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Thursday, 26 January 2012

10 of the most annoying and frequently fielded questions.

I wish I had a pound for every time I'm asked one of these pearls:

1.'Is that the menu?'(pointing at the blackboard)
     No, its my shopping list for tomorrow.........

2. 'I'm not going to look at the menu, Ill just have a burger..'
     No you wont because we don't farking have a burger....

3. 'I have a dairy intolerance what can I have?'
    Protracted conversation .....followed by:
'Excuse me you've forgotten to bring some butter for my bread..'

4.(entering via the tradesman's entrance)'Are you open yet?'
     No..... that's why the front door wouldn't open when you tried it repeatedly and you had to make a circuit of the building in order to seek out  an alternative means of access.
5.'Telephone caller:'We're coming for lunch today-do we need to book a table??'
      No....but saying as you've already made the effort to pick up the phone and ring us you might as well give me your name and tell me how many of you there are,then I can keep you a table.....

6.'Is there another menu?'
    What?You mean a secret one that we don't bother to show anyone because we don't want to sell anything on it?

7.'What's fresh today?'
     Nothing. Frankly,its all  past its best and will pass through you like a bloody steam train if you're lucky..

8.'Can we sit at that table there?'(pointing at the table with the clearly visible reserved sign).
     Why not....I just reserved it for the hell of it.

9.'Is that *all* you have for vegetarians??Really poor show...'
     There are a choice of 8 main courses,of which one is vegetarian.Therefore one eighth of the menu is vegetarian.Were I to visit a vegetarian restaurant for dinner would I be given the same choice?Methinks not.*smug face*
10.'Haven't you got any scampi??'

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Outraged Pub landlady chooses Lucky dip wine then freezes Chablis for regular customer who absconds without paying..

Really old picture of a very nice bottle of wine

There are certain aspects of the hospitality industry that I really don't like.In fact at times certain practices can be downright unpleasant.
I heard of a practice other day that I hadn't come across in all my years in catering.
There's an independently run restaurant that serves really nice food and has quite a decent wine list.
Within the wine list there's a certain wine which although cheap at wholesale price(around £4) has been marked up to in excess of £30.
Its known as their 'lucky dip' wine.Though not lucky for the unsuspecting customer who inadvertently orders this particular slurp.
Now I know how difficult it is to make a food business profitable and I know lots of restaurants rely on wine sales,furthermore its obvious lots of restaurants sell the all wines on their list at grossly inflated prices right across the board.
The thing is people know about these places and they know wines at 'such and such a place' are a rip off.
The point is the wines are all rip off's, there's no cheating,no hidden agenda-these are our prices its up to you if you pay them..
However,to surreptitiously hide a single wine within a list at a massively inflated price amongst other fairly priced bottles smacks of trickery and deceit.It shows a complete lack of respect for the customer and in fact takes delight in their ignorance.Its left a very sour taste in my mouth I can tell you.I can imagine the sniggering behind the scenes when this item is ordered.
I've eaten in this establishment a few times and I have no idea which Bin is the offending bogey prize.
I wont be eating there again.

In other news,following the usual post Christmas recovery period, I've wasted too much negative energy chasing up an unpaid food account.
To be honest I'd forgotten about it until someone decided to have the periodical clear out of all the assorted messages and notes that systemically get stuck to our check board.
The bill goes back to last July.
The chap who owes us the money likes to think of himself as a regular.Visiting perhaps once a month,bringing various business colleagues for lunch, one of those particularly discerning diners who commands utmost respect due to his forethought in taking time to ring ahead  instructing us to 'put a couple of bottles of your finest Chablis in the freezer'.
On the day in question ,he was overheard mentioning to his companion that he'd forgotten his wallet.
'No matter I'm a regular here-my credits good'.
The conversation was relayed back to kitchen.
Chef tutted,'there's three of them there,one of his friends can pay'
After a leisurely lunch following which Cognacs and coffee were consumed in the garden,the usual 'gambling for the tip' charade was played out,which involves a member of staff calling heads or tails,at which point Mr Big Shot tosses a one pound coin,which you then scrabble around on the ground to pick up,if you win you get *drum roll* £20 tip.If you lose you get whatever coppers he has in his pocket.Without fail,EVERY member of staff despises this game.It makes them feel like they're begging for a Good Boy Chocolate Drop like some obedient little pet pooch and lets be honest,none of them is really feeling the need to acquire a wet nose and glossy coat.
By the time came for the bill to be paid,the afternoon shift change meant that different staff were in place.Mr Big Shot informed the member of staff who presented the bill that he had arranged with the lunchtime girl that he could come back with his credit card tomorrow to settle up.
Which was actually untrue but in theory would have been OK.

There's a  couple of good reasons why one should never give credit on food.
1.Food is a perishable item,so it goes without saying that once its been served/consumed there's no option to repossess the goods.
2.Running a restaurant is essentially a cash business.Dealing with small suppliers we don't ask for extended credit terms therefore by the time your meal is served we've more or less paid for the ingredients and will be out of pocket if you decide not to pay.
3.There comes a point after someone has consumed a meal,no matter how delicious it is,that the urge to go back for a repeat performance becomes less appealing than the call to pay the bill for a meal so long back that the memory of it is hazy at best.

Its no great surprise that we've never seen him since.Which actually in my opinion is tantamount to theft.

As it happens one of the girls had observantly spied Big Shot and his compadres departing in a van conveniently emblazoned with livery advertising a certain local business,which she duly noted.
Tip:If you plan to do a runner,its a good idea to either
a.use anonymous transport
b.park up around the corner out of sight..

I'm currently ringing the business daily in an attempt to solicit payment for the now outrageously overdue bill.

Chef summed up with usual brevity:

'If I'd have known he wasn't going to pay I'd have made him drink house wine NOT farking Chablis..'

Its a shame the diner/restaurateur  restaurateur/diner relationship isn't always equally respectful.Certain parties are giving all of us a bad name.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Years Eve at Fawlty Towers

Regular readers of this blog may be aware of the traditional New Years Eve fireworks display at the inn.
I'm must confess to being a tad nervous about the wisdom of the whole operation, this year in particular the warning klaxon was deafeningly loud following Chefs return from the annual Christmas Eve trip to the fireworks wholesaler.
Seemingly, fireworks are graded with each additional point denoting an increase in explosive quality.My attention was drawn to one particular box which I was informed had it been 'one point higher' would be 'classed as munitions'.
The wholesaler(eyes gleaming) informing Chef that it would be 'like Beirut over *small market town* once that one goes off' and could he let him know how it went??
Anyway first things first:

Yours truly was in charge of puddings and Petit Threes.
The Pear and chocolate trifle took THREE Days to make.Well,not three entire days,the whole thing was made in stages over the course of three days obvs..
Pear jelly

Which set the pears poached in Calvados perfectly,despite the  copious amount of pear cider I added to the mix..

There was a slight worry concerning fridge space with every available orifice packed to the rafters in preparation for the biggest night of the year.
Chef had the bright idea that we'd pack the trifle glasses back into boxes and stack them up in one of the dessert fridges.
I required 52 trifles,10 diners having opted out and requested ice cream instead.
The glasses came in boxes of six so erring on the side of caution I went ahead and made 54=nine boxes.
I diligently counted and recounted them.
Come the night and with two tables left to go,I noted I was left with only 7 trifles.With a table of seven and a two, my razor sharp mathematical skills alerted me to the shortage...
No I cant be(frantically recounting),I definitely made 54....
There must be some left in the fridge..
There were none.Increasingly panicked I extended my search to further fridges,finally the missing box of trifles being located on the top shelf of the veg fridge.
The Apprentice having moved the box to accommodate his own prep work.(Every Chef will sympathise here,there's a constant kitchen battle for bench/stove/fridge space)
We all breathed a huge sigh of relief.Just the last minute vanilla cream and decoration to pipe onto the required two trifles and we were on the home straight.

I opened the box.
What The Apprentice had failed to mention was at which point in the preparation process he had taken the decision to transfer the box to its alternative location.
Which had in fact been two days prior...
If there's two things fundamental(and non negotiable) to a Pear and Chocolate trifle its pears and chocolate.These six were clearly lacking,in fact completely devoid in the chocolate department,having been rudely shifted following the addition of the vanilla custard(note non use of the term Crème Anglais)layer and prior to the chocolate sauce layer...

Chef was most displeased.
'That's an elementary mistake,not checking and double checking your quantities'
Though on observing my obvious distress and  look of complete devastation quickly countering 'its not the end of the world though...'

There's a code of conduct employed in the catering world on occasions such as this.
If you make a mistake and are lacking in a particular ingredient/component of a dish,what you have to do is make sure that all the dishes on each table look exactly the same.The same applies with glassware, cutlery etc,each complete table must look the same despite perhaps being different to the surrounding tables.
With nine guests to serve and only seven complete trifles it was obvious the two *different* trifles had to be sent to the table of two,hence leaving seven identical creations for the last remaining table,the seven.
Well, that's the theory anyway...
Completed trifles

This is where things went badly wrong.
In my guilt, I decided to compensate the two diners for the lack of a chocolate sauce layer,by being overly liberal with the chocolate squiggles and pear crisps which I'd made to decorate.By the time Id finished with these two they were the Katie Price and Peter Andre(on their wedding day no less...) of the pudding world.Its a good job Chef hadn't brought sparklers back from the wholesalers..
This had the opposite effect of drawing attention to the trifles rather than allowing them to blend in with the ones which had already been served to the other diners.
To compound matters,would you believe the two on the brunt of the pudding fiasco happened to be possibly the only teetotallers out on New Years Eve?
Furthermore,being fully Compos Mentis due to the lack of the benefit of even a whisker of an alcoholic beverage,and being the last but one table to be served,these two had fully enjoyed the opportunity of witnessing the rest of the diners being served with their puds and having ample time to take in the attributes of said pudding in its full glory.
Presently,news filtered back to the kitchen that Hercule Poirot and his missus were holding the offending trifles up to the light,brows furrowed in puzzlement at the lack of a promised (and greatly anticipated) chocolatey saucey indulgent layer.
They sent them back.
As luck would have it, the seven had asked for a brief respite before their puds were served so the seven complete trifles were still lined up and available on the bench.
'Just take two of those' I say despondently.. 'tell them there's been a mistake..'
There was nothing else for it I had to front up to the seven,confess my misdemeanour and offer them a choice of any other puds we had in the fridge.
I cut a sorry figure as I sloped off into the dining room,oven cloth in hand to face my retribution.
Conversely,they opted for the incomplete trifles,the two who were served the sub-standards were later overheard to say 'there's meant to be something missing from these but I cant see what...'

The Petit Threes went off without a hitch.
I cant stand Truffles, they make me want to barf,but I compliantly made 100 of the bleepers for the punters..heavily laden with Grand Marnier..
I always get the shitty jobs..
'You're so impatient' said Chef 'why didn't you wait until it had firmed up,then you wouldn't have been in such a mess??....'
Chef said he could have eaten the Rum and Raisin fudge until he was sick.
I think that's a compliment...
Petit Threes.

Before long it was midnight, fireworks time..
Chef was stationed over at the far side of the green awaiting the shouted 'count down' which in fact served two purposes:

a.To whip the crowd up into a frenzied anticipation of the promised entertaining display and culmination of the evenings festivities..

b.The signal to light the fuse on the first box,thus heralding a spectacular display to welcome the New Year..

This short film begins immediately after the countdown...please be patient..

'I hope its not a damp squib....'

I told you there was more....

Next year its Sticky Toffee Puddings all round and a couple of Catherine Wheels nailed to the fence...



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