Friday, June 6, 2014

My Restaurant Pet Peeves or How NOT to Get the Worst Table in a Restaurant and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Maleficent," DVDs "Gambit," and "Grand Piano," as well as Jason Priestley's memoir and Lionel Richie's concert]


But first


My Restaurant Pet Peeves
Or How NOT to Get the Worst Table in a Restaurant
 
If you have been reading my blog, you probably already know I am a huge foodie.  Not to toot my horn that I know that much about food, I just love to eat it.  Good food, that is.


I am such a foodie I got myself on an early episode of a PBS foodie show called "Check Please Northwest," where three people go to each other's favorite restaurants and then get together to share what they thought. Here is a taste of what I mean.  This show has similar versions in other cities around the country.

I have shared this video before, so if you have seen it, feel free to skip it, but for those of you new to my blog, this will give you a taste of where I am coming from, pardon the pun. For fun, count how many times I say "fabulous!"

 

   
 
I had forgotten how pompous I sounded. I'm actually not that bad (I don't think).
 
Seattle is a great food town and when I moved here 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to try as many fine dining establishments as I could.  Since we went to the theatre often and loved walking about town, we combined those pursuits with the pursuit of the best restaurants. 

I read reviews about restaurants, made lists and checked them out for myself.  I am not so much into Yelp these days since I read that the people most likely to Yelp are unhappy customers or people who just like to see themselves in print, so that's not really helpful.  People can be unhappy about the most inconsequential things, as you will see when I start ranting about my pet peeves.

I made a list of all of the fine dining restaurants from A-Z and we started trying them all.  Yes, from A-Z.
 
I have to say that now we have sampled most of the restaurants in Seattle.  And that ain't easy because they keep opening new ones!

 

If you read my blog from last Friday "The Perfect Hotel Room, then you know I have pet peeves about hotel rooms. 


Well, here is the restaurant version.
 

I guess some people just don't care where they sit, but I do. 

 
 
(This is very ironic, too, as my Dad was terrible when it came to this and as a teen I would be SO embarrassed when he would fuss over where he was seated, but now I get it)
 
  • I am very annoyed when I am taken to a table by the door with people going in and out, complaining to the maître de, and the phone ringing.
  • Being seated by the bathroom is also a no-no. 

  • I also don't want to sit by a server station, again, lots of activity, cutlery clanking, wait staff walking back and forth, gathering at the computer, chatting, etc 

  • And keep me away from the kitchen where you can hear pots and pans clanking, the chef is yelling and the servers are running in and out.
 
I also judge a restaurant if it's 5pm, there is no one in the restaurant and I am asked if I have a reservation. 
  • Pah-lease.  I believe in making reservations, but when it's early, early, early I also feel strange walking in at 5pm and saying I have a reservation.  It's like I'm some senior citizen at the IHop for the early bird special.  Well, I am technically a senior citizen...

And restaurants that don't take reservations.

  • We know what that's about.  It's about convenience for them.  But it's not convenient for me to show up, give them my name and then have them call me two hours later.  By then I have hunkered down in the pub down the street and eaten a cheeseburger and fries.  Screw the steak with burgundy sauce and truffle oil French fries.  I was hungry!
Speaking of which, what's with the truffle oil?
  • French fries and truffle oil are not a good fit.  In fact, a little truffle oil goes a long way.  Ask Anthony Bourdain.

Then there are the servers, bless their hearts.
 

 
  • I don't like it when we are not acknowledged soon after we are seated
 
  • Also if we do get acknowledged, it's before we have a chance to look over the drinks menu, and once we order, it takes forever for the drinks to arrive.  Well, you know...
 
  • It's annoying when the server returns to the table just as I have put my first bite in my mouth and he inquires about my first bite, especially if its a huge piece of meat and I am not finished chewing it yet. This seems to be a trend now and I don't mind the server asking me how I am doing, but let me try the food first.  Also can he or she wait until I have swallowed?
 
  • We don't see the server again until it's time to get the bill
 
  • The server is overly chatty, unless he is really cute
 
  • The server is snooty
 
  • The server acts bored - This happens to older folks I think since the servers are mostly 30+ years younger than we are and they have already assumed we are bad tippers and won't order dessert.  I notice I get infinitely better service from male waiters when dining with my daughter who someone recently said looked just like Jessica Biel.
 
Now all of that said, and I know I sound like a grumpy old woman, but since I am old, sometimes grumpy and have been dining out for years, I am going to give you the knowledge of those years so you never have to sit at a crappy table again.  Let those other people sit at those crappy tables.
 

Here is how to get a good table:

 
 
Book through Open Table. 
  • Ever since I have been doing that, my good table ratio has gone up amazingly.  I think it's because I now have the ability to rate them.  What restaurant wants me to say what terrible tables the restaurant has on Open Table right as they are deciding to make a reservation or not?
 
If you have to phone for a reservation,

  • Say "What is your availability for a party of two on Saturday at 7pm?" rather than "I would like to book a party of two for Saturday night at 7pm."
  • Saying you want to book implies there is an opening.  Snooty hosts and hostesses don't like assumptions like that.  They are working in a classy establishment and they don't like people like us assuming that we can just ask for a table and get it. 
  • By not seeming to be pushy and by seeming to acknowledge that I just might not be able to get a table in this trendy, everyone-wants-to-go-there restaurant, you are less likely to get a snotty answer from a snooty hostess who doesn't realize just who she is speaking to.

However, all of this does not guarantee you a good table. 


You must be proactive, especially when dining at a restaurant you have never been to before.
 
  • Upon arrival, scan the room and try to quickly find the bad tables.  Determine that you will NOT be sitting there.
 
  • Once seated at what appears to be an acceptable table, do not immediately start looking at the menu, because then you will be sorry later when you suddenly realize they have hidden the server station under your table.
 
  • Before taking a bite of the bread or sipping your water (if indeed these items have already made it to your table), check out your surroundings.  Are you happy?
 
  • If not, ask to move.  In the end, nobody really cares.  If they think you are a pain in the ass, so what?
 
  • If all goes well and you have a nice dining experience, do not stop there. Before you leave, do a walk through of the restaurant checking out the best and worst tables for future reference should you dine there again.  Just pretend you are looking for the restroom.
 
  • And ultimately even if you have eaten the bread and drunk the water, if you decide this isn't for you, it is OK to leave.
 
This isn't Applebees. You will be dropping $120-200 for the night's "entertainment," so make sure it's worth it to you.
 
And come to think of it.  I don't want a crappy table at Applebees either.


OK, I know I am not the only one with restaurant pet peeves.
 
What are yours?
 

 
 

Now on to
The Week in Reviews


***In Theatres Now***
 

Maleficent
 
 
A reworking with a twist of the classic fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" that gives us the backstory behind the fairy, Maleficent, and why she cursed Sleeping Beauty.

Two kingdoms adjacent to each other don't get along.  One kingdom is full of fairies and other little happy folk, the other is full of horrible humans.  The human kingdom has a castle that looks awfully close to the one in the Magic Kingdom (Disney, are you trying something subliminal there?). These two kingdoms don't get along.  But Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) grows up to be a happy little fairy. 

So what happened? 

What do you think?  A man.  It's always about a man.

The story follows the fairy tale (the Disney version, anyway), except we find out why Maleficent turns malevolent and the ending is new.  This film is very reminiscent of "Wicked," but Angelina makes it her own.

Maleficent curses baby Aurora (Elle Fanning) as per the fairy tale (you remember, the pricking her finger thing), so baby Aurora is carted off into the woods to be cared for by three pixies, Flittle (great British actress Leslie Manville), Knotgrass (another great British actress Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit, played by the ever wonderful Juno Temple, who is also British, but you would never know it because she plays so many Americans in indie films. ( I keep saying she is going to break out of the Indie Queen role and have the lead in something big, but so far hasn't happened for her. But she is everywhere these days.  Watch for her). The Pixies provide the comic relief, though Angelina gets some funny lines, especially as she interacts with her shape shifting "familiar," Diaval (Sam Riley). There was a bit of Dracula and Renfield in that.

There are a few production and plot gaffes, such as how Angelina is suddenly wearing a catsuit at the end, but all little things that do not mar the enjoyment of Angelina.

Because this movie is all about her. Angelina is magnificent as Maleficent with high cheekbones you wouldn't believe and gorgeous piercing eyes photographed to full effect.  She is gorgeous and evil and kind.  I won't give away the ending, which I figured out just in time, but there is a lovely twist and that is a poignant one, so take some tissues with you.

Though little girls will probably want to see this, it is not for the very young.  There are some scenes I would think would scare little ones, but who knows?  With TV, video games, and the computer, kids are probably getting inured to violence and monsters.  I mean, does the Boogie Man scare kids anymore?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of fantasy films like "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" of Angelina or "Wicked," you will enjoy this, but I highly recommend seeing it in 3-D.  That makes the fantasy more fanciful.
 
 
 
***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
 
Gambit (2012)
 
 
A put upon art dealer (Colin Firth), with the help of an unpredictable rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz), seeks revenge on his abusive boss (Alan Rickman) by trying to sell him a fake Monet.
 
An attempt to remake the 1966 classic of the same title that starred Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine that fails utterly.  It bears no resemblance to the original, but that in and of itself is not a bad thing. The bad thing is that it lacks the charm of the original and the plot is a mess.
 
The stage is set with the cartoony Pink Panther-like opening credits for Firth to play an Inspector Clouseau type character, but it doesn't work. He comes off more like a nebish and what's worth, he's not funny.  Nor is there any chemistry whatsoever between him and Diaz.
 
The only bright moment is Alan Rickman, whom I have loved ever since he starred in one of my favorite romanic films, "Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)." He plays a fussy, rich bad guy very well.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are expecting Mr. Darcy, forget it.  It's not even close. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Grand Piano (2013)
 
 
A concert pianist, Tom Selznick,  (Elijah Wood) who had a public meltdown attempts a comeback concert.  However, he must also deal with an anonymous message that says if he plays a wrong note he will die.

Elijah Wood has the same problem as Daniel Radcliffe - forever enmeshed in the public's imagination by their most famous personifications, Frodo ("Lord of the Rings") and Harry Potter, respectively.

Plus they are both short and look young, making it difficult to be taken seriously as romantic leads or as anything very adult.  In this one Elijah is about a foot shorter than his leading lady, Kerry Bishe (who plays his wife Emma) who is 5'8" to Elijah's 5'6".  OK, so I exaggerated a bit, but since there was a scene with the two of them and Elijah was seen to be taller, he was most certainly standing on a box.

There is also all kinds of crazy stuff with the script.  Tom has to play "the unplayable piece" without missing a note, something I would think would make it even more "unplayable" under that kind of pressure. All I will say is it's an elaborate plot to find some money that needs the piano and Tom to play that "unplayable" piece. You might want to stick around to see how that would all play out, but with the the bad guy (John Cusack) talking into Tom's ear and Tom talking back to him while he is playing on stage, it's just silly.  How is Tom able to keep playing perfectly while doing that? He also keeps running off stage in between movements, which is ridiculous.  And what was with Emma doing an impromptu rendition of "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child" from her box at the concert? 

Production values are good and there seems to be a vague, and I mean really vague, homage to Hitchcock, but all in all, hard to suspend disbelief.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...I am still trying to figure out how John Cusack got himself involved in this muddled mess.
 
 
 
***Book of the Week***
 
Jason Priestley, A Memoir by Jason Priestley (2014)
 
 
Priestley, best known for his years on the iconic TV show 90210, shares the ups and downs of his career.
 
Celebrity bio mavens will enjoy this, because Priestley doesn't hold anything back.  He names names and gives us some juicy details behind his time on 90210.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...He dishes just enough to satisfy celebrity watchers, but not so much as to come off as a scumbag.  It's all very wholesome and clean-cut, just like Brandon Walsh on 90210..
 
 
 
***Concert of the Week*
 
Lionel Richie


This concert reminded me of the Paul McCartney concert I saw last year in that Lionel was up on that stage for hours and he is no spring chicken.  He said we were going to get all of the hits, "all night long" and we did.

One funny moment was when he said we all knew each other because when we fell in love, he was there. We ran home and put on our LP, our CD, our cassette or our 8-track and played Lionel.  Then he sang "Stuck on You."  When we had a breakup he was there. We ran home and put on our LP, our CD, our cassette or our 8-track and played Lionel.  He went on like that and it got great laughs.
Lionel Richie is on tour and his second stop was Seattle.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Lionel, this is a must see.  He is in great shape and voice, is charming and really delivers.
 
 
That's it for this week.

 
See you Tuesday for

"How to Have a Successful Yard Sale
(with Less Trauma)"




 



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2 comments :

  1. How on earth did you review a biography by a Beverly Hills 90210 alumni with a straight face? :-)

    "Nice" restaurant dining - I am happy to say that after three years of squeezing pennies I was afraid to spend in our early retirement, I'm now loosening up, and we are back to enjoying nicer restaurants. I think I enjoy the ambiance, and the pleasure of great wait service, as much, if not more, than I enjoy the food. Good wait service can elevate a so-so meal, and bad wait service can ruin a great meal. Case in point in your neck of the woods in fact - we dined at Six Seven in the Edgewater Hotel, and while the food was absolutely lovely, our waitress was close to hostile because we had declined to order wine. Why I tolerated her behavior still makes me wonder, likely it was because we'd already 'messed' up the table and I was reluctant to make a scene. Never again, though, that is for sure.

    Now, when I encounter snottiness from wait staff, which we do on occasion, I confront it. Case in point would be last year in Palm Springs. We were at Brix, a lively, very popular restaurant, and started our evening off with Happy Hour in the bar. When I asked the bar tender which of the wines were included in the Happy Hour pricing, he sniffed that if we had to ask we clearly couldn't afford it. I smiled pleasantly and said, "I'm sorry, but from what I can see, your the one working for a living not us." And that took care of that.

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    1. And I didn't even watch 90210 - my kids did. But I read all of those celebrity memoirs. Must come from my desire to be an actress. I have an insatiable curiosity on how it happened for them. As for your experience at Six Seven - a restaurant we love, well the bar really - wow. We have never had that happen but of course we always order wine! :) And great smackdown to the bartender in Palm Springs. I can't believe someone would talk to a customer like that. Good for you!

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