To Serve Mankind

{September 18, 2008}   I miss you, too!

   Hello, my friends who keep checking back!  I am sorry to say that I have not been able to complete my most recent post, YET, and I think it’s because I’m thinking too hard.  I just wanted to say thanks for checking up on me and don’t give up on me yet.  Something is stirring… 😉

Sips Bistro

Sips Bistro




{September 5, 2008}   What you should NEVER do.

The restaurant biz is like any other biz.  There is just some s#!t that you should never try to get away with.  It amazes me sometimes how foolish people can be.  Just because we can and tend to have a lot of fun at work, that is no excuse for a lack of professionalism.  And there is no age discrimination in this topic, either.  Altho the younger, less-experienced staff are more likely to make stupid mistakes, this doesn’t preclude full-grown adults from doing stupid things.  Really stupid things.

1)  Don’t ever show up to your shift drunk or high.  Seriously.  Party time is party time, and work time is work time.  It sucks trying to lead a cook thru a paced meal for a guest and he’s so stoned he can’t remember that you just came in and asked him to fire the main course.  Or trying to break down a bar with a cohort who’s been guzzling and now can’t stay focused.  Which leads me to…

2)  Don’t party with minors.  Duh.  It can be hard to avoid those under 18 / 21 when working in certain restaurants.  We fight the battles together, grow close together; but there needs to be a line of responsibility demarcated by we who know better.  The minors don’t know better.  Of course they want to “play with the big kids” but you’re leading them down a path they don’t need to be on yet.  Party with people your own age.  And not at work.

3)  Managers, don’t get involved with your employees.  And you know what I mean by involved, like having too much “access” to their personal information/situation.  Creating an inappropriate relationship in the workplace is a recipe for disaster.  Even if you’re able to keep it under wraps for a little while, eventually news leaks.  We are a tight community, remember?  Which leads me to…

4)  Leave your attitude and drama at home…or in your car…or at your other job.  I don’t care, just don’t bring it into the workplace where other’s are trying to be positive and successful.  Sometimes it’s hard enough for me to get thru a shift, mentally.  Dealing with guest drama and letting go of one’s own personal issues during a shift consumes enough energy; and it’s not fair for another to pile on their attitude and dramatic situations to another’s situation.  Just zip it, get thru your shift, and take your attitude somewhere else where you can effectively deal with it and not destructively share it with your coworkers.

5)  Don’t diss your team to or in front of guests.  We are a team, and if one falls short we all fall short as we are intrinsically intermingled in each other’s guest service experience.  If you talk smack about the hostess, or the busser, it does reflect back on to you.  And the guests think it’s ok to have a lack of respect for those of us trying to do our job to the best of our ability.  Remember that what comes around goes around.

   I’d love to hear any other “never do’s” that anybody wants to add.  I just may update this post in the near future!




{August 29, 2008}   East Coast Dining

As most of those who read my blog already know, I’ve just returned form a week-long jaunt to my hometown of Burlington, NJ and surrounding areas.  In honor of this trip, I OF COURSE will be delaying my originally intended post for a discussion of my food/dining experiences back on the east coast.

  The first location of honorable mention is The Memphis Taproom.  This awesome spot is located in the Port Fishington district of Philly at the corner of Memphis and Cumberland.  My cousins took me there for lunch and a beer after an afternoon of trekking thru the Philly Zoo.  Unpretentious and almost dive-ish, this bar/grill offers multiple drafts and 40 (give-or-take) bottle beers – all diverse in flavor and style.  Naturally, I was impressed because they were not the commmon drafts I’m used to seeing around Modesto – New Belgium, Widmer, Sam Adams, et al.  They did offer a Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, which was a nice change to see vs. the overrated Pale Ale.  Our taproom hostess, Jessica, was well-inked AND a wealth of knowledge concerning the beers.  She knew her stuff and offered some great details to help me pick the perfect beer.  After tasting around, I decided on Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale.  Well rounded and full of hoppy goodness – just the way I like it!  And then there’s the food.  Cousin Kyrlyn got the zucchini and basil soup; off-creamy in a zucchini way and full of fresh basil flavor.  I got the Hefe Hummus platter, complete with pita chips, cherry tomatoes, smoked kalamata olives and tzaziki dip.  The dish was most-“evilly” garnished with breaded deep-fried garbanzo beans!  The prices were very reasonable, the service was professional, and my dining partners most enjoyable!  Thanks to Kyrlyn and Alyssa for sharing one of your favorite spots with me. –

     The second spot I want to mention is also in Philly.  At the corner of 10th and Catharine Streets is Dante and Luigi’s, site of the Halloween 1989 shooting of the infamous Nicky Scarfo, Jr.  When we were there, it was pretty quiet and no gangsters were about…to my knowledge…   We started the meal with a Heineken and VO toast to my friend’s dad, whom we lost back in April of 1991.  Salute, Mr. Bisceglie.  My first course was a Ceasar salad accompanied by the richest loaf of bread I’ve ever tasted.  It was orgasmic and I can honestly say I’ve never said that about something as mundane as bread before.  It did not need butter, or the oil and balsamic dip AT ALL.  Oh, and the croutons for the salad were equally decadent.  My main course was a crabmeat stuffed Portobello mushroom- man, oh man!  A good 3&1/2 to 4 inches in diameter, this porto was piled high with a combination of crabmeat, ?panko? (I think), savory and/or thyme, mild onion, and EVOO (as far as I could pick out flavor-wise.  I was not given the actual ingredients.)  It was, in my opinion, humongous and thoroughly delicious.  The meatiness of the mushroom was a perfect combo with the seafood-style topper. –

     My third mention is credited to The Ocean Drive in Sea Isle City.  Home of $1 drafts and 50-cent wings for happy hour.  Those who know me know that buffalo wings are not in my diet – never, no-how, no-way.  Until this trip.  I was living it up and decided to balance the Bud Lights with some flavor; not to mention that the basket of wings was sitting right in front of me!  Normally, wings are either too vinegar-spicy or too greasy but these were perfect!  They were not too spicy (and I’m not afraid of heat!), not too greasy, just right.  I was really impressed.  The bar’s ambiance was typical; we were there before things really got busy thereby enabling us to chat it up with the bartender and other barflies hanging about.  And after the fact, I learned that I apparently became known as the chick from California who served Scott Peterson!  Thanks, Mike!  ;P

     Sunday was the day of my stomach’s greatest pleasure as I enjoyed a delicious BBQ meal with my family courtesy of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Becky.  I had little-to-no appetite all week, but all that changed at Jim and Becky’s.  I stuffed myself with a veggie burger, macaroni salad and teriaki chicken skewers.  Comfort food to the 10th power.  Sometimes it’s truly the simplest pleasures that are the most satisfying.

     And my final “dining” spot was actually a dessert-for-brunch day.  Three new friends joined me at Ummm’s Ice Cream Parlor (High and Union Streets in Burlington), the ultimate treat of my youth.  I had my all-time favorite; chocolate ice cream with crushed cherries.  I always used to get it with the wet walnuts, too.  For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t splurge and go for it (shhh, yes I do) since I have yet to find wet walnuts in any ice cream shop in California!  No matter, tho.  Ice cream is always good, no matter how you dish it up.  Thanks to Tom, Cass, and Geoff for the company.  Cass, Tom, Geoff, and the Old Lady

Cass, Tom, Geoff, and the Old Lady

{August 3, 2008}   Bar and Restaurant Lingo

     As you may be aware, we restaurant staff kinda have our own language.  Here are some serious and fun terms we use in the biz, both front of house and back of house.  Some are mundane, some will have you cracking up, some will be familiar and some new.  And this list is by no means complete.  Add your favorite terms in the comments – I want to learn too! 

This is going to be a fun post.  Enjoy!

86, 86’ed – basically means no more.  Can refer to a product or a customer who has been ejected.

Alcohol by Volume – (ABV) used to measure the alcohol content of a beverage.  A beverage’s ABV is equal to half of the proof.

Alcohol Abuse – a pun used when a beer or cocktail is spilled on accident.  Also known as a party foul.

All Day – slang term meaning total of like dishes being prepared. e.g. “I need two more BLT’s.  That’s six all day.”

BAC –  Blood Alcohol Content; a measurement of how much alcohol is in the bloodstream;  milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Back of the House – refers to the parts of the restaurant the customers do not usually have access to: the kitchen, prep area, dishroom, offices, store rooms.  Can also refer to the personnel who work in those areas.  At the Red Robin, we refer to it as “Heart of House”.

Bank – the money carried by a server to make change throughout their shift. 

Bar back –  a bartender helper who restocks and runs errands for the bartender.  Duties can vary from pouring drafts, running food and bevs, stocking anything and everything, calling cops, running to the bank or store. 

Barista – a coffee bar tender, maker of espresso, cappuccinos and the like.

Bar Fly – one who frequents or hangs at a bar.

Bar Time – Bar time is usually 15-20 minutes faster than the rest of the clocks in the time zone.  It doesn’t matter what your watch says.  It’s a bar, its bar time, don’t argue.

Behind – a verbal warning called out when walking behind others so as to prevent them from stepping short or back or sideways into you and knocking a tray of food or drinks (or worse) out of your hands. 

Benjamin – slang for $100 bill; $100 American; a very nice tip.

Burn – to throw away or write off wasted or overmade product.

Bus, Busser – to clean tables; one who, among very many other duties, cleans tables.

Bistro – a laid back informal European style restaurant, generally on the small side (Sips only has 8 tables plus 5 seats at the bar).  Believed to be taken from Russian, meaning fast.

Bouncer – a typically large employee who watches the door and keeps order, physically when necessary.

Breastrant – slang term for a “dining establishment” with scantily clad waitstaff. ex-Hooters is a very popular breastrant.

Call – refers to a named spirit used in a drink; above the well liquor.  Absolut is a typical call vodka, whereas some cheap swill like Popov would be the low-budget well vodka in the speed rack.

Campers – people who dawdle at their table long after they are finished, usually wrapped up in conversation or making out.  Not really a problem unless they’re tying up tables or keeping people on the clock who want to leave.  If you want to camp, remember you can pay your bill and still linger.  Your server can close out your ticket as long as you’ve signed your credit slip.  And remember;  that table (especially in the bar area or whatever my section is) is Prime Real Estate.  Tip accordingly if you are preventing that table from being reused (aka turned around).

Carafe – a glass bottle with a flared opening used to serve wine.

Chaser, Back, Sidecar – Beverage accompanying a shot used to help one deal with the aftertaste of whatever they’re drinking.  May I suggest that if you don’t like the flavor of what you’re drinking you may want to try drinking something else.  Like milk, you sissy.  ;P

Chew and Screw – dine and dash; walk out on the bill.  Not cool.  When I’m on, don’t even let me hear you joke about it. 

Chimneyfish – someone who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish.  Not often found in, but rather outside of, CA bars since smoking has been banned since, like 1997.

Church Key – thin metal combo bottle and can opener.

Class 6 – classification that alcoholic beverages would fall under in the military.  According to an ex-Air Force friend of mine “Class 6 is what you would consider to be a Cumberland Farms or a Wawa for the Military.  Except that is where you buy all your liquor if you are military.”  (For my non-East Coast readers, a Wawa is a convenience store like the Stop N Save, 7-11, or Circle-K, only WAY friggin’ better.)  He also noted that Class 6 is typically Air Force and is not sure if the Army/Navy/Marines call it that. 

Clinking – the act of tappng 2 glasses together, which makes the glass holders drink.  It is bad manners (and bad juju) to not take the glass directly to your mouth after clinking.  Also known as toasting or tapping.

Clusterfxxx – a disorganized, messed up situation generally occurring when too much input comes from too many sources who think they are helping but are really being counterproductive.

Comp – short for complimentary; refers to food, drink, swag, whatever given to a guest for free for many different reasons.  Could be a VIP, or to make up for shortcomings, or as a marketing device.  Or to catch a hot mama’s phone number.

Corkage – the fee charged by an establishment to a guest who brings their own wine.  The price of corkage will vary from restaurant to restaurant – at Sips, Bill is apt to waive corkage for those buying wine in our wine shop.  However, you shouldn’t argue the corkage fee, since the establishment is still paying for the glasses and the washing of the glasses, and the presentation and opening of your bottle…

Corked – wine ruined by a faulty cork; air has entered the bottle.

Corner – a verbal warning called out to warn others when you’re coming around a blind corner.  As with “Behind”, this warning can/will/has prevented many a disaster.

Cougar – an older lady searching for and maybe even hitting on a much younger man / men.

Coyote Ugly – description for a bedmate with whom you wake up and they are so ugly you’d rather gnaw off your own arm to get away from them rather than wake them.

Cut off – occurs when the bartender stops serving you drinks

Dash – approximately 1/2 tsp.

Dead Soldier – empty beer bottle.

Decant – to pour out a bottle of wine into another container to aerate it, or to remove sediment.

Designated Driver – lucky person who stays sober to drive when necessary, and eventually take embarassing pictures of their friends doing crazy stuff, or in odd passed-out positions.

Dick Beaters – derogatory slang term for fingers and/or hands. Ex.; “This barfly just dick beatered the cherries in my fruit tray.  Now I have to burn ’em and pull out some fresh ones.”

Distillation – a process to purify or separate a substance by heating.

Dive – a lower-class drinking establishment; can be warm and friendly or full of trouble.  Usually the drink prices are lowest at your favorite dive.

Droddle – that which is left in an abandoned drink glass.

Dry – pertaining to wine it means without sweetness; pertaining to a martini it refers to little or no dry vermouth

Dutch Courage – British slang from Anglo-Dutch wars; now used as a term for a drink before a challenge.

Echo – Red Robin phrase for “I hear you and I understand”.

Fermentation – a chemical reaction where yeast produces alcohol from a sitting starch, ie sugar.

Finish – the last taste left by a drink in the mouth

Fire – means to start cooking or preparing.  As in, “Ok, my guest has her burger.  You can fire that milkshake now.”

Flea – bad tipper, because their little arms are too short to reach down into their pockets.  Don’t be a flea.  The only Flea I like plays bass for the Chili Peppers.

Freddy – a pint of Heineken, named for Freddy Heineken who died Jan 5, 2002.

Free Pour – to pour a cocktail without the use of a measuring device, such as a jigger; measuring by eye and memory.  You must practice to free pour successfully.  In my opinion, it’s the only way for me to pour.  There is no shame in surrendering to jiggering, for those who need to! (Love ya, Heather!)

Front of the House – refers to the part of a restaurant that a customer sees.  The bar, dining room, hostess station are all Front of House.  Also refers to the staff who work in these areas.

Fruit Tray – the tray of fruit garnish at the bar, usually consisting of lemon and lime wedges and / or twists, orange wedges, cherries, olives, cocktail onions and any other garnishes necessary for the establisments’ house drinks.

G.T.F.O. – Get The Fxxx Out; acronym often used at the end of my shift…”Hey, Zack, if you don’t need me anymore I’m gonna G.T.F.O.”

Giggle Juice – liquor; any alcoholic beverage, really.

Ground Control – somebody who stays sober (enough) at a party to keep an eye on their overindulgent (girl/boy)friend.

Hair of the Dog – a drink taken to combat hangover.  Commonly a Bloody Mary.  I recommend a vanilla milkshake made with real vanilla bean ice cream, altho it has no alcohol.

Head – BE CAREFUL WITH THIS WORD – 1. the rest room. 2. slang for a particular type of sexual activity. 3. foam on top of yer beer.

Hophead – a beer aficionado.

In the Weeds – beyond busy and on the way to tubed.  An extremely hectic and unpleasant working environment.  Can happen when a server is seated too heavily, or when a single guest makes requests one after another and monopolizing the server time instead of asking for everything at once or in advance.

Jug Bug – fruit flies commonly found floating in uncovered liquor bottles.  They love the sweet stuff.

Last Call – fair warning from the bartender to order your last request, as the night is wrapping up.  When it’s over, it’s over.

Level 3 – Red Robin terminology for an inebriated guest.  Level 3’s get no more liquor and the attention of a manager.

Line, The Line – section of the restaurant where food is prepared from the back-of-house side and presented and prepped for running on the front-of-house side.  The BOH side of the line is sacred ground and not to be tread upon by non-cooking feet.  Seriously.  The FOH side of the line is the crucial point where the plates are presented, examined, checked for accuracy  and completed with all necessary garnish in order for precise and prompt delivery to occur.

Marry – process of combining two or more bottles into fewer containers, ie. ketchup or wine.  It is an illegal, but common practice.  Not that I’ve ever done it.

Mickey Finn – an ancient term for a drink that has been drugged or overdosed with intention to knock somebody on their a$$.

Mist – a term meaning “on the rocks”, preferably with shaved or crushed ice.  It comes from the fact that certain clear liqueurs cloud or mist when poured over ice

Mixologist – clean term for bartender; flip side of the coin would be intoxicologist

Muddle – mashing ingredients together (i.e. mint and sugar) to release essential oils and fragrances from herbs or fruit.

Neat – a drink served straight up, no ice, not mixed, not chilled.  Just liquor in a glass.

No Fire – don’t make.  This phrase is used on an order ticket when the item has already been made to prevent over-making.  Not using this instruction can cause serious inventory shortages.

One Edward – a dismissive, sarcastic and/or smartass way of saying “Whatever”.  Best used in jest.

On The Fly – I need it immediately, asap, yesterday.  Or faster.

On The Rocks – on ice

Peet – to drink.  From “A Clockwork Orange”.

Perfect – describes a drink made with equal amounds of dry and sweet vermouth

Puma – younger lady at a gathering spot actively seeking attention and or affection.  Likely to evolve into a cougar.

Punt – the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle.  Originally, punts were a way of preventing the jagged pontil mark from scratching the surface of a table.  When mold-made bottles were introduced, the punt remained due to the stability it adds to the upright bottle.  But with Champagne bottles, the story is a little different.  During the second fermentation (the happy party when the Champagne gets its bubbles) massive pressure is built up inside the bottle’s glass wall.  The punt allows for a more even distribution of pressure inside the bottle.

Regulars – kind “fans” who come frequently to an establishment.  A solid set of regulars can really make your business.  I like to gift mine with Hershey’s Kisses.

Runner – the kind person who brings you your food or beverages when your main server is unavailable.  They are also responsible for ensuring the goods come out complete and correct, as well as making sure the guests are all set to enjoy their meal before walking away.

Running Duties – the mundane tasks, ideally tackled during the slow parts of one’s shift, that are needed to keep an establishment running efficiently.  They include stocking, sweeping, wiping walls, prepping fruits or juices, rolling silverware, or folding napkins.

Saint Lawrence – the Patron saint of restauranteurs, cooks and Chefs, winemakers, brewers and students.  Feast Day is 8/10

Saint Martha – Patron saint of service staff, maids, innkeepers and travelers.  Feast Day is 7/29

Saint Monica – the Patron sain of alcoholics and alcoholism, homemakers and disappointing children.  Feast day is 8/27.  Coincidentally, St. Monica’s was the name of the Catholic school attended by Mary Katherine Gallagher…

Sea Monster – a trashed chick that will not leave you alone

Sediment – a natural and common collection of particles at the bottom of a wine bottle

Shot – a type of drink typically thrown down the throat.  This pour will generally measure 1 to 2 oz, depending on how much your bartender likes you.

Soldier – a full beer bottle

Speed Rack – stainless steel wells used to hold bottles behind the bar.  Filled and organized strategically for maximum drink-making efficiency.

Spirit – any alcohol that is distilled

Splash – approximately 1/2 tsp

Steps of Service – the structured guidelines to service standards for a given establishment.  Red Robin has seven. I have worked at an establishment that had ten.  This will be the subject of a blog in the near future, because steps of service create and lead to successful, professional service.

Tannin – very basically, a natural acid that escapes the grape skins and stems into the juice and adds color and tartness to the wine.

Tip – an additional sum of money given to show extra thanks for services rendered.  Soon to be the subject of its own post.

Top – refers to the number of people at a table. ex; a 2 top has 2 guests sitting at a table. 

Top Off – to refill a glass or freshen up a drink.

Top Shelf – refers to the finest liquor available, usually kept up on the highest shelves.  I don’t mind climbing for them, though.

Training Wheels – the salt and limon (verde o amarillo) which typically accompany a shot of Tequila.

Tubed – this occurs when your station is full, or your line is full of tickets, you can’t possibly catch up.  Then, all of a sudden, a softball team comes in and orders 14 milkshakes.  Then you’re going down the tubes…you’re tubed.

Turn Over (tables) – every time a party leaves and a new party comes is a turn over.  Turning over tables is crucial to waitstaff income, which is why you should be tipping extra for monopolizing a table.

Ullage – The space between the cork of a wine bottle and the wine, or the bottle cap and the beer.  Also is the 1st or last beer out of a keg, generally discarded.

Vermouth – a wine which has had brandy added as well as 50 or more herbs and spices

Vintage – the year of the grape harvest in any given wine.  Non-vintage means grapes from 2 or more years were used

Weeper – a wine bottle with a leaky cork.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the contents have spoiled, but they may have.

Well – the generic liquor used in a basic drink.  If one orders a vodka collins, the well liquor will be used.

Wounded Soldier – a beer that has been opened, partially drank and left do die.  Not cool.

     Are you still here?  This has definitely been a marathon post.  Thanks for sticking thru ’til the end…or coming back and finishing.  And altho I typed this all by myself, I in no way could have accomplished this without the help of many a professional.  The bulk of my terms and definition help has been from “The Bartender’s Black Book” 7th Edition by S.K. Cunningham.  I love this book.  If you are a bartender, or want to know anything about bartending I highly recommend you pick up this book.  Also, Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible” was an invaluable source in rounding out some wine knowledge details.  Bill Rehling, my revered wine guru.  Thanks for the constant info.  I hope you read, enjoy, and learn from what I’ve thrown up here.  Rob LePre, the Military Man, I always appreciate you letting me pick yer brain.  And Dr. Dawn, my complimentary opposite, I always appreciate your knowledge and …just you!  Love ya.




This post has truly  become a labor of love for me.  Heck, how can I claim any knowledge in this department when I’m still refining the skills of my own rambunctious, but loveable, 6 year old?  Well, I’m learning, I’m trying, and here I’m sharing.  Please add your own “tips” as necessary.  And remember, this one will be a work in progress, so come back often!

   I know I’ve been all talk…up until today.  AP and I took little Miss Molly to the Olive Garden this afternoon for an education in dining.  And I must say it went well.  I suggest anybody who wants their little one to learn to behave appropriately in any restaurant setting need only practice!  I told Molly as we were walking in that we were going to learn the right way to order, sit, and eat in a restaurant.  She was a very willing pupil.

     We sat down and started to look over the kid menu on the coloring paper they gave us.  Any restaurant that wants to be kid-friendly will have paper and crayons or some little craft to keep your young one vaguely occupied.  The kids menu is often on this freebie.  I strongly suggest use of this handy tool to get them focused on their choices before their attention span for this new “toy” runs out.  (Think about it…how many times have you seen your little one color that paper hard-core for, like, 4 minutes only to put it aside and decide the sugar packets on the table are more fun to play with?)  I went over her choices with her and let her know how to say exactly what she wanted.  By the time the waitress came to take the order, Molly was ready to say her lines!

     Possibly the most helpful tip to teaching restaurant savvy is to keep it simple.  Molly is 6 years old – so she requires a lot of compromise.  We tell her she can order her favorite (this time it was the Cheese Pizza), and that way she is not overwhelmed by too many choices.  As for drinks, we narrowed the selection down for her to 3 choices; lemonade, milk, or juice.  Most servers would automatically go thru the whole list of beverages for your little one, and this creates chaos.  Kid wants coke, mom says milk, whining ensues, not cool.  Little kids do not need and do not do well with too many choices.

     And the cardinal rule for taking your children ANYWHERE…do not take them out when they’re tired or pissy.  Do I really have to say this to any parent?  Yes, I do.  I mean, really.  If you want to enjoy yourself, you know that is so much more difficult to do when your little one is miserable.  And you know that the last thing you want to deal with during your dining experience is someone else’s kids’ crying interruptions.  Although I do consider all front-of-house sales staff to be entertainers, we can only do so much to distract a grumpy little one! 

       Something to keep in mind; if your child is painfully shy, or if they can’t speak clearly, please don’t torcher your server (and your shy youngster) by making them decode your little one’s special language.  It is beautiful that you encourage your young ones to speak for themselves, but we are professionals too and you wouldn’t have your young ones giving orders to the doctor..or a dentist..or your bank teller!

     So that’s it…I’ve racked my brain, and the brain of a few friends, and I think I’m satisfied.  The real proof will be when we take Molly out again.  And in case anybody was wondering why on earth we took her to the Garden instead of Red Robin…well there is just too much excitement there for her to focus on learning etiquette.  She knows most of my co-workers, and they know her, so all she wants to do with them is talk and talk!

     And a very special thank you to Diane, co-owner and our kitchen manager at Sips Bistro.  She sparked my brain with some excellent points and enabled me to round out this post.  I wasn’t kidding when I referred to this post as a labor of love!  Thank you so much, Diane!  You’re awesome!

     Next post should be a lot of fun…bar and restaurant lingo.




{July 22, 2008}   Serving Children

   Hello again!  This topic has been on my mind quite a lot lately, partly because of the MANY kids we serve at The Robin; partly because there is a near-complete lack of children at Sips (naturally); and mostly because I have a super-outgoing six year old who has me cringing whenever we go out to eat.  It’s true, I have been lagging in my duties to teach her proper restaurant etiquette.  But this situation is soon to be remedied…

     So, here I’ll be considering important aspects of serving other’s children.  Part 2, in a few days, will be focused on the other side of the coin – helping our kids become order savvy.  What can I say, it’s just going to take a little extra research.

     Winning over those kids is a huge step in winning over the parents / guardians.  Getting down to eye level and learning their name will not only help the little one warm up to you, it will impress the parents that you are there to take care of everybody’s needs.  Parents want you to treat their kids special – positive attention – so suck it up; love those kids and treat them like they’re your own.  And the real reward is when the parents are coming back regularly because little Johnny wants to see YOU!

     Always, always, always ask before giving a gift to another’s child.  Some might think “what’s the harm”, but truly it’s best to not assume.  Never take the power out of the parent’s hands.  Some parents teach their children to not accept gifts from strangers, and for the most part we are strangers.  Some parents, for safety reasons, don’t want their little ones having stickers, crayons, or other small items.  Just ask mom or dad first, preferably on the “down low”, and you should always be ok.  I’ll never forget the first (and last) time I offered the free kid meal sundae (this was oh-so-many years ago) to a young boy instead of asking his father first.  Oh, if looks could kill…and I couldn’t remedy the situation because it was too late!  If I had only known / realized to ask dad first!

     Never assume it’s ok to touch.  Some kids are so adorable you just can’t help but pinch a cheek or twirl their hair – but resist!  If the little one flatteringly reaches for you to pick her up – ASK!  Again, never do anything that jeopardizes a parent’s full control over that child.  And remember to wash your hands!

     When parents allow their children to order for themselves, give that child  your full attention and treat him as much like the adults as you can (this is obviously dependent on the child’s age).  But, since little Johnny isn’t paying the bill, MAKE SURE that when you repeat the order back to your guests you make eye contact with the parents regarding the young one’s order.  It is frustrating and inefficient to have a milkshake order come out that never should have been ordered, or extra appetizers, or whatever.

     Never, ever show judgement or disdain to your guest no matter how much time they are taking trying to get their little angel to chose between american or cheddar cheese; lemonade or chocolate milk.  Be patient, keep smiling, keep breathing, use the Sullivan Nod when taking the order to cut down on indecision. Sometimes it can get ridiculously frustrating, which is why i’ve decided this topic has to be seen from both sides of the coin.

     My fellow servers, please let me hear from you!  What other helpful tips do you have in regards to serving children?  I’m always looking to improve in this area!  Sound off!




Ok, I know I said my next post would be about kids…but I’ve changed my mind.  I have got to put that off for now (I have been preparing for that subject, tho, and I may have to split it up into 2 posts to keep it from being too long.  We shall see) and talk about our weekend in the historic gold rush town of Murphys.  It’s located in the Sierra foothills of Calaveras County…any Mark Twain fans in the house?  Yep, this little foothill town has a main street crowded with all the typical historic CA town shops; the candy shop, antiques, books, art galleries, the saloon, the cafe, the hotel / restaurant.  What makes Murphys different from the rest of the gold rush style CA towns are the frogs and the wineries!  Oh, yeah!

     It’s been about 5 years since our last trip to Murphys (not counting the Easter we took Molly to Ironstone only) and I was happy to see the frogs and the wineries were the only changes in this quaint gold miner town.  There are about 20 tasting rooms along Main Street alone.  There were several new tasting rooms in town; Vina Moda, Frog’s Tooth, Newsome-Harlow, and Bodega Del Sur were the newbies we visited and all were quite remarkable.  And of course we had to visit our old favorites – Stevenot, Zucca, HATCHER, and Twisted Oak are stops we always make.  And then there’s the frogs.

     Placed strategically thruout the town we noticed these…frog statues, each an original piece of art.  Some were beautiful, some were ugly, all were unique.  Apparently, a few years ago the town of Murphys wanted to raise money, comissioned artists to create these individual pieces and auctioned them off to various contributors in the area.  (If anybody has more info on that, please feel free to comment – I know my story is kinda half-assed)  We saw the frogs outside several businesses along Main.  We saw a frog in somebody’s front yard!  We saw the most TWISTED frog outside of Twisted Oak’s Winery on Red Hill Road (we din’t go to the Wisteria House tasting room along the main street so I don’t know if they have a frog also).  His name was “Fricken” and he was UGLY!!  It was a cross between a frog and a rubber chicken, frog shaped but yellow and bumpy with a crown and a beak.  We have 2 pictures of it, but unfortunately neither are particularly appropriate for posting.  Go figure.  But the statue fit their winery perfectly, as you know if you’ve been there.  The rubber chicken theme saturates the grounds, and is always good for a laugh.

      So, back to the wineries.  I did a lot of .. research .. that day.  It is my business, after all!  We, well I, tried wines at all 8 stops listed above, plus Ironstone.  They were all kind hosts and now for the honorable mentions…they are the reasons you should go to Murphys.

     Vina Moda, I believe, is the baby of the bunch.  Their tasting room is located at the far end of Main (by Jones I think), just past Clarissa the donkey.  Yep.  When you walk by she brays loudly and scares the hell outta you.  Locals tell me her hubby, Clarence, just died and she has been quite lonely.  She talks to everybody who walks by.  I had to mention Clarissa because Vina Moda actually named their red table wine in honor of her!  They do make some awesome wines, and have already won awards for the best white wine in the Sierra Foothills!  My favorites were the Viognier and the Barbera.  And our host, Kirsten, shared her story with us…4 partners, but just 2 were there at the time.  She and her hubby the winemaker have been spending all their time at the shop trying to get their dream off the ground.  I admire their determination.  Cheers to you Vina Moda!  I hope your tasting room is filled with visitors daily!  And thanks for the tasting book – I used it all day! – but it’s under construction

     Zucca may be my favorite tasting room.  It’s in a basement, so it has this mildly musty smell, but not too heavy because it’s still well ventilated.  The temperature is perfect for the wines and the guests alike!  The hosts are always full of stories.  I believe Carol Zucca was pouring wines last time we were there.  This time a sweet lady, Tasha poured and told us the story of the frogs I wrote about earlier.  They always have free cheese and chocolate (AP’s favorite part has got to be the food pairing tastes!) and I hear they have fresh strawberries when they’re in season.  I must have tasted 6 wines down there.  The Barbera and Syrah were beautiful…and they make a pleasant Chardonnay and Rosato that are worth checking out.  So go check them out!

     When we walked up to the Frog’s Tooth tasting room, the first thing I noticed was the sign on the door Welcoming the children who may be accompanying their parents and letting them know that Grandma Sue will be happy to come out and play with your little ones in the “Frog Pond”.  Sue and her husband, Gary, are the owners and were pouring for us on Sunday.  Basically, Sue loves to sit outside on the patio with your little ones in a little toy area they call the Frog Pond.  We will be taking Molly to play with Grandma Sue next week when we go back with the kids.  Their wines were consistently awesome.  The Marsanne–YES!  The Barbera–YES, YES!  (Hmmm, Is that my 3rd Barbera mention?)  The Tempranillo–Oh Yeah!  And I really like that they offer splits.  Half-bottles of wine are so convenient!  I really enjoy switching up wines for each course of a meal – who wants to commit to a middle of the road wine that just “accommodates” your salad, soup, seafood, pasta, or whatever  when you can customize and compliment with the variety granted by half-bottles?  I bought the Marsanne split.  Of course.

     Hatcher’s tasting room is our favorite pit!  You walk in and the walls are a gallery of brother Sewell’s photo art.  His love of family, grapes, and the SF Giants were quite evident.  This is the first place AP and I ever tried/used the stemless wine glasses years ago.  I remember Sewell showing them off, how they could spin and sit at a comfortable angle.  There were about 5 people already in the tasting room when we walked in so instead of interrupting his sales we played with the tasting room dog, Justin.  This slobbery black lab was sweet and playful – even AP who is NOT a fan of dogs, warmed up and was throwing Justin’s tennis ball across the tasting room so he could fetch while I tasted.  Brother Matt has made a dynamite Sauv Blanc – so balanced, so beautiful.  But I din’t buy it because we sell it at Sips and I’d rather support Hatcher via Sips!  Ya know?  The Merlot is very worthy, too, and I don’t typically care for Merlot.  So I guess we could say this one is something special…?

  And the other newbie we loved was Newsome-Harlow.  So glad to find a “new” winery in the area.  Their winemaker used to make wines for Stevenot and still makes wines at Twisted Oak!  He’s also good friends with Hatcher, I’m told.  I guess it’s a tight little winemaking community up there in them hills!  I found the Zin here to be awesomely balanced, and was impressed by the Meritage despite its high percentage of Cab grapes (not generally a Cab fan either).  Gorgeous tasting room, too.  Go see!

     And altho this was our first stop, I’m saving this one for last.  I must mention Ironstone, tho they are not like the other wineries.  I don’t really prefer their wines.  They are very commercial, and I wouldn’t be suprised if my friends out on the East Coast could find at least one of their wines out there.  Perhaps the Symphony Obsession?  The grounds are beautiful and they host many concerts and events out on their lawn, like the aforementioned Easter egg hunt.  I’d like to see Steve Miller Band play there next month… anyway.  Their tasting room is huge.  If you love shopping and wines, prepare to spend here!  They have a full service deli.  You can literally walk into this place and buy an entire picnic lunch–food, basket, red-checkered blanket, wine and glasses!  And then take it out on the grounds and enjoy the beautiful scenery; the trees, the grass, the Sierras, the drunk bachelorette party tumbling out of the limo that just pulled up.  😉  Good times!  They have a museum (more gold rush theme); they have a grounds and cave tour that take about an hour.  We, unfortunately, din’t have time for it on this visit, but will plan it in our next trip.  They have half-bottles!  Gotta love it!  We bought a Chardonnay to go with our lunch. 

     So, it was a beautiful day of research.  And the best part is that it’s only about an hour drive!  Screw Napa!  That’s a 2 to 3 hour drive!  If you love having fun with your wine, I totally recommend a trip up to Murphys.  Stop by and pick me up on your way up the hill!

PS–I had a pic of the rubber chicken tree posted.  Then I tried to post a second pic and jacked up the first.  So, if you want to know what a rubber chicken tree looks like, just ask.

{June 12, 2008}   Finally! My first post 7/5/08

     Yep!  Welcome to my blog.  I’ve decided it’s my turn to jump on the blog bandwagon and spend more of my time talking about one of my favorite subjects – the restaurant business.  I’m one of those rare people who do what they do because we love it – not because I have to do it. 

     And first and foremost, I must give proper thanks to my husband, Adam, for making such possible.  Without his unconditional support I wouldn’t be able to enjoy these freedoms; creative, occupational, spiritual, and otherwise!

     So, what is so pertinent about my jobs that makes me brave enough to want to post my thoughts and opinions for all to see?  Well, I’ve been in customer service most of my life.  I’ve been “refining” my art of service (and yes, it is an art), as the natural progression of human growth goes, and I am often quite introspective as to all what is really involved in the art, and the game, of professional food service and bartending.  I would like to open the minds of those who see people in my chosen career as “taking the easy way out”.  I want people to see that it’s not just my role to serve…how boring would that be?  We front of house staff are (or Should Be) so much more than that.  Host, liaison, babysitter, big sister, therapist, and entertainer are hats that I wear every shift at both jobs – and I love it! 

     In this blog, I’ll be exploring that which is not only my role as employee but also the role of the guest (and helpful suggestions on how to make your dining experience more enjoyable.) and the role of management.  In this business the whole is truly the sum of its parts.  You’ve probably never even realized the delicate co-symbiotic balance between the key players in an ultimate serving experience.  And we haven’t even mentioned the power of the kitchen!

     So, I’ll end my prelude here.  Please, all who read are welcome and encouraged to comment.  Your feedback is most helpful! 

     And my first discussion, soon to be posted;

                   Serving Children – Teach Your Children!

et cetera