There’s quite a few things that I’ve wanted to add to reviews or comments about places I’ve been to that were, well, pedantic, or messed up the flow of the blog post, or it was already too long.
Being as anal as I am, I’ve kept a note of them and now that they seem to have become themes – in so far as I have noticed them more than once, I thought I’d start a series of just pedantic comments. I sincerely hope that the restaurant trade takes these on board as serious tips!
It’s great that many pubs are serving home-made, or at least butcher’s made, artisan burgers, with a range of wild and exotic fillings (or not). This has marked a great turning point in pub cuisine in the last decade or so, in my opinion. It’s also great they are mixing and matching them with artisan breads too! However, there’s a rule as far as I am concerned. The bap must never be bigger than the burger. It’s all part of the experience of decadence to think you have an overflowing burger; after all, that’s what I think you bought, not the foccacia it is sandwiched between! At the very least, I think it promotes to the customer a sense of value for money too!
Cold Salad Items
I love BLTs. Club sandwiches too. But who do places go through the motions of lightly toasting the bread, making sure the chicken and bacon are warm, only to shove in tomatoes straight from the fridge which ruins the whole thing? Seriously, pop them under the grill for a minute; something, anything! It’s like biting into your burger and finding the middle hasn’t been thawed!
There’s a place (if you insist) for catering packs of bacon. It’s when the bacon isn’t meant to stand alone as an ingredient; so if you are making lardons for cooking something in, for example, or bits of it in a Caesar salad, or a batch of bolognese etc. At a real stretch in a fry up, a BLT or something where you aren’t going to eat it on its own in a mouthful and it is diluted down by other ingredients (like mayonnaise or baked beans). Or, to be more precise, the concentrated saltiness of it is not noticeable or even appreciated. You see, catering packs of bacon have often been padded out with an injection of water (upto 10% allowable by law), which has the effect of washing some things out, that are then replaced chemically by the producer…… the net effect is it shrinks and it is very salty. No-one wants what is basically a mouth full of chargrilled pork flavoured salt in a mixed grill or a bacon sandwich; the scrumping of a few pennies on that rasher of bacon can really turn a dish into a disappointment. I urge publicans and restauranteurs of the world to think very carefully about which bacon they deploy for what purpose!
Which brings me onto butter; if you’re serving warm artisan breads (a great thing), don’t scrimp and serve it with faceless wraps from a catering box of indiscript butter; a little extra step to really good (local if possible) butter makes a lot of difference and compliments the effort you’ve gone to with the bread. At the very least, hide it by decanting it into those little pots !
Octopuses and squids are funny creatures. Tough, unforgiving and even out to avenge themselves when cooked. Calamari continues to cook straight out the fryer, like scrambled eggs from a pan – there’s a narrow window to get it out of the fryer, onto the plate, over the pass and to the customer before it passes its best. Etiquette is that everyone waits for everyone to have their food before they start, so the calamari should be the last thing to arrive (and not having been left under lamps at the pass either). It also needs scoring before slicing into rings and soaking in milk for a while before battering and frying – the enzymes in the milk help overcome the toughness. I will admit I am an OCD-style pedant with my calamari and I really really like it done very well (it’s sublime, believe me), but these things are pretty basic to be fair which means there isn’t really an excuse!
Pouring my own wine
This seems to be a polarising issue.
Firstly, my view. I was brought up in rural Devon; whilst I was taught certain manners and decorum, there’s a limit to our expectations in the service we receive. I certainly wouldn’t expect someone to notice my glass is getting to a sub-optimal volume from afar and make a special point of rushing over and attending to my glass.
It’s no bother at all for me to pour my own wine at a restaurant table. By all means, if you’re there doing something table related, like clearing plates, then feel free to top up the glasses; because you’ve already legitimately interrupted the conversation, then you might as well make the most of it. However, if you see me pouring my own, please, please, please, don’t run over and take over.
You won’t get into trouble from me for this; I am not brash businessman so over-inflated with my self importance that I demand someone pour my wine for me (which is one notch above them demanding their food be half chewed for them, or being accompanied to the toilet with an attendant armed with large rose petals, in my opinion). However, I understand that some people do kick off about it and more than one restaurant manager/waitress etc has explained this to me when I’ve explained I have motor function in my two arms and am not entirely helpless – to the point that they get into trouble by default if they are seen to be allowing customers to be doing it by their superiors. So, in conclusion, I think I am going to have to take one for Team Normal Decent Human Being and put up with this……. last thing I want is the lovely people that make dining out so special and worthwhile most of the time getting into trouble needlessly for my sake!
And there we go, five groups of pedantic rants for this round – the list is reset and Part 2 will come when I have enough to rant about again!