A Second Helping

On a whim, my wife and I returned to Da Luciano’s, an Italian restaurant in River Grove that caters to the gluten free. Our first visit, back in 2011, was quite enjoyable for both food and atmosphere, and I’ve been promoting the place ever since. This time, the entrees were even better. Cathy had a Pasta Amalfi with mussels and arugula. The arugula perfectly complemented the seafood. I had the Pollo Rosmarino, a chicken and potatoes dish with peppers and spinach, topped with a generously spiced garlic and rosemary olive oil sauce.The house italian gluten free bread has great flavor, but a slightly more biscuity texture. Eating it while it’s hot is best, as is often the case with gluten free breads. Service was adequate and could benefit from better training, but it’s on par with most “mom&pop” eateries. Salads were included and pretty standard. House Montepulciano was tasty but served too warm for my tastes.Overall, I still recommend this place to all my gluten free friends and Cooper’s Hawk guests for an authentic italian experience. Even if you’re not gluten free, they are worth the trip. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Pasta Amalfi

Gluten Free Pasta Amalfi

Joy in the Journey

Many times, I watch insightful videos or read articles about some successful artist’s approach or technique. Whether it be in visual arts, storytelling, or any other creative endeavor. Sometimes I hear something I’ve not heard before, sometimes, there’s a glimmer of new information I may be able to apply to my own efforts. What is often missing from these insights is the quintessential reason artists “arrive” and become successful. Because there is no one reason. Every artist’s journey is unique. There is no one thing that leads to success. Some may say it’s creativity, or drive, or determination, or follow-through, or luck. It’s all of those and none of those.

For every artist who’s made it, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who are still trying every day to survive, and even better, thrive, on their passion. All of them continue the journey from various stages, yet may never achieve the goal, they may never “arrive”. For them, I have to ask, “Are you happy in the journey?” I’m not saying we should be content to never succeed. I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep trying. I’m wondering, are we happy in the effort? Do we find joy in the journey? Can we live our life, fulfilled, knowing we may not have achieved the destination we set out for in the beginning? If only the destination brings happiness, and not the way we get there, are we on the right path? I say, don’t just find happiness in “making it”, find joy in the journey.

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days…

This article is fascinating and worth a full read. Here’s my favorite quote. “It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other (italics his).”

So check it out and be careful what you “like” because it might not be what you love. Enjoy!

via I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | Gadget Lab | WIRED.

Servers Not Servants: 31 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew

Servers Not Servants: 31 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew.

This article starts out with a great premise, and then gets muddled rather quickly. Here’s a quick summary of my feelings and observations on each point.

1. Absolutely. At Cooper’s Hawk, we run very small stations of three to four tables at dinner. There’s a very concerted effort to balance tables across the staff. Picky seaters can impact this considerably, especially when they make assumptions like, “Can we sit somewhere quieter?”, to which I always want to respond, “By the time your dinner comes, there won’t be anyplace quieter.”

2. If you must interrupt, acknowledge it and explain yourself. Every restaurant is different. Some have to present concepts that need clarifying. I get so many repeat customers who still don’t know Cooper’s Hawk only serves its own wine, in spite of the fact that we tell every new guest this fact.

3. Contradictory to the last point, but yes, we do our best to accommodate rush orders.

4. This is about recognizing that as much as we want you to feel like the most important guests in the dining room, we want all our guests to feel that way. The truth is, we have to balance our time as fairly as possible and making your server stand there uselessly is the reason they don’t come around as often as you’d like, because you took that time from somewhere.

5. Be thorough when you order, including any and all allergies!  We can only make you as happy with your meal as you communicate to us.

6. Eye contact is important, unless you’re looking at the menu. Even so, if we clarify by repeating your choice, be sure you’ve heard what you said.

7. This is true of any dish that has choices. If you don’t know, it’s best to let everyone order for themselves.

8. This point is very circumstantial. This usually only happens with younger staff waiting on younger guests.

9. Any establishment worth its salt will fix whatever is wrong to the best of their ability. Speak up. This goes hand in hand with number five.

10. Substitutions are important to allow for allergies or personal preferences. I think some people get carried away, but some people also don’t get to pick the restaurant so this is a circumstantial point.

11. Some local places don’t have the same deals as national chains, and some chains don’t have the flexibility of local places. Best to know before you go if your deal/coupon/reward/discount is valid or the store has a reputation for flexibility.

12. Hold the server responsible for the service, and the kitchen responsible for the goods. If you don’t like the goods, take that up with management. It shouldn’t impact the gratuity, which you pay for the service. Keep them separate.

13. Be reasonable. Quality takes time. Preferences take time. This goes back to several previous points.

14. Most people know better. Most establishments don’t encourage this environment. Respect is still the point here.

15. There are rude people. There are rude servers. This goes both ways.

16. This one is huge. Simply put, restaurants are not child-proof. We break a lot of those lovely wine glasses people prize for drinking wine. We can’t find all the little pieces. Barefoot babies may end up helping us. You have been warned.

17. The big time consumers here are wrapping food and splitting checks. Unless you’re in a restaurant with one table and one server, sometimes you’ll have to wait for us to take care of others.

18. This is where we start to get to points that should be obvious.

19. I would say this doesn’t happen, but it can when people ask why the low-cal option is the same price if there’s less of it, or why the prices changed with the new menu. We have no control. Honest.

20. Most people get this nowadays. Often, I find people are more surprised to learn what they can get for free, like soft drink refills. That’s not just a McDonald’s thing anymore. I even give free coffee refills to people who bought a cappuccino, and we don’t charge to switch up refillable drinks.

21. Splitting checks is easy these days. However, it will add to the time it takes to process your payments. Keep that in mind. The more splits or the more complicated splits will increase that time.

22. Sometimes we’re paid more, but never minimum wage.

23. Redundant.

24. This varies from place to place.

25. Not necessary, but always remember, cash is king.

26. Does this really need to be said?

27. “Probably” is a strong word here. Career or not, it may be the job right now, and one we are counting on to live. There are always some exceptions, but unless the service is poor, don’t assume we don’t need the money.

28. Absolutely. It’s all relative to party size, too. I expect a couple to come and go in an hour or so, a foursome in an hour and a half, and larger parties, two hours. If you need the table longer, pay your server a little more to make up for the lost business. I jokingly call it the occupancy tax. This is any night, not just Friday or Saturday. Even when a restaurant seems slow, your server may not be able to take any more tables because you’re in the one you have.

29. It’s okay to come in late. It’s okay to stay late. As long as you show your appreciation to the server.

30. It don’t hurt none, that’s for sure.

31. We are there to provide a specific type of service, and not just cater to every whim. The point here is to keep your needs on topic and your server will stay honest. It’s sad how many times a day I have to lie to guests to keep them happy, because they ask things of me that I just can’t provide.

That about sums up my thoughts on this article. More and more, these kinds of articles are making the rounds on the web. Which says something about how much room there still is for improvement in the server/guest relationship. Hopefully, my son will grow up in a world where these articles are a thing of the past. If not, I hope I do a good enough job preparing him for not letting the bad times ruin the good. Enjoy!

The Food Lab’s Complete Guide To Pan-Seared Steaks

The Food Lab’s Complete Guide To Pan-Seared Steaks | Serious Eats.

Another great article on cooking steak. I haven’t really tried cooking steaks much in the past, because the likelihood I would ruin an expensive cut of meat meant my risk/reward ratio was poor. Armed with this new information, I have confidence I could provide such lovely victuals for special occasions in the future. Enjoy!

It’s been awhile…

Often, lately, I’ve taken to using the excuse, “newborn brain” to explain my distractions and forgetfulness. It’s a pretty good one, all things considering. As a result of the changes in routine since the arrival of my firstborn son on April 29th, I just haven’t had as much time to sit down and post. So here’s a quick recap of things that don’t need their own posts.

1. The August Chef’s Recommendation at Cooper’s Hawk, 2 5oz bone-in filet medallions, is some of the best beef I’ve had there to date. The beef was as tender and juicy as anything I could hope for without slow cooking. It’s only available for a limited time so hurry in to try it.

2. Tripp has started to show interest in what I’m eating when I eat in front of him. Won’t be long before he begins his lifelong relationship with food. Still hoping he’s not a picky eater.

3. I’m about fifty pages into Karen McNeill’s The Wine Bible. I’ve only got 800 pages to go! I’ve learned a lot already about wine basics, and had some things clarified for me that I knew before but not as thoroughly. For example, only about 0.4 to 0.8% of the population, mostly severe asthmatics,  are truly allergic to sulfites. According to research by allergists, there’s no link to sulfites and headaches. Sulfites are also found in beer, cocktail mixes, cookies, crackers, pizza crust, flour tortillas, pickles, relishes, salad dressings, olives, vinegar, sugar, shrimp, scallops, dried fruit, and fruit juice, among other foods and beverages.

So that’s all the latest updates. I’ve got another recipe to post, another service-related article to review, and more truths to expand upon. Hope I get to them soon. Enjoy!