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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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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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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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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Best Bites: Duck Tasso at Bittersweet

I love duck. I love that it takes skill and care to make it shine and I love the versatility that duck allows in preparations. The point for me is not the type of dish- it can be prosciutto, tacos, fried wings, or cassoulet and I will likely order it and probably love it as long as it is done, well, right. I found an outstanding duck dish tonight at Bittersweet: the Duck Tasso. An appetizer, the Duck Tasso is a play on the Tasso ham, a Louisiana specialty made of pork shoulder. Traditionally, the pork cured in salt briefly then rubbed with a spice mixture that includes cayenne pepper and smokey paprika. The duck version at Bittersweet takes duck breast cured in salt then rubbed with a variety of spices that make it just slightly tingly hot on the tongue. 

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French Laundry Post-Dinner Blues

I had dinner at the French Laundry last week – it had been a long time coming. I debated writing about it for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to brag or to review or to ooh and aah about it. And I don’t think I can add much that has not been already said. Because of these reasons, I did not take pictures of my dinner and constrained myself to only mental notes that allowed me to enjoy every second I had there.

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Go Now: Grand Cochon

Among the 100 things you should do before you die, attending the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is a given. It is outrageous, spectacular, overwhelming to the senses. For the food lover, it is like being at the Oscars and roaming among the stars, eating, drinking, small talking. The Food and Wine Classic 2012 is in full swing this week and parties happen as I type so my call to action here is a tad on the later side but here is the good news. There is a mini version of this event that you can still experience, the tail end of the fabulous weekend – the Grand Cochon.

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Gabrielle Hamilton, the interview.

Do you do that thing where you imagine everyone in the room in their underwear? Gabrielle Hamilton asked me when I confided that I was a little nervous. I looked at her for a long second, then said she still looked great. I met Gabrielle Hamilton at Frasca Food and Wine for an interview yesterday afternoon. As I drove there, I was nervous – not the star-struck way knot in my throat nervousness. It was more the butterflies in my stomach- please-don’t-disappoint-me way. I respect and love Hamilton for all she is – a solid cook, a skilled writer, and a well-recognized figure in the food world.

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Get a Whey with the Truffle Cheese Shop

Last year I practically begged to go on this trip. I missed my chance to sign up by a couple of weeks and it was, not surprisingly, sold out. The Truffle has organized a farm trip every year- one farm, one day, a bus full of cheese-lovers loyal to the shop and thankful they were on the ball enough to secure their seat. Because of the popularity of this trip, Karin and Rob Lawler, owners of the Truffle, decided to do a double day at the farm. Join the Truffle for Get a Whey on Sunday, May 27th or Monday, May 28th at Ugly Goat Milk Company – departure 8:45 a.m. from Denver, return at 3:00 p.m.   Ugly Goat Milk Company is spectacular- there are goats and cows, dogs and ducks, geese and a few sheep, horses, alpacas and a couple llamas – a lovely mix to be enjoyed by kids and grownups alike. To reserve your space on the bus, please call the shop at 303-322-7363. All of our knowledgeable staff can answer questions you may have. Cost $65 per person for adults, $55 for children. Cost includes transportation to and from the farm, personal tour of the farm, gourmet lunch prepared … Continue reading

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