The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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Page 10 of 92

{ editor's notebook } FOR SOMMELIERS AND OTHER FRONT-OF-THE-HOUSE staff, putting yourself in your guests' place can be an enlightening experience. And this can't be too difficult, since most restaurant service personnel also like to dine out. Consider this situation: You're in a "fine dining" restaurant where pouring your own wine is frowned upon. You order an expensive bottle and, when it is first served, one of your guests asks the waiter to pour just a small taste. Not much later, the server comes by and tops up all the glasses. The guest who wanted just a small taste gets a full glass which, at the end of the meal, is still full and left sitting on the table. You just spent well over $100 on a special bottle of wine and, unless you make an ugly scene and grab the undrunk glass, you are watching $25 worth of your selection get poured down the drain (or into the mouth of a bus- boy eager to learn the merits of Vosne-Romanée). If the server had been sensitive to who is drinking wine and who isn't—if the server had understood that some guests drink more wine than others—then this wouldn't have happened. Pouring out equal amounts of wine throughout the dinner is usually not the best way to go. It wouldn't hurt to ask each diner whether they want more wine, before dumping out the bottle into their glasses. Of course, there are servers who pour out as much wine as they can in hopes of getting the table to order another bottle, but that behavior is often transparent (as it also is with $10-per-bottle mineral waters) and can have the opposite effect—a smaller tip. Being perceptive and sensitive enough to understand these nuances of service can be the difference between giving your guests a good experience and a truly memorable one. A four-top is not just four people with identical appetites and tastes; it is four individuals, each with likes and dislikes that may be conflicting. That's why most restaurant menus offer a wide and diverse choice of items and most wine lists have over a hundred selections. The accomplished server can usually, in the course of the ordering process, get a fairly accurate read on the individuals in each party. Which diner is a vegan, a vegetarian, a dieter, has a food allergy, is left-handed, is glucose intolerant, doesn't eat gluten, doesn't drink wine, doesn't eat bread, likes sparkling water, is paying the check. This is intelligence that informs the service experience and can determine the success or failure of the meal. And it can impact the size of the tip. —Anthony Dias Blue At 24th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, there is a large, bustling Italian marketplace that brings Italy to vibrant life. This sensory explosion is called Eataly, and it has an unparalleled place in my heart. Oscar Farinetti, the founder and intelligence behind Eataly, aided by Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and others, has now evolved the bazaar into a book. Titled How to Eataly: A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food (Rizzoli, $35), the book offers a primer on Italian ingredients, how to buy them, prepare them and eat them. Imaginative, savory ideas fill the pages along with gor- geous photography. Dishes such as the croxetti pasta with pesto and grilled polenta with mushroom ragù bring Italy's culture and bounty alive. The zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta and anchovies are lovely, and the salt-crusted branzino is phenomenal. The book reveals the beautiful nuances of Italian cuisine in simple, easy-to-follow narration. From pasta-making techniques to everything you need to know about salumi, How to Eataly is transcendental. Another gem in the Big Apple: Delancey Street. In the early 20th century, Delancey Street became the center of the Jewish community. Inevitably, the food scene bour- geoned and, to this day, the Lower East Side is recognized as home to the greatest assem- blage of Jewish food in North America. Paying homage to Delancey's culturally rich beginnings and charming present day are Jordan Schaps and Aaron Rezny in their exquisite book Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food (powerHouse Books, $35). In it, these guys, both photographers, showcase the charm, humble traditions and humor of Delancey Street. Their book is rich with stories that date back to early history and jokes that will make you chuckle. The classic recipes and stunning photography are comple- mented by reminiscences from yentas, bubbies and various celebrities. A culinary treasure. Argentinean grill master Francis Mallman is making outdoor, wood-fired grilling stylish year 'round with his new book Mallmann on Fire (Artisan, $40). Coming off his wildly successful introduction to the art of grill- ing, Seven Fires, Mallman offers 100 more recipes that celebrate the flavors of fire out in the open air. The main focus of this book is a visually evocative depiction of Mallman's philosophy that food is best when it is grilled out of doors. An amazing array of colorful photographs detail his travels around the world with his portable chapa skillet. His completed recipes are set to the backdrops of New York, Paris, Uruguay, Brazil, Patagonia—and more. COOKBOOK CORNER Of Topping and Tipping 10 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015

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