From Wine Steward Katie Montgomery’s “Cellar Notes” column…
I just finished reading seven or eight of my past columns, and it
dawned on me that you may be getting the wrong impression of me.
In the columns, I seem to complain a lot. Critiquing stylistic
choices in winemaking and pointing out deficiencies in restaurant wine
service is my way of trying to make things better. However, taking a
step back, I can see how my commentaries could be perceived otherwise.
So, in the next edition of The Grapevine, I promise to write about
something… happy. But first, I have just a few more things to get off
my chest about dining out…
Reservations. It was 1 p.m. on a Friday. An associate had
arrived in town unexpectedly, and I needed to make a dinner reservation
for that evening. I selected a restaurant where neither of us had ever
dined, punched in the phone number and got an answering system (Pet
Peeve No. 1).
After listening to the menu of prompts – “to make a reservation”
was the fourth option (Pet Peeve No. 2) – I pushed the “4” button.
After three rings, I got another voice message (Pet Peeve No. 3):
“There is nobody here to take your call; please call back during
regular hours.” Only one problem: The message did not indicate what
those “regular hours” are (Pet Peeve No. 4).
Specials. Restaurants that offer appetizers, entrees or
desserts not listed on their regular menu need to have extremely
competent servers to describe the specials of the day. Most restaurants
fall short in this area (Pet Peeve No. 5).
But there can be a problem with specials even when the servers are
extremely experienced and competent. The problem: too many specials
(Pet Peeve No. 6). By the time the server is through describing them
all in intimate detail down to the last dusting of cumin, my head is
Why not type up and print out a list of the specials with
descriptive prose? Wouldn’t that save the server time and the diner
(me) frustration? The last thing I want to do after a long day at work
is memorize a lengthy list of specials and then mentally superimpose
them over the regular menu in order to decide what I’m going to eat.
One more thing about specials: Whether they’re presented verbally
or in printed form, don’t make me ask the price of each item. Tell me. When I have to ask, it makes me look like a cheapskate Pet Peeve No. 7).
Thanks for listening. As I’ve always said, writing this column is
a lot cheaper than therapy.