Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waiters Who Won’t Write

waiter writing down an order
Call me old school, but when a server comes up to the table and asks me if I am ready to order, I want to see a pen and paper in his hand. I find it very unsettling to see someone standing there just staring at me, memorizing (or not memorizing) my order. It seems that “paper free” ordering is a growing trend in restaurants these days and I don’t get it. Is this yet another effort to “go green”, or are we supposed to be impressed at their skill? I mean, if a waiter is such a master of memorization then why doesn’t he memorize a text book on rocket science and go work at NASA? When they don’t write an order down, there is always a lingering worry in the back of my mind that the order is going to come out wrong. Granted, errors occur even when the order is written down, but in these instances the waiter can blame the “kitchen”. If they don’t write it down, I’m placing the blame on the order taker. Some restaurants are even more advanced and use hand held, palmsized computers which eliminate the need to write down the order and enter later in a register. These devices send the orders immediately from table to kitchen. Not only does this eliminate errors, but it cuts down on wait time caused by the multitude of interruptions that could occur from the time you place your order until the time the server can get it entered in a register. Wow, I’d like to see more of these!

I discussed this topic recently with several friends and found that opinions are split down the middle. I decided to go straight to the source and find out what the masses think. As with everything else, this led me to Google, which in turn led me to a great article from this month’s Orlando Magazine 17 Service Slip-Ups That Can Ruin a Meal. He concurs with the need for written documentation of orders. Do you? Let me know!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Enrico's Ristorante, Norfolk, VA

After an evening of entertaining my grandmother, Nikki and I decided on Enrico's Ristorante. We have been in the past, but it was a good while ago. Enrico's has the traditional Italian and Greek selections and while I am slightly fearful of ordering something for $25 in a place I do not know that well, I am very comfortable ordering a traditional pasta dish. We started with the Spanakopita and the Keftedes (Greek meatballs made with lamb) served with a feta-dill-cucumber dip. The Spanakopita was a little dry but the Keftedes were phenomenal.

For my entree, I opted for the spinach and cheese ravioli in a roasted tomato sauce and Nikki ordered the lasagna. Both were very good and we were happy. Enrico's did have crab cakes, scallops and some other items on special, but I think Enrico's is a good place to order pasta. As for atmosphere, it is not as casual as say, A.W. Shucks, but it is not fancy either. In the middle (with cloth napkins - always a plus!) and while it was not packed on a Friday night at 9:15, there was a few tables of lively people. Prices are reasonable and our server was very pleasant and things moved along at the right speed. Enrico's is also in the Entertainment Book, so if you are unsure, you can go for the buy one, get one free for your first visit.

Enrico's serves lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturdays and is located at 4012 Colley Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23508.


Red Sky Cafe, Duck, NC

Red Sky Cafe Logo Duck Restaurant
The Outer Banks is full of BAD food. The beach road and bypass are lined with mediocre restaurants that I am determined prey upon unknowing least I am hoping. Either that or there are a lot of people that do not care about or know good food. I am there frequently throughout the spring, summer and fall and I have been running Blue Point Grill and Colington Cafe into the ground the last few years. A friend told Nikki that her favorite OBX restaurant was the Red Sky Cafe, so we thought two things, we need a change in a big way and this was an approved referral source. Off we went.

Upon arriving, we both got pretty nervous pretty quickly. The restaurant itself is a little dark and reminded me of a diner though it was not a true diner set up. We both feared we were walking into one of 'those' OBX restaurants that I described at the beginning. But we were there and figured we should push through our anxieties. The first calming force was the Asiago Artichoke Dip and bread. Amazing! The dip was asiago cheese melted (maybe with a little sour cream or something) and then topped with fresh, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, red onion and I believe a little jalapeno. What a spread. I noticed on the menu that they charge $5 for any dip and bread after the first serving. I can see why, people would wipe them out otherwise. Very quickly, our appetizer, the Thai Pork Spring Roll, arrived. Another winner. The roll was very tasty and was served with a soba noodle and seaweed salad mixture. We had barely finished the Thai roll and our entrees arrived. We were both astounded. I have never had a meal move this quickly. My choice, the Sesame Lacquered Salmon, was okay. It more more Teriyaki than orange-glaze (and yes they could be considered in the same family of flavors, I suppose) and I am not a huge fan of Teriyaki. My mistake. The side vegetables were steamed and could have had more flavor but the the mashed potatoes were very creamy...that was my favorite part of my meal and I am not a mashed potato-addict.

Nikki fared much better. Her Chardonnay Shrimp and Pasta was fantastic. Shrimp, mushrooms, peppers and onions and the Chardonnay sauce was not as heavy as an Alfredo but very creamy and full of flavor. The winner of the entree course. Lastly, I had spotted the dessert tray and had to know what some of those decadent things were. There were about ten choices, including three or four types of cheesecake, some kind of cookie pie and a host of others. I had my sights set on the three layer devil's food cake with white-Hershey icing. A good choice to ease my entree disappointment. The one kicker, we arrived at 6:50pm and were in the car by 7:48pm. We knew the food came out quickly, but there was almost no break between courses to relax. I think we might have just missed the early bird rush and just beat the dinner surge. Prices are standard for a good meal.

Pay a little more and get something good rather than going to one of 'those' restaurants and getting a frozen patty burger and terrible fried seafood. Run far and fast from the 'everything is better fried' types of places and any restaurant that has an 'All U Can Eat' sign. The Drunk Taxi driver (there are a few services that will cab you to and from bars and restaurants) told Nikki there is a place down the road from our house that serves things with 'all of those French sauces'. What? I guess he did not recognize her for the gourmet cook she is and she that not only had she heard of 'all of those French sauces' but she can make them as well. Crazy!

I will definitely journey to Red Sky Cafe again, but will choose a different entree. They have a wide variety of dishes, so I am sure I will find something to fit my pallet. I do suggest making a reservation. This prevents a long wait at most of the nicer restaurants on the Outer Banks. Red Sky Cafe Exterior Duck Restaurant

Red Sky Cafe is open for lunch and dinner daily and is located at 1197 Duck Road, Duck, North Carolina 27949. For reservations, call (252) 261-8646.


Red Sky Cafe on Urbanspoon

Colington Cafe, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Colington Cafe Kill Devil Hills Restaurant Exterior
Driving on Colington Road, you will come to a turn where there is a pretty little white house, lights illuminated inside and in the garden. When you see that, you have arrived at Colington Cafe. The restaurant is small but very charming. I am not a fan or frilly knick-knacks, but these decorations do not seem to bother me at Colington, probably because the food and service are both very good.

From the appetizer course, I have had the hot crab dip, which is served with toast points, the grilled shrimp, the She-Crab bisque and the salad composee, which has pears, blue cheese and candied pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette over mesclun greens. I enjoyed all except the crab dip. It was strong, a little crabby', but the grilled shrimp were outstanding and I often choose that appetizer. If salmon is the fish du jour, I typically order it and have always been please. I have ordered grouper as well and that came with an artichoke and sun-dried tomato bread pudding. Often, bread pudding is associated with dessert, but a different twist and it was extraordinary. I hope to see it again soon in my dining adventures. The one peculiarity is that Colington does not have a broiler. A restaurant without a broiler? The point, the crab cakes only come fried. I tried them and was not excited about it. I probably will not order those again unless a broiler is put on the capital expense list. Nikki ordered the pasta primavera one visit and that was exceptional. Fresh, light and very flavorful. Another popular item is the Le Grand Trio, grilled Filet Mignon, grilled shrimp and jumbo lump crab meat served with Bearnaise. Variety and a lot of taste. There are quite a few choices, so you will certainly find something to satisfy your taste buds. Colington has an enticing desert selection, Toll House cookie pie, cheesecake, seasonal fruit cobbler, cheesecake, key lime pie, triple chocolate cake and a few others. I have had an array of the desserts and have always been pleased. I suggest a reservation at Colington as well.
Colington Cafe Kill Devil Hills Restaurant Sign

Colington Cafe serves dinner daily and is located at 1029 Colington Road, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. The restaurant does close for three months in the winter, January through March. For reservations, call (252)480-1123.

Colington Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Blue Point, Duck, NC

The Blue Point Interior, Duck Resturant
I love Blue Point. My first meal there was almost 20 years ago, if that says anything. The food, the location, everything. The restaurant overlooks the sound and during the summer, a reservation around 7:30-8 gives you a beautiful view of the water and setting sun. The bar stools are retro and red and the floor is large black and white tile. I think the atmosphere is warm, inviting but still elegant. You know you are going to have a good meal!

I have had quite a few of Blue Point's offerings. Any soup I have had has been wonderful. In the winter, you will see things like an acorn squash or lobster bisque and in the summer, you will see a Gazpacho or cold potato-leek selection. The lunch menu has meatloaf with chili sauce and mashed potatoes and this is some of the best meatloaf I have had. I promise. I have also had a chicken tostada during lunch which was also excellent. Pulled chicken, black beans, green peppers, avocado and pepper jack cheese.

Blue Point recently changed their menu for their 20-year anniversary. I have only been once since the change but was please. I selected the pan seared Scottish salmon. Their fish is always cooked to perfection and the accompaniments are expertly matched. I plan on trying the crab cakes the next time. As many times as I have been there, I have not tried them yet. Other crowd pleasers are the jambalaya, the cornmeal fried catfish and the specials. Tuna, often served with spinach or another green, and a tomato sauce is a frequent addition to the menu and has always been a hit. The one portion of the menu I am not sold on is the dessert selection. Key lime pie, pecan pie, cobbler and a dark chocolate selection. I tried the cobbler once and one of the ingredients was rhubarb, one of my least favorite things. My fault, I should have read beyond blueberry and peach cobbler. Rhubarb is strong and to me, overtakes a dish. There are quite a few ice cream places and of course, a Coldstone Creamery and a Dairy Queen, so I always know I have other choices. The Blue Point Exterior, Duck Resturant

The Blue Point is located at 1240 Duck Road, Duck, North Carolina 27949 and serves lunch and dinner daily. (252)261-8090


The Blue Point on Urbanspoon