Archive for the tag “servers”

Superior Service & Delicious Dining at Urban Farmer, Cleveland, OH

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited my family in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. As is our routine, my brother chose a few restaurants for me to pick from. Our family always enjoys a meal out when I visit. Lately, we’ve been trying to head into the city to try some new places (new to our family, anyhow).

This time, one of the restaurants on Adam’s list was Urban Farmer Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland. It only took me seeing that this is a farm-to-table concept restaurant to decide it was the one I was voting to check out. (You probably know of my love for farm-to-table, and specifically Braise here in Milwaukee.)

Urban Farmer

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We entered the rustic, yet elegant restaurant, adjacent to the Westin Hotel, and sat down in a cozy rounded booth. We were greeted by our server, Ashley. Now, I’m just going to say this right now: Ashley is quite possibly the most knowledgeable and impressive servers I have ever encountered. Absolutely top-notch. More on that later.

Ashley walked us through the concept described above – two kitchens (one for cooking, and one with a butchery and bakery), a below-level garden which supplies most of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant, the relationships with local farms, etc. Then, she walked us through the different cuts of meat, the differences in how the cattle were raised and the impact of their diets on the flavors of the steaks, and the differences in how they are aged to affect tenderness and flavor. Ashley didn’t require any cheat sheets, and she made everyone feel comfortable (and impressed!). On top of her knowledge, she wasn’t the least bit stuffy or dry; she let her sense of humor come through as she inserted jokes and color commentary during her descriptions (“don’t mess with my meat” – she doesn’t believe in sauces or toppings).

When I gave her my card and advised her that she would be choosing my meal, she asked “seriously?”. Yes. “Okay, I know what I’m serving you!” – without hesitation. These are the types of meals I get really excited about because I know the server is going to choose really well.

We opted to get a few side dishes, which Ashley recommended sharing between two or three people. Ashley chose mine as well.

As it turns, out my entire dinner was shared. By far the best entree at our table; the vote was unanimous. That being said, everyone was very pleased with his/her meals.

So, what did Ashley choose, you ask? Wait no longer…

We started off with fresh baked bread (rolls and ah-mazing cast-iron cooked cornbread) and salted butter (which makes all the difference, in my opinion!). Ashley chose the special salad for me: yellow watermelon over Burrata and topped with olives, tomatoes, balsamic and served with two slices of prosciutto. It was light and flavorful – a nice change up to one of my other favorite watermelon salads (watermelon with goat cheese, balsamic and greens and herbs). We were off to a great start!

Next came the entree and side dish.

Wanting to share her favorite with me, Ashley chose the 14 ounce (FOURTEEN OUNCE!!) twenty-one day dry aged bone-in strip steak. It was perfection! Luckily, everyone at the table wanted to try this cut, so I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed or as though I’d have to try to finish it on my own. The plate was clean by the end of the meal though! The steak was really tender and had terrific flavor. It’s a spoiler for any other cut moving forward.

Ashley chose to bring foraged mushrooms as the side. A very nice compliment to the steak, and enough to feed at least four people! At the table we also ordered: potato puree (though my brother wouldn’t share!), asparagus (with cured farm egg yolk and chili), and twice-baked fingerling potato tart with bacon and aged cheddar. Everything was delicious!

Pro tip: you won’t go home hungry from Urban Farmer Steakhouse. Bring an appetite! 

Ashley asked if she should choose a dessert for me. Where to put it?!? Ultimately, since there was a gluten-free option for my brother and my uncle, my parents and I decided to share whatever Ashley decided to bring so we would all enjoy a bit of decadence.

My brother and uncle tried the lemon olive oil cake with kale ice cream (it’s much better than it sounds!), and pepper crisps.

If I were choosing my own, I’d have either gone for the lemon cake or the strawberry rhubarb cobbler with pistachio, buttermilk frozen yogurt and basil, because I generally like citrus or fruit desserts more than chocolate (but, not always!).

However, I was in the most capable hands, and I knew it! Ashley chose the butterscotch sundae with a warm brown butter blondie and toffee chip ice cream. AKA: heaven in a jar!

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Butterscotch sundae with warm brown butter blondie and toffee ice cream

My parents and I kept passing this jar around, taking one delicious bite at a time. The brownie and ice cream were melting into each other, combining incredible flavors together.

While we all walked out of Urban Farmer Steakhouse absolutely full, we walked out feeling like we had just had one of the best meals in a long time. And, we all agreed that Ashley set the bar for outstanding service! In fact, my uncle made it a point to seek her out so he could inform her that she was so impressive that she truly did elevate our experience that evening.

I definitely recommend a visit to Urban Farmer Steakhouse if you’re in Cleveland. I’d love to go back and take a tour of the kitchens and garden  (if the management allows it). Of course, I’d have to stay for dinner again! 🙂

What is your most memorable dining experience? Where were you? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ker

The Lazy Blogger – Dinner at The Lazy Goat, Greenville, SC

I have not been making time to write my blog, and I’ve regretted not doing so. This is a form of therapy, and I do get feedback from readers that they enjoy the “She Ordered What?” concept. In some cases, I get feedback on the restaurants featured, the meals delivered, or suggestions on new places to visit.

I’m glad to be back!

Back in April, I made a visit to one of my favorite places, Greenville, SC, with some of my favorite colleagues. Two of my closest friends at work in the Midwest and I flew in early to have dinner at The Lazy Goat with two of the best people at our manufacturing plant in G’ville. Aside from really important business discussion, we had extraordinary small plates, a few cocktails, and lots of laughs!

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If I recall, and this was the first of a few cocktails, four months ago, this was the St. Germaine Cocktail.

To boot, we were overlooking the river, so the scenery was fantastic too.

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I love that our plant manager, Jamie, “orders” like I do. He encouraged our server to bring us dishes until we determined we were full. No plan, per se. “He Ordered What?”

 

Here’s what we were served!

 

As you can see, the food was full of flavor, influenced by Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, French, African and Middle Eastern recipes.

The Lazy Goat encourages diners to share plates, slow-down (it’s Southern, y’all), and take in the flavors. And, we did!

We shared a few desserts to end the dinner.

To sum it up, The Lazy Goat was a great spot for business and casual discussion, trying many new dishes, enjoying a lovely atmosphere, appreciating very good service, and even better company!

Being that I love Greenville so much (it’s my dream retirement spot!), I’m sure I’ll be back, and The Lazy Goat will be on my list of places to visit again.

To my Clemson followers, and everyone else, have you been? Was your experience as fun as mine was?

Cheers!
Ker

 

Eccezionale! Trevini Ristorante, Palm Beach, FL

Earlier this month, I was at a trade conference with two of my favorite travel companions (they’d better be since we spend an extraordinary amount of time on the road together!).

We tend to get silly together as well. 🙂

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We snuck away from our stay at the Breakers one evening to try a local Italian restaurant, Trevini Ristorante. Since one of my colleagues is old-school authentic south-side Chicago Italian, I suspected her choice would be a good one!

We made the short drive over to Trevini Ristorante and decided to sit on the quaint patio out front. The service was on-point, very upbeat, polite, and attentive. Gonzo, our server, shared the specials and delivered our beverages. We all perused the menu, and decided Avette had made a very good choice! When he returned to take our orders, Avette ordered Ossobucco Alla Milanese, Risotto Carnaroli Al Zafferano (braised petite veal ossobuco, and carnaroli saffron risotto) and Tyler ordered Tagliolini Al Limone, Granchio, Fave, Bottarga (tagliolini with lemon, crab meat, touch of cream, fava beans, and bottarga). I simply handed him my card, as is standard practice. He promptly advised that he was going to give the card to the chef and that chef would choose my meal! Our table let out a collective giggle as it seemed that Gonzo was both on-board, but a little hesitant.

When the meals were served, I was delivered the Scaloppine Di Vitello Valdostana (Veal Scaloppine Topped With Prosciutto and Fontina, Sage, Chardonnay Sauce, and Steamed Spinach). Though it looks like a lot of food, it was thin and light, yet full of flavor! Gonzo also advised that the chef really enjoyed reading the card and choosing my meal.

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We all finished all of our meals and collectively agreed that we would absolutely NOT pass on dessert here – and we were going to share! I knew that I wanted an authentic Tiramisu (coffee dipped lady fingers, mascarpone cream). Tyler wanted chocolate on chocolate so  he ordered the Salame al Cioccolato (chocolate, biscotti salame, and caramel ice cream), and Avette had her heart set on Crema Catalana (Creme Brulee).

Unfortunately, we were informed that the restaurant was out of Crema Catalana. Huge “boos” all around! Avette decided to go with the Torta di Ricotta (cheesecake with strawberry sauce) as “Plan B”.

The Tiramisu and ice cream were fantastic! The cheesecake was a bit dry and dense for my taste, but I’m certain others prefer that style to a creamier cheesecake. And, as we were a few bites into our desserts, the manager, George, delivered a Crema Catalana anyhow! It turns out the pastry chef wanted it to set a bit longer, but it was close enough to ready that George decided to buy one for our table. A lovely and unexpected gesture. And, it was delicious! “Hoorays” all around!

We didn’t leave much on the table, and our bellies were comfortably full.  Though I don’t have any specific plans to return to Palm Beach soon, if I do return, I will most assuredly dine at Trevini Ristorante again.

What are your favorite resort dining experiences?

Cheers!

Ker

 

Guest post: The Tipping Point: The Art and Science of Tipping

I’m very grateful to Richard Bracke for reaching out to me via email and asking if I’d be willing to have him guest post.  He admitted to being a fan of this blog, and thought he could provide a different, yet related, point of view.  His idea was to write a post on the art and science of tipping.

I’m sure many of you have stressed over the proper tip at one point or another; I know I have!  Richard provides good information in his post below.

First, here’s a little information on Richard.  An avid writer, father, and foodie, Richard Bracke loves to try out new restaurants in Charlotte, and especially enjoys Spanish tapas accompanied by a nice Catalonian Cava.  He currently blogs for the website, EZ Cater.

Richard’s “tips” (pun intended, folks!)

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You’ve just finished a great meal and the waiter has returned with your bill and card. You pick up the pen and start to scratch an amount on the dotted line with the precursor, “tip”. But you pause, “what’s the right amount?” you question. “Twice the first number minus one? Times the whole amount by 0.2? Round up to the nearest whole number?”

Image courtesy of:  http://earthsky.org/space/making-sense-of-misconceptions

If this sounds familiar, keep reading!

It’s obvious to say that the topic of tipping has long been a source of contention amongst families, friends, and wait staff everywhere. The origins of the act itself seem to be just as ambiguous as the process.  The term “to tip” appears to have started in the 18th century as a way for patrons of an establishment to encourage better service and quality of their goods.

So while the general consensus of tipping is a little subjective, there are a few things to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in the position to give a tip. The first is a generational gap. Depending on which generation you come from, your preconceived ideas about how much to tip may vary.

While the industry standard in previous eras has been anywhere from 5% to 10%, the current accepted amount is about 15-20%.  Why the change?  Well that takes a little math. 

The average server generally makes a much lower per hour wage than the minimum wage (which varies by location).  Restaurants typically pay the wait staff at a reduced hourly wage because the money they take home in tips off-sets the state’s minimum wage rate.  On any given night, a server could have anywhere from three to ten tables, sometimes more, sometimes less all depending on the volume of the restaurant. Assume each bill was about $60 dollars; this is what their income for that evening would look like.

 As you can see the slight increase from 10% to 20% makes a huge difference in the nightly totals a waiter or waitress brings in. Literally that extra 10% could mean the difference between making rent, and not making rent. It’s also important to note that any problems you had with the preparation or taste of your food should not be translated to your server’s tip, they are simply the conduit, not the source. Be sure to voice your concerns with the wait staff so they can let the cooks and kitchen know, but don’t let your distaste with the food affect your server’s tip!

The choice of how much to tip in any situation is of course up to you, the patron. If your wait service was less than stellar you should, of course, vary your tip accordingly. While, giving a bit extra in the tip shows you really appreciated the great service, and gives the employee an incentive to keep up the good work!

In closing, I suppose the important thing to remember here is that we’ve all had a day where we weren’t at our best, so regardless of whether a good tip was “earned” or not there is one thing you should always remember, a little generosity goes a long way in making someone else’s day! And really, it’s always better to err on the side of more, rather than too little.

So even if the accepted amount is 20% leaving 25% is always acceptable too!  🙂

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Thank you, Richard, for sharing your thoughts on tipping wait staff.  It is indeed a critical part of the dining experience, IMO! I’d love to hear readers’ points of view.  Please comment if you feel strongly about tipping or if you have a method of your own.

Cheers!

Ker

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