Sun 11 Feb 2007
A restaurant much like the ones you patronize.
The waiter comes to the table, hands out menus, takes drink orders and so on, and then announces that he will recite the roster of specials, the dishes that the chef — or as the chef is known in the restaurant, “Chef” — has created especially for your enjoyment this evening.
A bit of throat-clearing, and he begins:
“First Chef has prepared an appetizer of pan-roasted day-boat scallops on a bed of fresh micro-greens and cucumber coulis with a, um, a, uh, black cherry-wasabi vinaigrette. Another special appetizer features seared organic foie gras with, with, um, a Granny Smith apple-port wine reduction and, uh, gosh, what was, oh, right, caramelized Szechuan pepper-corns. The entree special is, uh, let’s see, um, o.k., got it, whew, ha, the entree special is a fennel-and-violet-encrusted Chilean sea bass with, um, yes, basil-buttermilk smashed Yukon Gold potatoes and, well, damnit! I mean I thought I had this down pat, I mean, I swear, an hour ago I was rattling this shit off like one-two-three, it’s with, wait, wait, ah, baby asparagus and a Meyer lemon-Savennieres demi-glace! Yes, I did it! Yes, I said, Yes, I will, Yes!”
Let’s call a moratorium on this sort of command performance, which demands that waiters memorize long lists of special items, requires diners to sit patiently as the recitation winds on, and then we still have to ask what the details are since we can’t remember them: “What was the sauce with that elk again?”
Chefs cannot, I suppose, help wanting to break out of the strictures of the menu and show off their talents for inspiration and spontaneity, but the burden on the waiters who have to recite the specials for diners sometimes seems unbearable. I have often seen waiters tuck crib-sheets inside their order books and glance surreptitiously at the list, but they always seem embarrassed if we catch them peeking, as if they have failed in some way.
I say, go ahead, print the specials on a card and let waiters read them, especially at restaurants where the specials seem to go on and on and we gradually dissolve in a haze of boredom and forgetfulness.
Better yet, print specials on cards and insert them in menus or have waiters pass them out so we can read them for ourselves.
That’s why computers and printers were invented.