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


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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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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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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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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Which Kids Eat Everything?

Not long ago, a good friend sent the link to an article talking about the new and buzzy book French Kids Eat Everything. It made me uncomfortable and that discomfort and similar previous nagging feelings gave birth to the Family Meal, a new section of the blog. I did not read the book, but the title irritated me. Say this to yourself – French kids eat everything – and you will hopefully get uncomfortable too. Seriously, think about it. There is nothing magic about French kids. They are born the same way all kids are born: 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a blank slate for growing, learning, and developing everything including taste in food. French kids and American kids and Romanian kids and Venezuelan kids – probably Martian kids too if there were any- all of them eat everything. They are wired to eat everything, sooner or later. Must you look up to the special French kids who eat everything? Take their example? Follow their lead? Wonder in shock and awe, whispering, How do they do it? You got it: no. If you have a kid, your kid eats everything. So stop. Stop thinking … Continue reading

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Confession Wednesday- Meat or No Meat?

I don’t get the non-meat-eating thing. I come from the school of thought best illustrated in the statement, you don’t eat meat? I will make you some lamb! Among the cultural changes I experienced when I moved from Romania was my encounter with vegetarianism and its more extreme faction, the vegans. I swear I did not meet a non-meat-eating human for the first twenty one years of my life. Part of my attitude on non-meat eating is based on that. And part of my attitude is based on my view on food in general. It is all about taste- not about being healthier or professing some sort of ethical commitment to animal rights or living out some spiritual concern. For me, it is about achieving the most flavorsome bite. Eating is about texture, aroma and even sizzle, the hiss of a nice slab of bacon dissolving into a tantalizing mixture of glossy oil and releasing tormenting aromas. I feel some sort of solidarity with places that won’t betray their ultimate goal- taste. Such a place is Beast in Portland, a restaurant that professes a love for meat and due to a variety of pretexts, including a fixed menu, small kitchen, … Continue reading

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