Friday, February 15, 2013

A Good Case of VD

     I'm confused... Where was the drama, February 14th? I have a blog here, and if I write another wine post, I could scare off my few readers forever!

     I was grumbling all afternoon yesterday, absolutely dreading Valentine's. I almost always get stuck with deuce after deuce of awkward newbie diners who ask a million questions about the menu and then order water and pasta. It's a "step up" night, where our regulars go to better restaurants, and folks who can barely afford ours fill the books.

     At 4:30 we had 229 reservations (vs. 150 or so for a busy Saturday). The phone was ringing and ringing and the boss had yet to arrive. I was holding my breath, waiting for some form of disaster to occur but it never came. However, no crazy night goes by without a few hiccups:

Flying by the seat of our pants, as usual- The boss' printer broke down, so he came in late with the night's menus- sort of an important item to have ready. A few servers swarmed over the stack of paper, quickly changing out the menu boards, just, just, as the line began to form at the podium.

     Also stations weren't assigned yet, another vital element of preparation since the floor plan was completely different with additional two-top tables. Flustered, bossman tried to set up stations as he was getting through seating the line of waiting guests. When he realized he'd  left out one of the servers from his plan, he threw his hands in the air, "You guys take whatever you want!" We all quickly conferred with each other and manned our stations, with no interruption of service on the floor. We are good with each other like that, and the boss was happy.

Deluded last minute reservation calls- I was standing at the bar well, asking the bartender about a transfer. The boss' voice came behind us as he veered away from the host stand with the phone. His pitch was a little high and odd, disbelieving: "7:15? No I'm sorry we are booked until 9:30." The bartender looked at the time: 6:50. Without needing to say anything, we started laughing.

Newbie loses his cool- Our very young, sweet day food runner was in to help the night expo. He came flying up the short stairs in the bus station into the kitchen, swearing: "That motherfucker, I'm going to fucking punch him in the mouth..." he was saying. I was a little concerned our newbie wasn't able to handle the stress of a crazy night. But then I found out who he was dealing with: One of my least favorite assholes, the misogynistic prick who I wrote about in the story Where to Shove the Pepper Grinder. I gave our newbie runner an even more explicative-laden description of dude, and he grinned widely with relief. It's always nice to know you are not alone.

     Oh, and true to form, the jackass customer tipped the server $25 on a 225 bill.

     Our improvements over the last year (remodeling, better chairs and lighting) seem to pay off this holiday. Our "sexy" was sufficient to draw our regular group of customers, and encourage them to rack up decently sized checks. And inexplicably, I kept popping 20 dollar tips on 80 dollar tabs, making up for the usual holiday 15 percenters. I even averaged over 20% tips for the night, which is simply unheard of on what is famously known as a restaurant amateur night.

     At the end of the night, we checked the sales and were disbelieving, having hit a new record. Bossman was content and I was relieved.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Missing Out on the Fun

     I might be slightly unaware of the hipster douchery of wine trade tastings. I guess because I never show up to socialize. My restaurant is in old fart land, far from the epicenter of city cool, so people's eyes glaze over when they see my name tag. I could go with the mentality of meeting new peeps, but I find I'm not my best at these events: Buzzy, with red stained teeth and hands? Not sexy. I'll chat with a couple sales reps for fun, but for the most part, I show up in non-descript black clothes and move silently from table to table, trying to actually learn something. Several things get in the way of this goal, however, which makes me hesitate to show up at these events.

Unnecessary Roughness

    If I swoop in just as the tasting starts, score! But my procrastinating self usually gets there an hour late, and I have to elbow past a bunch of tall suits to reach the front of a table. Once there, my covered boobage does little to pull the eyes of the pourer from his conversations with said suits. I'll wait a full minute before I think pass! and move on.

Tre Bicchieri San Francisco
     I once was ignored so profoundly at a tasting, that I hold the memory of this moment as the gold-standard of pouring negligence. I was the only one waiting, but the pourer refused to interrupt his conversations with the already-been-poured to even make eye contact.  I waited far longer than usual because I'd heard the wines were good but gave up. I did eventually get to taste the wines; the pourer from that table was in fact the wine maker and owner of his own company, and showed up at my restaurant to show me his wines a couple years later. Too bad I remembered him so clearly.

Shaky McShakertons

     Functioning alcoholics litter the wine field, befeebled wreckage of an industry where a drinking problem is almost requisite to staying up to date. These people are in full view at tastings and I often get pourers whose hands can barely stop shaking enough to get wine in my glass. So I get a taste with a dose of sad.

The Creeping Buzz

     I'll spit and spit like an angry llama, yet, for all this diligence, things start to get a little fuzzy about 20 wines in. It's the alcohol absorbing in through my cheeks and the fact I'm a super lightweight; And those little sneaky sips of expensive-ass wines I can't afford and have a hard time dumping, those sips catch up fast.

Nasty Splashback

  Spit buckets fill up quickly. I've only been nailed in the face a couple times with a rebound droplet of saliva-frothed bucket wine, but it was almost enough to make a germaphobe like me cry out in horror.

     Once I watched a hapless fellow dump out his finished taste not into the bucket, but into a decanter. The pourer was speechless, unsure whether to dump out the $100+ wine sitting in the decanter or pretend to look the other way.

Overshadowed Greatness

     Palate fatigue is real and sets in quick. Gigantic wines begin to seem incredible. The Sagrantinos, the Syrahs; with ripping tannin and high alcohol, these wines shake some life from my numbed senses. Delicate red, dry wines go blerg compared to their burlier cousins, though these are the wines I drink at home. I've given up at even trying whites, especially Italian ones: Hmm, water, interesting.

Don't Mug Me

     Lately it seems it's become trendy to hold tastings in the worst and least accessible neighborhoods in the city. I already have to drive; don't insult me by making me have to sketch street park.

     This year they switched the tasting venue of Tre Bicchieri, the only tasting I really give a damn about, as it has a huge selection of award-winning Italian wines. The new venue is at least large and has parking, but is way more annoying to get to so again, meh. I decided to not get my shift covered to go.

     I'm pouting right now as I type because I'm missing out on this event. For all the annoyances of tastings, there is something magical about walking into a huge room filled with voices, sparkling glassware and your favorite wines in the whole world. I'll be thinking about that while I'm serving people their pasta tonight.