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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cosimo's Brick Oven in Middletown - Remodeled

I've been to Cosimo's a few times over the years and most recently celebrated my sister's birthday on a weeknight with a fairly large crowd. Tonight I was meeting a new friend, sort of a ladies first date and through the years, I have discovered this is quite important to not only maintain long friendships with women but to develop new ones. We women are complex creatures and sometimes we simply find comfort or companionship with someone who shares a particular point of view, or is going through a similar chapter in life, or simply because we enjoy their company.  I have firmly shifted my belief from having that one close confidant (or so I thought she was) to expanding my circle and deciding the level of intimacy with each friendship.

About the restaurant, the interior has been reworked and this is a partial view of the result:

We were immediately greeted by a lovely server who we established some light conversation with before ordering two cucumber martinis.  She was young, enthusiastic, and we chatted about her hair color, which led to her revealing a bit of personal information (she changed her appearance as the result of a break-up) and of course, a few changes to the menu to reflect the altered decor.

Cucumber Martini

In today's restaurant world, a wide variety of options is simply necessary to accommodate the general populations gastronomical needs.  My friend requires gluten-free dishes and I quickly discover, this dietary concern can be quite limiting without a bit of willingness to compromise and forego certain dishes.  However, Cosimo's offers a number of choices which require no thought because no gluten is included as well as gluten-free pizza dough and pasta.

Chicken Scarpariello 
The online menu description: Murray's Chicken, Fennel Sausage, Cherry Peppers and Roasted Potatoes.

Pasta Fagioli 
Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup with Ditalini Pasta and Parmigiano (contains pork) - is the online description and answers the vegetarian question...

I ordered both the soup and an appetizer as my meal.  I was asked how I would like my food to come out and opted to just have both when my companion's main course was ready. Thoughtful consideration and foresight of our server.

Two views of the Stuffed Portobello with Gorgonzola Sauce

The mushroom does provide a steak-like feel and heartiness.  The stuffing consists of caramelized shallots, spinach, and tomatoes.  I especially appreciated the sauce on the side to allow me the option to dip or pour and smother.  Wonderful.

We talk of life - a grand topic which includes a peek at our families, an overview of our work, a bit of criss-cross in the area of mutual friends and of course, food.  A lovely meal with fabulous company.

Our server closes the evening by asking if we are teachers.  She gushed that she made her guess based on the way we were dressed - with clothing that was accessorized with jewelry.  Well, we were sorry to disappoint and without revealing too much about ourselves simply generalized our professions as leaning toward creative fields.  I smile inside when I think of her, she appears to be on a path of discovery and trying to figure it all out.  Hope she has some great girlfriends to talk it over with and be Fed Well.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Open Letter to all Restaurants

I go out to eat at least once a week, but on an average I'd say three times per week.  Quick common core math makes that about 150 meals per year (although I know it's more) which include breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  I'm not in my 20's and have been going out to eat for quite some time.  I'm just explaining some of my background before I get to the point.

I understand anyone can have a bad day or night.  I appreciate servers, wait staff, those who clear, set, bartend, cook, prep, host and clean the rest rooms.  I can be empathetic when things don't go as planned.  I allow for the human condition - people have emergencies, get sick or simply do not show up for work.

However, I think it is fair to say, I expect a certain level of service as part of the experience when dining out.  Typically, I imagine the experience to include being greeted, seated at a clean table with appropriate place settings for all guests, presented with menus (at times wine lists, cocktail menus, specials,etc.) and asked if I would like something to drink.  Next, I feel it is common to be brought the beverage and many times this is the point of placing the order.  

Some restaurants may then bring breads, rolls or other complimentary (figured into the meal price) small food item.  If so, I would like a bread plate, please.

The next course may be tricky - could be salad, might be appetizer or soup.  Many variables. However, if it seems the bread basket or plate has taken up most of the space and the diners are struggling to find room for the food being brought out, ask to clear the bread.  Please.

Please do not hand me a hot bowl or plate of food with the hopes that I will find a place for it on the table.

Once this course has been eaten and before the next round of plates are brought out, please clear the dishes.  Again, it is awkward and uncomfortable to be brought more food when the table is already covered with dishes.  

I recently was forced to accept a plate from a server and had my fingers covered in sauce as a result. We were the only diners in the restaurant and when I was able to try my food -  it was cold.

Yes, please check on me.  Please ask if I would like a second beverage or water.  

Please clear all of the dinner plates before asking about dessert.  Please offer tea and coffee to everyone at the table (even if it does not come with the "special").

In return, I will thank you. I will spread the word about your fine restaurant and its great service.  I will recommend it to others, take photos and post all about it on social media.  I will leave a better gratuity.

So, dear owner or manager of a restaurant, please check on your staff.  All of them.  See if they are truly trained and understand or need help or are overwhelmed.  Your business is in their hands.