Help Me, Help You: Service and Dining Out With Children

Lulu3

My own experience made me consider starting a sensitivity clinic for waitstaff on how to deal with families in restaurants. Louise is five and a half. She started dining out when she was three weeks old at Izakaya Den and never stopped. She was the fussy newborn at the sushi restaurant nursing under a cover, the toddler in the French cafe restless on her seat, the little kid asking for some crayons in a hole-in-the-wall ethnic joint. Last September, we threw a wrench in our set-up: We had another baby. It’s always daunting to take kids out to eat, but we know our part of the drill. The guessing game – the make or break- comes from the staff of the restaurant we choose and how they handle those dining out with little kids. To waitstaff everywhere, I want to say: Help Me, Help You. Dealing with families is simple and straightforward, and it makes everyone happier- you, us, and the rest of the guests in your dining room. Here are my thoughts:

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The Ten Most Memorable Meals and Bites of 2013

The last twelve months involved a lot of eating – a lot of eating out and a lot of eating in. Some of the best meals were at home – comforting dishes that took time, effort, and heart to make, but there were many in restaurants as well. While I eat out in Denver a good amount, I try experience the culture of cities I visit through the local food scene. I was either pregnant or with an infant the entire 2013, but managed six trips: Seattle in February, Puerto Vallarta in March, Austin and New York City in May, back to New York in November, and Berlin and Bucharest in December. Each of these trips involved heavy eating out. My best meals of 2013 are listed in chronological order.

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Holiday Presents From Colorado

I picked up the December issue of Bon Appetit magazine with hope that I would learn some tricks on how to make some of the things I make for holiday presents look better. I am not a crafty one. I can so many things but put me in the pretty, dainty, and interesting wrapping department and I am lost. The Bon Appetit headline- Put a lid on it- made me think that I would learn about some fancy lid with a fancy label and an equally fancy ribbon that would make my beautiful preserves or cured lemons or garlic confit look as good as they taste. No such luck. Instead, the magazine listed recipes for would-be gifts that readers get to wrap however they please.

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There is no time like right now to write and drink

It’s not like I haven’t been writing; I have – actually more than ever since September when I took on the Eater Denver editor position. So, if you miss me, find me at Eater Denver.  Somewhere in the frenzy of doing that I gave myself permission to step away from the blog and I have an entire list of reasons to do that: how busy I was, how written-out I have become, how much harder it got every day to get back into a habit I neglected, how much explaining I had to do with this whole name change of the blog and all. At one point, about a month ago, I drafted a post explaining and getting back into it. Yesterday I looked for that document. No dice. So, here it goes: I changed the name of my blog French Press Memos to Fork and Pen for two simple reasons: (1) easier to remember (or in very official terms that I actually failed to consider- better branding) and (2) because it matches what I want the blog to be about better – food and writing. I considered a relaunch with a shinny post and a thoughtful recipe on the right … Continue reading

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Go now: Step Up to the Plate.

Before there was Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, and Red Medicine, there was Michel Bras of Bras, 3-Michelin star restaurant in Laguiole, southern France creating Le Gargouillou, likely the most outrageous vegetable dishes known to man. Step Up to the Plate, a newly released documentary, tells the story of Bras with a focus on the tense but unavoidable transition of kitchen control from Michel, the man who built the restaurant from scratch, to Sebastien, his son who has dedicated 15 years to working and learning the Bras kitchen and philosophy inside and out.

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I took my four year old to a chicken slaughter

On a Friday afternoon, we were asked if we would be interested in attending an informal chicken slaughter and processing class at a private farm close to Denver. The answer was a categorical yes – no hesitation, no second thoughts. I called the organizer and informed him that it would be the two of us, my husband and I, and that we will be bringing our 4 year old daughter, Lulu. Not once did it cross my mind not to bring her. He hesitated. I assured him that she has been on farms around animals before and that she is very well-behaved. I was looking forward to this experience. In the morning, I told Lulu that we would be going to a farm. I wanted to make sure she understood what we were about to do. I talked to her about all the chicken things she eats- the chicken soup, the roasted chicken, the fried chicken, the chicken salad, the chicken schnitzel, and the chicken wings. I asked her where it comes from — the chicken farm, she answered. I wasn’t convinced she got it so I asked what does the chicken look like — a chicken, she said. This … Continue reading

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Zucchini, Romanian-Style

I am not a gardner. I am not sure what the opposite of a green thumb is but I have it. I blame my lack of magic touch on plants of all kinds (I once killed a cactus) on a lifetime of urban condo living. I have never lived in a free-standing home which means that I have never really had a garden (yes, I once had an extensive patio where mint thrived), which excuses at least some of my lack of talent with plants. That said, one year I had a zucchini plant. It not only survived but produced zucchini at a rate that was worrisome particularly since there is only that much one can do with zucchini. Zucchini grows like a weed to the most talentless gardener and there is always a lot of it. I no longer have a zucchini plant, but recently I got a few giant zucchini specimens from friends. I called on my inner zucchini lover to find a few ways to use the bounty and came up with two that bring me back to my Romanian roots – zucchini with tomato sauce and stuffed zucchini. I managed to shoot a few pictures of … Continue reading

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Go Now: Bucharest

I am back in Denver, slowly digesting the month that I spent in Europe, some of it traveling in France, some visiting Romania. I left Bucharest 11 years ago and returned to visit each year with great pleasure. This year it was more than great pleasure – I did not want to leave.  Bucharest is where I grew up, where I learned to play, to read, to kiss, to drive, to cook. There, I learned to walk on cobble stone in high heels, to hail a cab, to ride the metro, and to parallel park in impossible conditions. In the last two or three years, the city has changed – I felt revived magic, spectacular additions, great changes. I cannot wait to go back so to cure my blues I wanted to share some of my favorites. This is by no means comprehensive – it is a teaser of sorts, an insider’s short tip list to be added to an itinerary that celebrates and recognizes the culture, architecture, and art that Bucharest has to offer.

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Can It: Peaches!

I compared peach canning – and canning in general – with child birth. It is not complicated, but it is in many ways hard. And if one remembered how it feels, it would likely never be done again.  Like many others, I don’t remember so I go back to the well year after year . Each year I get all excited about engaging in a marathon of making jams, jellies, and canned fruit in syrup — peaches being my favorite subject of canning. One Saturday morning, I came home with 40 pounds of Colorado peaches.  I was ultra excited about canning these beauties in perfect halves in the lightest syrup to have when the short Colorado harvest season ends. By 2 a.m., as I was still filling jars and boiling them, my excitement subsided and reached a bottom low as I looked at the remaining 15 pounds of peaches. But those are now distant memories and I love the results so much that I would do it again tomorrow. You mustn’t be as greedy as I was with quantities –  you can do this with any amount of fruit. It is labor-intensive but really easy and very rewarding. And at … Continue reading

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Dinner on the Grill

I’m one of the lucky ones: I cook and my husband does the dishes. I have to admit that I’m spoiled — not having to wash pots and pans makes cooking so much more enjoyable. My husband feels fortunate to be the recipient of my cooking, so he usually doesn’t complain. It’s just that night after night of heavy dishes can be tiring (I use many pots and pans, prep bowls, etc. in my cooking). With summer in full swing, I’ve made many whole meals on the grill. Of course, we’ll still use real flatware and plates, but those are easy enought to put in the dishwasher with a quick rinse.

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