-quality food. I loathe paying gourmet prices only to feel that I would have been better off eating at home (and then I regret not having donated that disappointingly-spent money to feed a developing-world family of seven for a year).
- I expect a meal that is worth the price. And I know what a fair price is.
If you think my expectations are reasonable, I’d like to know about the restaurants you think are really great and worth the price. Where do you willingly spend your hard-earned money?