Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

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***

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.
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)"


Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, 
email it to your friends and
LIKE me on Facebook at

Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Perfect Hotel Room And the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Neighbors" and DVDs "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and "How I Live Now" and recommend the book "Heat," a great book for foodies with a Seattle connection]

But first

The Perfect Hotel Room

It's that time of year.  I bet you are planning some fabulous trip to Europe or some exotic location.  Even if it's just a week-end getaway, take my word for it.  If you get a crappy hotel room, it can ruin your trip.

Here are some things I have learned over the years about hotel rooms.

Here is what you don't want:

  • You don't want a room near the elevator unless you enjoy the sound of it going up and down and drunk people going in and out, usually late at night
  • You don't want a room near the ice or vending machines unless you enjoy the sound of water dripping, ice clunking down into an ice bucket or the sound of the machine running day and night
  • You don't want a room near the maid's closet unless you like to awaken early to the sounds of women talking and laughing outside your door
  • You don't want a room over the garbage dumpsters.  Invariably, the day you are there will be garbage pick up day.
  • You don't want a room with a highway view because that will also come with highway noise
  • You also don't want a room where you can stand in the center, stretch out your arms and touch the walls.

Here is what you do want:

  • Fluffy down pillows or their equivalent, ones you can sink your head into.  Not those foam rubber things that bounce your head all around every time you move.

  • A refrigerator in your room so you can store your wine, I mean "supplies." You don't want your "supplies" cluttering up the bathroom sink, do you?  But here is an important tip:  Turn the refrigerator OFF at night unless you enjoy the sound of a running refrigerator when you are trying to sleep. And some of them are LOUD!!!! Turning it off will not hurt a thing.  Just turn it back on in the morning. No one is the wiser.

  • A king size bed on the soft side

       I remember the years when the trend in hotel rooms was to have
       really firm mattresses (everyone must have had bad backs in those days). 
       Some of them were so hard you felt like you were on the torture device
       known as "the rack."  No, you want a nice soft, bed you can sink into after
       a long day of sightseeing, minus lumps, hopefully.  And if you sleep in a big
       bed at home, you need a big bed away from home.  Trust me.
  • A view preferably not of the wall and fire escape of the building next door like our last room in Paris.

  • A robe.  We certainly don't have the space in our carry-on for a robe, do we?  So it's nice to have one in the room, since most of the time the towels provided don't usually fit all the way around one's ever expanding waistline from all of the great meals you are having while on vacation.  Also having a robe provided gives you something to lounge around in since you didn't pack sweats.  You didn't pack sweats, did you?

  • More than two large towels.  Don't hotels realize that when we women wash our hair, we need a towel for our head and a towel for drying off our bodies?  If I use the two that are provided, then Hubby has to use a wet one.  Sorry, Hubby.

  • Conditioner.  What is with the combination shampoo and conditioner bottle that is usually provided? I don't detect the conditioner part.  When I use that, my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket.

  • Workout room, just in case you are not getting enough exercise sight-seeing.  It also makes you feel virtuous after sampling all of the local restaurants.

  • Top floor.  It's bad enough having people banging around next door.  You don't want them tromping around over your head as well.  And, trust me, if you have someone over you, it will inevitably be a little kid playing kickball or sumo wrestlers in training above you.  It happens every time.

  • A nice hotel bar, so if you are inclined to want to sample the local wines and get a bit tiddly, it's only a matter of staggering, er walking up the stairs or taking the elevator to your room.  

       The hotel bar is also a great place to meet other travelers and flirt
       with the cute barman

  • And a comfy place to crash (other than your room) after a long day of sightseeing, doesn't hurt either (which with our luck was most likely in the rain).
Now getting all of these requirements might seem like an impossibility, but according to Jacob Tomsky's book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality,

slipping the person checking you in a tip will result in getting a better room. 

He says those desk clerks like tips, too, and they hold the key to the best rooms, no pun intended.  I get that but haven't yet figured out how to pull that off with finesse. 

Do I hold out a twenty and say, "This is for you if you hook me up with a great room?" 

No, that sounds cheesy. 

Do I say, "I am a light sleeper and would really love a quiet room away from the elevator" all the while inching a twenty dollar bill ever closer to the clerk as I smile and wink? 

No, that won't work. 

"Here's a little something for you if you give me your best room?"

See, it just doesn't work.  I read somewhere that one person just walks up to the desk and says, "Give me your third best room," meaning she didn't want to have to see two crummy rooms before finally getting the best one.

I haven't tried that yet.

So far, I have just tried to be really friendly, smile and Hubby might say, "Do you have a nice room for us?" and I will chime in "Away from the elevator, maid's closet and vending machines?"  Smile, smile, smile.

I know, not so great, but so far we have done OK without having to slip the desk clerk a twenty. 

But lest I seem like a really fussy traveler, all of this goes out the window in Europe. 

I don't have the same expectations, because #1, I can't afford the best rooms over there and #2, I am just so happy to be there, I don't care as much, because I know I won't spend that much time in the room anyway. 

In Europe, I am more likely to be adventurous and less finicky like when we stayed in this houseboat in Amsterdam: 


Or the canal boat in England.

 In other countries, I certainly don't want to be perceived as an "ugly American."
But there was this time in Florence where the room had no windows and no air con, and it was the middle of summer.

    And in Venice once, we were right on the Grand Canal.  At first that seemed
    like such a cool thing, not realizing the Grand Canal is the super highway of
    Venice and all of the action starts at about 5am.  And while showering, there
    was no place to put the soap except to hold it in my hand.

In those cases, we made other arrangements. 
What is your idea of the perfect hotel room? 
What do you do to get it?

Now on to The Week In Reviews

***In Theatres Now***
Every homeowner's nightmare:  A frat house moves in next door.

Not to be confused with the 1981 movie "Neighbors" starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd (though the story is very similar), this one stars Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner and Seth Rogan as Mac Radner, a thirty-something couple with a new baby who have just moved into their first home. However, they still miss their "old life," of raves and pot and being cool.

Enter Teddy (Zac Efron), the President of the fraternity and his Vice President, Pete (Dave Franco - James' brother - I didn't know he was in it but as soon as he smiled I knew he was a Franco).  The noise emanating from the frat house late at night bothers the Radners, but not wanting to seem "uncool," they go over to the frat house and try to bribe the brothers with pot and friendship.  The scene where Seth and Zac argue over who was the better Batman - Christian Bale or Michael Keaton - is hilarious and the two bond over that.  However, things at the frat house soon get out of hand and the Radners are forced to call the police.  Oh, no, you didn't.

Now it's war.

There is a lot of offensive humor - penises, farts, sex, vomiting, boobs, drugs - but, hey, it's a Seth Rogan movie, so you know that already, right?

Byrne and Rogan are a charming couple who finally learn that responsible adulthood can also be cool. But who can't identify with that time in your life when you were still fighting the term "responsible adult?"  Efron and Franco are also charming and worthy opponents who also learn their lessons.

Rosy the Reviewer's "Animal House" and the 1981 "Neighbors," but sweeter.  And it passed "The Rosy Test."  I laughed.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

Walter (Ben Stiller) is a day-dreaming nebbish working at Time-Life keeping track of the negatives used in the magazine.

The term "Walter Mitty" has entered the English language lexicon to describe any unadventurous person who seeks escape through fantasy and comes from a
James Thurber short story of the same name. 

This film does not bear much resemblance to the story on which it is loosely based other than the day dreaming that Walter does, and the film takes it a step further by sending our hero out on actual adventures, something that did not take place in the short story.

Life Magazine in under new management and heading to an Internet identity.  For the last issue, the bigwigs want to use the last photograph taken by acclaimed photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), but the negative has gone missing.  If Mitty doesn't find it, he will lose his job. So he moves from his mental fantasies to some real life adventures.

One of the charming aspects of the film is Walter's attempt at online dating and the relationship he strikes up with the representative from EHarmony played by Patton Oswalt, who is very funny.

On the other hand, I have a really hard time taking Kristen Wiig seriously as a romantic interest or leading lady.  She still has too many twitches and mannerisms, reminding me of her characters on SNL, and it is distracting to me to see her try to ease out of that.

Many critics were not kind to this film, but I found it rather charming and fun.  Stiller is the king of the deadpan face and just makes me laugh, period. He would be funny in repose.  But he can also be effecting and poignant.

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable adventure for all of us Walter Mittys.

It looks like WW III has broken out in England and Daisy (), an American girl sent to stay with her cousins on a farm in the English countryside finds herself in the midst of the chaos.

You may remember Ronan as the young girl who caused all of the trouble in "Atonement."  Now she has grown up and into an exciting young actress.

Based on Meg Rosoff's 2004 young adult novel of the same name, Daisy arrives in England with a chip on her shoulder, voices in her head and a penchant for hand-washing,  but when she finds romance with cousin Eddie (handsome George MacKay), she softens a bit.  Too bad WW III breaks out to wreck everything.  Everyone is rounded up, separated, and sent to work camps.  Daisy and her little cousin Piper (Harley Bird) escape and make their way through the post-apocalyptic world to try to get back to the idyllic farm and reunite with the rest of the family.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Worth a look for the wonderful performance by Saoirse Ronan, someone you will be seeing more of.  Catch her now in theatres in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," one of the best films so far this year.

***Book of the Week***
Heat:An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford (2007)
Buford fancied himself a good cook, but he always wondered how he would fare in a professional kitchen.  In 2002 he was given the opportunity to work in Mario Batali's restaurant, Babbo, a three star restaurant in New York City.
This story is as much about Mario Batali's rise to fame as it is Buford's experience in his kitchen and subsequent journey to the hill town in Chianti where Batali apprenticed.
It's a fast-paced narrative foodies will love.
Those of us in Seattle have a special connection with Batali since his father founded Salumi, a wildly popular Seattle restaurant, currently run by the Batali family.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Tony Bourdain's books, you will like this one.
That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday for

"My Best [And Most] of Everything"


Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons below to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, 
email it to your friends and
LIKE me on Facebook at

Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."