Dec
23
2012

Ode to the Waiter Who Didn't Write My Order Down

Do they give medals if you can memorize this stuff?!

Ode to the Waiter Who Didn't Write My Order Down

Look, I get it. As a waiter or waitress there is very little you can do to make yourself stand out and be noticed. You work between very limited margins within which you need to 'wow' your customers in the hope that they open up their wallets and spend heavily on your tip. You make people feel welcome, take drink orders, serve said drinks, take everyone's orders, bring the food out in a timely fashion, top up the drinks—wham, bam, thank you ma'am—there's your 15 percent. If you want to try and impress your diners and stretch that tip a little higher you can make small talk, throw out a couple of semi-amusing anecdotes, cootchie-coo at the babies or tell Mr. or Mrs. Diner just how flattering that green and red Christmas sweater makes them look. So, I get it - it's not a very glamorous job, and other than that once in a career $500 tip someone is going to leave you because you talked to some dying 90 year old about Pomeranian Shi Tzus and when they were a young child growing up in Dusseldorf their father bred Pomeranian Shi Tzus on their country farm—you're looking at a 10-20% tips from here to eternity. 

So, why for the love of all things holy, did waiters decide it would look cool, and certainly impress their guests if they would start to memorize orders? When I'm out dining it's because I don't want to cook, or there is no food at home, or we are out for a nice time with family and friends. You know what I am not interested in? Being dazzled by my waiter. If I wanted dinner and a show I'd go to Medieval Times. Take my order, bring me my food, be pleasant and for the most part, be a fly on the wall. Sure, it's pretty neat if you CAN memorize our order, but you know what? Messing up our order after you've memorized it is going to negatively impact your tip in a way it never would have had you simply written it down to begin with.

This morning was a prime example. We had a family brunch at a local pancake place in Atlanta. There were nine of us—and their menu spans about four pages. Sure enough, our waiter shows up sans pen and paper and makes his way around the table taking everyone's order. And when I say order I mean what they want, what they don't want, what they want to substitute, what they want on the side, how they'd like it cooked and so on... Not an easy group, to be sure—but it was hardly this:

 

After everyone had ordered, our waiter decided to impress us with his memorization skills and went around the table re-telling all nine of us what we had just ordered—in a very "Look at me! I've memorized all your orders without writing them down. Are you not entertained???"We would have been much more entertained if it hadn't gone something like this: Right. Wrong. Right. Right. Wrong. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right.

"Ah, have no fear fair diners, now that you've corrected me I have secured it all to the pachyderm part of my brain which surely has it down correctly. Off to my handy-dandy ordering computer to punch it all in!"

Alas, brunch showed up and orders were wrong, items were missed, substitutions were, well, not substituted. It was a disaster. The waiter wasn't a bad guy, he wasn't trying to mess up our order. He just wanted to impress. Instead, we were left wondering why he hadn't just pulled out a pen and paper to begin with. There is no shame people. Santa's got a list. Even Moses wrote that shit down. We're all human! 

Am I asking too much? What restaurant ordering horror stories have you run into?

Dec
18
2012

Top 5 TV Show Family Kitchens

WHICH TV FAMILIES MADE THEIR KITCHEN THE HEART OF THEIR HOME?

Top 5 TV Show Family Kitchens

When I was a kid, dinner happened every day at 6pm around our kitchen table. It didn't matter if we had friends over or if my parents had work or a meeting. Family dinners were not optional. For most of my childhood, I took this for granted. I had a mom who never worked outside the home and a dad who worked from home or at an office within 5 minutes from our house. It was only as I got older, in high school, that friends started to comment how nice it was that our family all gathered together and sit down to have a meal together at the end of the day.

For me, it was just the way things were.

We all live busy, busy lives and making sure everyone can get to dinner together can sometimes be an impossibility. In our own home today we try and make sure we've kept this lovely tradition alive. I race home from downtown every day so that we can get dinner on the table and all eat together. It's a chance to communicate with one another and share our stories. It's one of my favourite heartwarming parts of parenting.

While a lot of this is patterned after my own home growing up, as a child of the TV generation, a lot of this is also patterned after shows that pumped us full of the notion that a kitchen is the heart of a home. A place where jokes are told and experiences are shared and stories are told. Where families meet and gather and socialize.

Here are my most memorable TV show family kitchens:

1) The Cosby Show

The Cosby family kitchen always seemed to have so much laughter around the table. Cliff seemed to always be having a not-too-serious conversation with the kids or one of their friends about topics like school marks, friendships or chores in a way that made me want to crawl through the TV set and join right in. 

2) Growing Pains

Did any story originate on Growing Pains outside of the kitchen? Mike torturing Carol over dinner, Mike drinking out of the milk carton, Ben whining about this, that and the other. The Seavers showed us how families that don't always get along can still sit down to dinner together.

3) Who's The Boss?

Maybe it's because I had a mega-crush on Alyssa Milano... but Who's The Boss was always one of my favourites. Whether Mona was dropping in for a late night chat in the kitchen or the kids were grabbing a snack on their way out the door, the kitchen was always front and centre—a place where you could sit down and talk through your problems with people who'd lend an ear. Or maybe for me it was because Tony Danza was blazing a trail showing that men could be manly and still cook?

4) Family Ties

It seems during every episode of Family Ties there was a scene with Alex quizzing Andy on taxation theory at the dinner table. It wasn't just the two of them though, dinner around the Keaton table seemed so wonderful with a splash of comedy thrown in. Each of them brought a different personality to the mix, with Alex providing the edge to prod the best lines out of each of them. 

5) Brady Bunch

The great controversies between the girls and the boys or the older kids and the younger kids always had me choosing sides and rooting for one group or another on the Brady Bunch. Mom and dad were always there to help resolve everything once the dust had settled, with Alice serving up a homemade pie for everyone to enjoy as they laughed over their quarrels. Sure it was served with a giant heap of idealism—but it was fun watching none-the-less.

What about you? What are your favourite TV kitchens?

Dec
11
2012

Pumpkin Spice Sufganiot with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

A CHANUKAH RECIPE REDUX

Pumpkin Spice Sufganiot with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah lasts 8 days and is all about frying delicious foods. A holiday I can definitely get behind! Jelly-filled donuts dusted in powdered sugar, known as sufganiot, are a typical treat served on Chanukah. Last year I merged two of our family favourites and made mini salted caramel sufganiot. This year I thought I'd try bringing some fall flavours into the mix and came up with these delicious pumpkin spice sufganiot and filled them with a cinnamon cream cheese icing. A little twist from the original holiday treat, but oh, so delicious!

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pomegranate Sugar-Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts

Pomegranate Sugar-Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts

 

- See more at: http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/life/celebrate/hanukkah-2013#sthash.eC4z1ieA.dpuf
 
Pumpkin Spice Sufganiot with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling
Dough recipe adapted from Serious Eats
Makes 12 donuts
 
Ingredients:
 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, all-spice, cinnamon and ginger
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3L vegetable oil, for frying
1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar, for dusting
 
Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 pound powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
 
Preparation:
 
 In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
 
 In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg, 1/2 cup sugar, and brown sugar beating until combined and slightly foamy. Add buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla, and pumpkin puree. Stir until smooth. Slowly add flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Turn dough out into plastic wrap and form into a ball. Refrigerate for at least two hours or as long as overnight.
 
 Generously flour a large work surface. Turn out the dough and coat with flour, sprinkling the surface of the dough with flour to lessen stickiness. (Note the dough is EXTREMELY sticky). Gently pat the dough to about 1/2 an inch thick. Use a floured 3 inch ring (a child's cup works perfectly) to cut out doughnuts and place cut doughnuts on a well floured sheet of parchment paper. Collect any scraps and roll out dough to cut more doughnuts until all the dough is gone. Allow donuts to sit for up to an hour. Allowing the surface of the donut to dry will help them fry up without absorbing too much oil.
 
 Fill deep fryer with oil. Heat oil to 360°F. Using a shallow, heat resistant strainer, drop doughnuts in the oil and fry until a deep golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Use wooden chopsticks to turn the doughnuts. Be careful not to crowd the doughnuts in the pan (no more than 2 to 3 doughnuts at a time). Remove doughnuts, set on paper towel lined baking racks to cool.
 
 In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until mixed, then beat in the sugar. Finally, add the vanilla and cinnamon. Once donuts have cooled slightly use a decorating filler tip or a plastic squeeze bottle to fill the donuts and top with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.