What the heck does that mean?

All about working as a waiter, pursuing my dream, eating vegetarian, and loving where I live!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Absurd Customer of the Week #6

Sometimes, you have a customer you just know you're going to blog about the minute you encounter them.

Three older people (two very nice ladies and one PILL of guy) give me their orders like I'm an idiot, as if they require special explanation. One of them had also been asking me, what's the difference between *this* dish (pointing) and the Linguine di Mare. Well, I explain that the two are essentially the same... same pasta, same sauce. One just has an assortment of seafood while the other is only shrimp.

"Clams," she says.
"I'm sorry?"
"Clams. Not shrimp."
"OH! I'm sorry, I thought you were pointing at the dish above that. Well, the only difference between the Linguine with Clams and the other dish is that with other one you get a variety of seafood, and in this one you only get clams. And a choice of white or red sauce. The two red sauces are the same."

I don't know if she couldn't read the menu descriptions without glasses or if she was just too lazy to read. But I eventually get their order, making sure to repeat it back to them. Apparently, though, when the food came out to the table, the old man barked at the server who ran it.

PILL: What is this??
SERVER: Veal Picatta?
PILL: Why is there sauce on this?! I don't want sauce! Take it off!

So the server takes it back. I didn't witness this exchange, but saw that the food was on the table. Realizing the veal picatta was missing, I told the old Pill I'd check on it for him.

Tyler Florence Veal Picatta
PILL: There was SAUCE on it. I didn't want sauce! Just tell them to dump it off and put it on another plate and bring it back out.
ME: Oh... so just, dry? Or easy sauce?
ME: I'll go check on it in the kitchen.

So I scurry off to the kitchen. The new veal picatta is already ready. They left the lemon zest and capers on it, but the veal is dry and the spinach isn't cooked all the way. I bring it out  and try my luck. I drop it off on the table and hesitate to see what he says. Which turns out to be nothing, but the ladies at the table ooh and ahh and say it looks great. So I leave to attend to my other tables. Minutes later, another server tells me that this table wants to speak with me. I return.

ME: Yes, sir?
ME: Um....  you said you didn't want sauce, so they made it without sauce.
ME: Um... would you like us to make you a new one with just a little bit of sauce?
PILL: Where's the lemon??
ME: Well, they did leave some lemon zest and capers on there for you...
PILL: It's terrible!
ME: We can get you something else or make you a new dish.
NICE LADIES: No, no. Just bring some sauce on the side for him.

So I go back to the kitchen and request some sauce and grab a plate of lemons. I bring it out promptly and let him know that they're heating up some sauce for him right now and will bring it out in a jiffy, but here's some fresh lemon.

PILL: ACH. Just take it. I don't want it. It's terrible.

So I take it back and tell the kitchen not to bother with the sauce. I let my manager know and ask him to take off the veal for me. Ironically, when a different manager stopped by at the end of the meal (not knowing the story), the group told him that everything was great.

Meanwhile, while this whole thing was going on, I was trying to accommodate a lady who was allergic to wheat, corn, soy, dairy, and who was also avoiding hormones. Luckily, our restaurant offers gluten-free pasta made out of rice that fit all her specifications. She asked me to make it with oil, garlic, and basil with a side of spinach and salmon. I repeated her order MULTIPLE times to make sure I had it right... and when I brought it out, she said, "Oh! I wanted tomatoes!" Never, ever, did she say tomato. Was that supposed to be implied? Perhaps she could have just saved us both the trouble and asked for pomodoro.

On a completely different note. Tonight, I had a table leave me the most ridiculously large tip I have ever received. I don't know if they misread the bill, or someone gave me more money than they thought they did, or their math was bad, or if they just felt generous. Even when the tip was already absurd, another person came up to me later and gave me even MORE money. I guess they felt bad for coming in so late and staying there so long. I mean, they didn't leave until TWO HOURS after closing. But, with the money they gave me, I wasn't going to complain one teensy tiny bit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Bust

No, it wasn't my birthday. That's not for another month. It was LP's birthday this weekend, and we had such big plans for it... but California weather had something else in mind. For the past couple of years, we've both gone snowboarding for our birthdays. Leading up to this weekend, there hadn't been much precipitation in the mountains, so if snow was sparse, we thought we'd go to Disneyland or our favorite, the L.A. Zoo. The just opened up the Elephants of Asia exhibit, and we've really been looking forward to going. 

It was shaping up to be a great weekend. Best of all, my manager was generous enough to give me the entire weekend off. I think this was an exchange for New Year's Eve (we'll see). Anyway, like I said, the weather had different plans. 

 I had been hoping for rain. My fingers were crossed. Rain in Los Angeles usually means snow on the mountains this time of year. But it's just too warm. The slopes were even shut down today. Everything is too slushy and mucky and gross. Bare patches everywhere. So... no snowboarding. And our boards continue to sulk in the corner, looking all dejected and unloved. I'm so sorry, babies!!

But all of this rain ruined our back-up plans, too! We never actually considered that rain would be an issue. We thought rain would mean good snow conditions. We thought bad snow conditions would mean a bright and sunny day. We've gone to the zoo in a light drizzle before. Especially if it starts and stops throughout the day. But California is getting a shock to its system by getting non-stop rain. We were flummoxed. What to do?
We considered going to a museum, but even most of the museums out here (like the Getty) aren't as nice on rainy days. So... we just sort of hung out. Saturday night, we met up with a bunch of LP's friends for beer. And Friday night we went to another friend's holiday party. So, we still had some nice social time out and about. Buuuut, things just didn't go as planned. Still, we've both been working so much lately that it was really nice to just bum around together.

I wish I could say I was the world's most awesome partner and surprised him with something amazing... but, the best I could do was give my time and nimble fingers to his dreadlocks. We spent several hours last night watching holiday movies while I performed some much needed maintenance on his hair (click the link if you aren't familiar with the finer points of white boy dreads). For someone who hates people buying him gifts, this was the best present I could offer.

Happy Birthday, my handsome dreadlocked boy!

Unexpected Generosity

The holiday season brings some of the oddest situations and guests, and the cheapest and the most generous tippers to the restaurant. Last year, on Christmas Eve, I had a woman tell me she was ready to kill herself or her entire family because they were driving her crazy. She said this in front of her family. It was awkward, to say the least. Then, we served raw chicken fingers to her kids. *sigh*

That's the other thing about the holiday season. The restaurant undergoes such a huge influx of customers, usually all at the same time in big waves, that it definitely puts strain on the kitchen. I would say that they do a great job 99% of the time during the entirety of the year, but during the holidays, things start to fall through the cracks. Trust me, they still to a great job, but you start to see about 4% more issues.

The other day these two poor ladies got steak that was rare when they asked for medium and a meatball that was cold. The first time, they were upset, the second time they were just about livid.

ACTUALLY, A VERY NICE LADY: Look, I know you're busy and have all of these big groups come in, but to have a raw steak and a cold meatball is just ridiculous!
ME: You're right, that's unacceptable.
LADY: Now, I can take this meatball home and re-heat it, but...
ME: No, ma'am, please, can I take it back to the kitchen so the chef can see it? He really should know when something isn't right, and I'll have them bring you something better.

The very nice lady continues to huff and puff, and in about two minutes I bring her two piping hot meatballs. Luckily, these are much better and she's pleased that she gets an extra one to take home. Our executive chef brought out the steak himself and apologized profusely. The ladies were charmed. We took off the meatballs and the steak and the very nice lady who had done all that huffing and puffing actually left me $30. On a bill that was only about $30.

On Friday, I was stuck in a shit section for lunch. Four tables (no booths) in an area nobody wants to sit in. Every other server had 5+ tables.... for some reason, I got screwed. Normally, I get great sections, but... c'est la vie. On top of this, I had three of my tables reserved for a party that was due to come in at 12:30 PM. So I spent the first hour of my shift twiddling my thumbs, folding napkins, and helping other servers. For my entire seven and a half hour shift, I only had one party of 13 and a 3 top. That's it. Once the party was done at 3:30 PM, management would not let me leave! Even though the entire restaurant completely died, I was held prisoner until the dinner crew came on. Here's what I accomplished:
  • folded 250 napkins
  • swept the entire restaurant
  • refilled all of the oil and vinegar containers
  • lit all the candles
  • restocked/zoned just about every area of the place. 
Why they complain about labor costs and then do things like that is beyond me.

On the bright side, for having only two tables, I did leave the restaurant with $85, some chocolate, and a hand-blown glass sea turtle ornament. One of the guys at my party was showing his co-worker a gorgeous glass sea turtle ornament he had made. I commented on how pretty it was, how impressed I was that he had made it, and that I sort of had a "thing" for turtles. At the end of their meal, our maitre^d came up to me and said "Merry Christmas." The guy gave me the ornament! Luckily, he was still there, so I was able to thank him profusely, and he told me about the gallery he represents. The group also left me a little wrapped chocolate because "I probably don't get 'treated' very often."


Excuse me while I wipe away a couple tears, alright?

Friday, December 17, 2010

French Happy Hours and Decorating

Last night, I spoiled myself. I went to The Grove and finished my Christmas shopping. Since I had a package at the UPS warehouse that I couldn't pick up until 8:30 PM, I killed time at Monsieur Marcel (a little Frenchophile shop and bistro). It's the neatest/cutest little place in the middle of the Farmers Market and I was lucky enough to discover their Happy Hour with 1/2 off wines and cheap-o appetizers. I had some mozzarella/ricotta croquettes and a bowl of lentil soup. The soup sort of broke my rule of not eating things at restaurants that I can easily make at home, but it was really, really good.

My favorite part, though, were the free olives given with the bread. Yum. I'm sure I had about 20x the normal amount of saturated fat one should eat in a day.

At home, I finished putting up the lights and ornaments. LP says I like to decorate like a Who from Whoville and when he gets back from San Francisco, he'll probably re-do it. But I'm OK with it just the way it is!

Do I mind the mixing of white lights on our garland with the colored lights on the window? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We also have a poinsettia and a mini fake tree with photos of LP's family on the ornaments. It's very cute and so sweet. Oh, and that's Bruce the Penguin. He hangs out year round in the living room. He just puts his hood up for the holidays.  

Our tree is a real one! I'm loving the smell. We might get a fake one some day, but the only decent ones were way too huge for our place. Since the tree is only about 3.5 feet tall, I put it on top of a big cardboard box. More room for presents! :-)

Sorry, Obama, you'll have to hang out behind the tree this Christmas. And if you're wondering who that is hanging out at the base of the tree, that's Puck. He's LP's love child, created for our indie production that's currently in post. We found Puck a tiny little wicker chair at IKEA this summer so he can hang out in the living room with us.

I'm really enjoying making the apartment a bit more homey this season.  Even if it's in our own tacky little way. Someday, I'll figure out how to use my mom's old camera better so I can use something other than my cell phone!

Tonight, I baby-sat my niece so that my brother and SIL could enjoy a night out. Watching an 8 month old is pretty easy when they go to bed so early. Read a few stories, give her a change, and nighty-night! She was SO CUTE! Also cute? Her "brother" Spike who was all curled up in his bed!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Working 8 days a week

I was so cozy at intelligentsia, I didn't want to leave!
Well, that's what it feels like during the holiday season at the restaurant. Last week I worked 9 days straight. By the seventh day I was desperately trying to give my shifts away. I had just enough time before my shift to grab coffee with a friend, and I was having such a nice time I was sorely tempted to call in sick. By Sunday, I was a Grumps Meister Deluxe. I didn't even care about making money at that point, I just wanted to run errands and spend money! I felt pretty bad, I was snapping at everyone. I just can't wait tables that many days in a row!

Besides work, I've been getting Christmas presents for the family and buying lights to make our apartment a little more festive. My mom sent me a box of my old ornaments-- I'm so excited to put them up on the little tree LP and I bought. Sadly, he's out of town for a couple days for work, so I'm going to finish putting everything up by myself. We're total procrastinators, but better late than never, right? Since we're in agreement that holiday decorations can stay up until at least January 5th, we aren't fretting about getting this done so late. I'll post pictures when it's done!

I also had an audition on Monday that I think went pretty well. It was for a short film, and at the very least, I had a good time at the audition and the guys running the thing were incredibly nice. So, whether or not I get the part or even a callback, we'll call it a success.

Since I still haven't had much time for grocery shopping and I'm not at home to eat or cook much anyway, I've been making some really random meals (supplemented by "stealing" some of the groceries LP has bought). That's a fried egg with salsa and cheddar on a corn tortilla with fresh tomatoes, avocado, and creme fraiche (I still haven't used it all)... I put a little white balsamic vinegar on the "salad" with some salt and pepper.

I'm really relishing having today off. Going to finish up my Christmas shopping, do some laundry, and finish decorating. You know you've been working too much when you look forward to doing laundry!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One for the record books...

This was an epic one, but in a good way. It was an easy night, a quiet night, and was able to pull in a decent amount of cash for how slow it was. What was so absolutely fucking amazing about tonight was that the last customers came in 45 minutes before we closed and at 10 PM (lock the doors!), all the checks were down on the table. At 30 minutes to close, we could not believe our luck. The host stand, the bussers, the kitchen, the servers, and even the management... we all noticed. Would it be possible? We were so sure that a party of 20 would walk in two minutes to closing time. But it didn't happen. The only people who came in over the next fifteen minutes sat at the bar, ordered carry out and had a drink. It was amazing. We were able to give everything a solid cleaning, I scrubbed things that I normally do not scrub out of a simple good will and cheer that I had no customers left. As a closer, I left the restaurant at a decent hour.

Tonight, citizens of West Hollywood decided to eat dinner at a normal hour. It was slow and steady the whole evening and I walked out of there with a respectable amount of cash for very little stress.

Tonight was a night for the record books. In the 365+ days that I have worked at that restaurant, this combination of awesomeness has never occurred. Not Once. Not EVER.

So, thank you World, for being on my side tonight. Thank you for not giving me any absurd customers to complain about, even if it makes my blog entry a little dull.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Treats and Hodgepodge Meals!

 I had an absolutely lovely day with my friend Amy yesterday! We went to Sprinkles for the sole purpose of getting some Peppermint Chocolate cupcakes! Amy truly understands and supports my cupcake obsession! Neither of us ever has to feel guilty when we get cupcakes together! After some coffee and cupcakes, we went to The Grove to enjoy some window shopping and pretty lights! Even though I work at The Grove, my restaurant is on the outskirts, so I don't get to enjoy the pretty displays.

While we were hanging out in the Farmer's Market, this really crazy looking lady approached us and asked if we were actors. After a moment's awkward silence, I asked why she wanted to know. She then went on rambling about some kind of acting studio and how great it was. She gave us cards and when I tried to brush her off with a "sounds good, I'll look it up" she asked me if I wanted to go in for a reading right then and there. It was so bizarre. After looking the place up, it definitely looks like one of those places that offers some classes, but is mostly a money making machine designed to get you to pay for their headshots and helps you make a "reel." Obviously, this lady got something for getting others to sign up.

My lunch before meeting Amy was another one of those hodgepodge meals... Leftover brown rice with kidney beans (seasoned with a leftover taco packet!), spinach, tomatoes, and creme fraiche with lots of pepper and fresh lime juice! This was actually pretty tasty! Although similar, it was way better than the last thrown together meal. We're running so low on groceries that I just got a Subway sandwich tonight. I'm also tired of dishes. It was a long lunch shift. The holiday season is definitely upon us! I worked from 10 AM and didn't leave work until 7:30 PM!!! But the money is good, so I can't complain.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mint Toothpaste and Cashews

That's what LP always accuses me of using to concoct hodgepodge meals. I'm one of those people who can't stand to buy groceries unless the cupboards and fridge are nearly bare. I hate letting food sit at the back of a shelf or go bad in the refrigerator. Unless I have a hankering to make a specific recipe, I try to use what I've got sitting around. Comes from having frugal parents, I suppose. And it does help me to stretch my grocery budget.

Yesterday was definitely one of those Mint Toothpaste and Cashew Hodgepodge kind of meals. What you're looking at here is leftover wild rice with black beans, tomato, sauteed red onion, spinach and radicchio, with a dollop of creme fraiche on top and cracked black pepper. It was pretty good except for the radicchio. Cooking it just made it bitter. It's obviously better left raw. You can't see the beans or the rice so it actually looks more appetizing in the photo, I think.

I just finished off some of the last of the cereal and soymilk this morning. Still oatmeal left to eat.... but the rest of my meals are going to be odd like this!

On another note, it looks like we're finally getting to autumn-like weather in Los Angeles! I love the street where I park for work. Real deciduous trees! I go out of my way to crunch through the leaves!