As our world gets more and more interconnected- especially electronically so- more and more, I yearn for days gone by, when there weren’t eleven thousand ways to be contacted, rated, beleaguered and bashed by the general public. When I started working in restaurants, reservations were still written by hand in huge books, and hosts and managers juggled tables in their heads like Elizabeth Harmon. If people had a bad experience, they’d either say something about it to a manager then and there, in person, when a manager could actually still rectify the problem, and if they were worth their salt, they would.
If they weren’t, or the guest was particularly disappointed, they’d bellyache to their friends and family, tell the story two or three times, and move on. Now there’s the internet. An unhappy camper posts a review on Yelp, or TripAdvisor, or Google, or (rarely,) they send an angry email to me, and even though I checked with them at the table to ask how dinner was and they politely nodded and said it was all fine, they’re now inconsolable, or outraged, and sparks fly from the axe they’re grinding. That usually gets it out of their system, and only two or three times has anyone ever replied to my email reply- there’s normally no resolution. the only thing that satisfies them is to tell me, and more often, to tell the electronic world, how horribly we wronged them, be it by making horchata mashed potatoes, putting a mustard-based barbecue sauce on ribs, or having the temerity to serve calamari that hasn’t been deep-fried.
Whatever the case, I now begin each day with an alert on my phone from Google reviews, or an email or five from Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I brace myself for the bad news. Will it be an all-caps tirade? Will I be accused of being drunk in the dining room? Will we be berated for our pretentiousness or out “expensive” wine list? (note: our wine list is priced well below any restaurant I’ve ever seen, except for the Dish in the mid-nineties, whose pricing model I bow to, and after which our wine pricing is modeled.)
It’s probably taken years off my life, the sinking feeling I get each day when the emails and alerts start coming, and I long for the times when dining out was just dining out. It wasn’t a gladiatorial sport, or an Instagram photo session. It wasn’t a twenty-minute critique. It was good food and drink, prepared by someone you trusted to do it well, and you, with friends or family or the solitude you were after, were able to enjoy yourself, leave happy and sated, without doing any dishes.
This morning, I got two alerts, and both of them were positive. Five stars on google and Yelp, where we dodged skewers the self-appointed restaurant critics of Tucson and elsewhere for a day, and I hesitate to write about it for fear of inviting that late riser who’s getting up just now to crack his knuckles and start writing his complaint to the universe about the NA Old Fashioned that just “didn’t do it ” for him. In the end, though, we adjusted it, and he liked it enough to order a second one, so I’m feeling bullish. The only complaint I’ve gotten so far today is an email, with a photo, expressing polite but palpable frustration that the Feast grilled cheese sandwich she picked up was constructed upside-down. AGAIN. The cheese was on top of the tomatoes and eggplant rather than underneath.
I’ll resist the urge to write back suggesting that since the sandwich has bread on both sides, the problem could theoretically be remedied by turning the sandwich over before eating it, and I’ll show the photo to Dan, who, in fairness, puts the cheese on top while everyone else puts it underneath, in hopes that this will be the last of the discussion. And I’ll cross my fingers that the remainder of the day will bring no notes from Yelp signifying a new review, and no bleeps or bells from the phone saying a new Google review has been posted. Instead, I’ll dedicate some time to today’s wine tasting, and the upcoming Ferragosto menu, and getting the August menu printed up for the restaurant and ready to post on the web. I’ll tiptoe through my day with my shoulders hunched in exaggeration.
So that wine tasting? It’s this one, which beings in a couple of hours, and for which you’re still welcome to come pick up samples.
You can log into it thusly:
Doug Levy is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Blustery reds for blustery weather
Time: Jul 31, 2021 02:00 PM Arizona
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 864 3121 6237
The Ferragosto menu? Well, I still need to get that one finished before I divulge anything. And the August menu? That will be posted Monday when we’re closed, and I’ll email you a link on Tuesday, when we begin serving it. But you’ll find a vegetarian ravioli dish, and a plum and frangipane tart, and curlicued Tête de Moine cheese on it, as well as an ephemeral engagement from the squash blossoms that heatwaves and transportation issues kept off the menu earlier this summer.
And there’ll be more, for sure, as I tighten up the logistics of getting food to Casa Alitas again,
with the Sister José Women’s Center
and Youth on Their Own
close behind it.
We thank you like gangbusters for your support in our food-donation efforts to feed some of the people in our community who need a hand, to feed those who deserve some special recognition, be they people who make this a better, safer, happier community, or be they people who could use the feeling of being in a better, safer, happier community. Your donations help us get back on our feet again at the same time, and we’re as grateful to you as the recipients of the meals are.
Now swing by, grab some wine samples, and tune in on Zoom to taste some monsoon-friendly reds.