Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Syncophant on Rye: When to Stop Thanking Your Server

Seems like the good folks over at heard that I was a terrific waitress. They've ocassionally consulted me about some "server point-of-view" questions. Here's one...

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Best of Restaurant Girl

I sent Waiter over at waiterrant an email congratulating him on making it out of the restaurant industry (for now, anyway). He walked out of his last shitty job with dignity and is now working on his book full-time. Hooray, Waiter! Waiter was so cool that he even put one of my postings up on his blog as a guest post.

Since waiterrant is super popular, Restaurant Girl Speaks has gotten over 5,000 hits since my post went up this morning, so I thought I'd offer new readers a few links to some of my favorite postings. I haven't worked in a restaurant since December, and my ramblings of late have mostly been about traveling and not about food or restaurants at all. Of course, if you want to read about what waiters do when they save up their fistfuls of tips and jump ship, there's plenty of that, too.

So here's a few links to what I consider my most entertaining entries:

This one's where I met exiled Portland restarateur Michael Hebberoy and fell under the spell of his eloquent charms.

This one's where I met Angelo Garro, who's now a huge mentor and someone who lets me eat his Sicilian pasta with more frequency than I probably deserve.

Here, I expound on the vicious cycle of waitress cash earning/shopping.

If you've ever waited tables at a high-end joint, you've had them: Waiter Nightmares!

Ever thought your waitress might have been drinking during service? She probably has been.

And here, and here, I pontificate on waiting tables as a career choice.

Many chefs are truly psychotic.

And lastly, the importance of sidework in respecting your coworkers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Where, Oh Where Has My Resto Girl Gone?

In case I even have a readership anymore, Hello There. Since I got back to San Francisco from Austria/Germany/France, I haven't worked in a restaurant. Like, I'm actually DONE working in restaurants. Which was the ultimate goal, but now that I'm not a waitress any more, What the Heck am I supposed to write about? So, paralyzed, I didn't write anything for two months. Well, I actually wrote a LOT, but all paying work. Stuff like editing a website, freelancing for the warring alternative rags here in town, and trying to get my dam' name in more national magazines. All the while, drinking plenty of Jeffy B.´s homemade wine and going out to eat (I was even on Nightline a couple of weeks ago when dining at Incanto with Harry Denton).

So Restaurant Girl isn't gone, just morphed into one of those annoying chicks who's all, Um, Waiter? Let me be super high maintenence and tell you how to do your job because I used to wait tables. And because this town already has a proliferation of bloggers who eat out and write about it, I won't bore you with what might be my increasingly out-of-touch opinions about the San Francisco food scene. Nobody's more in the know about what's going down, what's hot, and what's not than waiters at the in-spots, so I'm not going to try to do that, either. Maybe I'll start cooking.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Vienna, part II

Vienna has all the things I like about Europe in one place. It has the
bohemianism of the best bits of Paris, the beautiful old buildings
you find everywhere but maintained with Germanic sensibility, a
vibrant art scene, the nightlife of Madrid, and terrific food. Oh, and
GREAT coffee. Mmmmm, coffee. And the Austrian sense of humor is much
drier and British-like than the German sense of humor (which is pretty much non-existant), so I am enjoying laughing a lot.

After the first 24 hours I was ready to move there. Beautiful buildings, nice people, clean and tidy, parks, thriving arts scene, and it's more liveable (read: cheaper rent) than San Francisco. My friend Rob the Rockstar took it upon himself to show me everything we could pack into three days, and he said it barely skimmed the surface. We were out every night to several clubs (they don't close until 5 or 6am) and then sightseeing all day.

It rained on Saturday but we went to the Nachsmarkt (Noshing-Market) anyway and got a bunch of yummy antipasto for dinner. On Sunday Rob had to work at the theater (he works backstage at Vienna's oldest Cabaret, called Simpl), and during the day I went to a museum with one of his roommates and one of his girlfriends (of which he has many; it was so funny to watch the girls literally throw themselves onto him in the clubs, and, well, everywhere!).
The installation was really interesting, the artist had taken a bunch of the museum's permanent collection and arranged it as a collage interspersed with her own paintings (all of which had texts written on them), photographs of her with the museum pieces, a video installation, painting on the museum's walls…she really turned the museum/art show structure inside out and to be inside of it was almost surreal, since the exhibit was made for that museum, and it was HUGE, it took up an entire floor. We were in there for almost 3 hours and I could have done with more but it was time to go to the theater.
I got to hang out backstage for the end of the matinee, and met all four of the actors (supposedly the most well-known comedians in Austria, although Rob says there aren't many!), one of whom was voted the "Second Most Handsome Man in Austria" by a women's magazine. I don't know who the #1 was but it was probably either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rob. It was fun seeing everyone rush around for their costume changes and see the crowd and the stage on the monitors backstage, then get to sit in the sound and light booth and watch the cabaret at night. Although truthfully I only understood about half of what was going on, because so much of the humor was accented. I thought I was fluent in German and then I went to Vienna and felt like a doofus because I kept having to ask people to repeat stuff.

Wien and Wieners

Having spent the weekend in beautiful Vienna with a dear friend I met in Chile last summer, I was still giggling after three days every time he would say, "This is how the Wieners do it," or something relating to Vienna's inhabitants, which are called "Wieners" in German.

I arrived after getting up at 5:30am to catch my Germanwings flight (the cheapest airline in Germany now) from Suttgart to Vienna, just under an hour trip. My friend Rob met me at the airport with a giant picture of me that he had taken of me in Chile (where I am holding a packet of maxipads called "Ella: feminine towels") and printed out in black-and-.white with the maxipads in original color.

After shopping for the fixings for a giant Austrian breakfast (bread rolls, herbed cream cheese, sliced cheese, sliced meat, yogurt, fruit, juice, coffee, granola, and hand-rolled cigarettes for his "dessert") we came back to his house (which he shares with four other people), which is nearly entirely decorated with zebra-print material. His room is painted "Porno Red" (self-described) and he spends as much time getting ready to go out as I do. In short, HOT!

After a power-nap, we saw a lot of beautiful baroque old-city Vienna as well as the Stephans Cathedral, which was a little disappointing as you have to pay 3 euros to climb the stairs up the
tower for the view, and then it stops halfway at a gift shop. We cooked dinner (vegetables in a coconut-milk curry with basmati rice and a giant salad that everyone stuck a fork in at one time or another) and then went out to a show, some friends of Rob´s were opening up for an Italian cover band called Eurosmith.

The lead singer looked and acted and sounded so much like Stephen Tyler that it was a little creepy because you´d think you were at an Aerosmith concert but then you look around and the place was filled with semi-nerdy metalheads and older Austrian Aerosmith fans, and it was in a smallish beer-hall. They totally rocked.

After the concert a group of us went clubbing, there´s an old wall that surrounded the city in the olden days, but now the wall (which isHUGE) is hollowed out and filled with shops and things, and one area had nightclub after nightclub. It was really fun, soo packed. I definitely felt like we had found the party in Vienna.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

From the Outside In

In San Francisco for two days between Buenos Aires and Southern Germany, to acclimate and fill my suitcase with sweaters instead of sarongs, I went out to dinner at The Restaurant. It was nice to be back, but it made me realize just how little you have in common with co-workers once you don't work together any more. Six weeks isn't very much time to be gone, but in the restaurant world it's an eternity. One of the waiters filled me in concisely.

"Well, you and Casey both left at the same time, so for about three weeks everyone was working six shifts and we hated you. Now, things have settled down and we have a new guy."

"How do you like him?" I asked.

The waiter rolled his eyes in disgust and said, "Girl, you know I don't like competition!" and flounced off, doing his perfect Liza Minelli impersonation with a cocktail tray.

Everyone looked thinner (I guess New Year's resolutions have gone into effect, either that or the six shifts a week took their toll) and seemed happy to see me. I know I was happy to see them, but beyond the polite, "So are you coming back to work here when you get back from Europe?" conversation was limited.

I've blogged about this before (probably because I change staff at restaurants pretty often), but it's always a little sad to feel so close with a group of people and then suddenly realize you actually have very little in common.

The food was great, as usual, and I allowed myself to eat everything I'd wanted to in South America but had been too hot to have an appetite for.

I've just arrived in Germany to spend some quality family time, and although I'm missing my Che horribly, it's nice to be in a tranquil little town with NO screaming traffic, NO loud construction, and where the busses stop quietly and orderly without trying to kill you. Buenos Aires and Southern Germany seem worlds apart right now.

Monday, February 12, 2007


The foodstuff I ate in Brazil most deserving of attention was a fruit called Açaí (pronounced, "assai"), which grows in clusters of hundreds on a palm-like tree in the Amazon. Remembering having tried it once at the Cafe Brasil in Santa Cruz during my college days, I thought I would give it a try instead of the beer I was craving on the beach in Paraty. We ordered a bowl from the tall Rasta working as a waiter in the beachfront tiki shack under whose umbrellas I was hiding from the sun.

The dish arrived in a square white bowl, and Che and I had to play nice with sharing it, because it was so delicious. Passing the iced bowl back and forth from hand to hand, we dug through layers of sweet sliced banana (and let me tell you how much better bananas taste when they are picked from the tree and sliced at your table), thick honey, and toasted granola, arriving at a hard-frozen mass that was as delicious in its thick, slivered, frozen state as it was as it melted into a custardy-textured berry shake.

Açaí is wild-harvested from Amazonian Açaí palms, and then pureed, frozen, and shipped countrywide. To reconstitute the blueberry-like fruit, it is mixed with a concentrated Guarana syrup (Guarana is another Amazonian fruit, whose energy-giving properties have popularized it on the shelves of hippy food-stores in the USA) and whizzed about in an industrial blender (the fruit is so hard it will break a normal blender after a few uses). It's then either eaten plain, topped with strawberries or bananas, or mixed with granola. Sold from açaí-huts (like smoothie shacks, these little kiosks vend fresh juices, pastries, and plastic cups of açaí), bus station snack shops, or restaurants as breakfast, dessert, or a snack.

I ate it ALL THE TIME on vacation, and it's the food I'll most miss from Brazil. Like a healthy ice-cream subsitute, it's sweet, full of antioxidants and fiber, and gives you energy while filling you up for hours.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rio, Rio, Rio!

Greetings from Rio. We are staying at a hostel in Ipanema, which is a neigborhood as well as a beach. We got a private room for the first time in a few nights, which will be nice, as staying in a dorm is not so nice as a couple, especially when, as last night (our first night in Rio) we shared a dorm with 9 other people and one small window. Needless to say, sleep did not come as it was about 100 degrees and the fan didn´t do much once the other 9 came home from the club and passed out.

The Trindade Sea and Forest hostel was the best place we´ve stayed so far, except that the first night we slept at reception, which was loud, and the second night in a dorm. It is run by two hippy yoga instructors from Montreal, a couple in their 40s. It´s all wood, and in the rainforest! I had never been in the rainforest before and there are like 7 plants all growing around one tree, everything is hot, nothing dries, and the bugs are HUGE and LOUD. Plus there are monkeys and jaguars (which we did not see) and giant flying cockroaches and big frogs and huge butterflies and hummingbirds and parrots in many colors (all of which we saw).

Trindade is such a beautiful place. Basically the rainforest comes right down to the beach (which was the perfect beach I had been looking for since arriving in Brazil. Soft, powdery sand, water that is dark green until you get in it, and then it´s so clear you can see your toes when you are chest deep, nice big waves, although it was too expensive to rent a surfboard for me) and in between there´s a tiny little town with lots of campgrounds and no amenities like telephone or internet or supermarket. It was so relaxing and we would have stayed there the whole time but we ran out of cash and the nearest ATM was a half-hour bus ride away so we left and came to Rio.

So far Rio is great. You have all the beachy stuff I wanted here in Brazil, plus city attractions like clubs and dancing and great restaurants (we had Italian last night, although still all we are eating pretty much is fruit and vegetables, the salads were great), and then the big mountains which are soft and curved.

The food here is nothing to write home about, I have basically been living off of papaya, coconuts on the beach, and fruit juice. Things like coffee and alcohol are making me feel really bad (strange, since that was basically my liquid diet as a waitress!), so I´m feeling great, very cleansed, and ready for the daring Rio bikini!!!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Paraty and beyond

Today I am brown instead of pink because I have bought every cream for sunburn that everyone recommended to me for my skin, finally finding one yesterday that worked, called Pasta do Agua, which I think had zinc oxide. Anyway, it left me white as a ghost and everyone in the supermarket where we went to shop for dinner things last night stared. I am getting used to the stares, as I am the tallest person I have seen by far since leaving San Francisco and the only tattooed girl.

The difference in going out in the street alone and going out in the street with Felix, both here in Brazil and in Buenos Aires, is profound. Now I see why in many third world countries it is not recommended for women to travel alone. I guess I got used to it last summer in South America, but it was winter and I was bundled up. Everyone here (including me) traipses around in bikinis and little shorts and sarongs, and the attention I receive when on my own is not so nice.
Paraty is a beautiful little colonial town, HOT HOT HOT as is everywhere. I prefer it to sleepy and expensive Ilhabela. There are a lot of little islands in the ocean right around here with beaches, and we are going to look for a boat to take us around for the day (recommended by some Argentinans our age we met at the pousada on Ilha bela. So far, we have spoken with MANY more Argentinans than Brazilians, the whole of Argentina really IS on holiday in Brazil right now!)

We will head to Trinidade next, a hippy little beach spot, before going to Rio next week. We´ll hit up either Buzios or Ubatuba on our way back to Sao Paulo. Buzios is supposed to be amazing, but the Lonely Planet says that since it was made chic by Brigitte Bardot in the sixties, prices there in the summer are double what they are in the rest of Brazil.
This air conditioned internet cafe is a welcome respite from the hot street (and everything is delightfully hot-looking through the Blue Blockers I haven´t taken off since arriving, Thanks Shane!!) but we are going to find a beach and swim for a bit. HOT HOT HOT.

Everyone hear really does wear Havaianas. It´s like the national shoe.


The little island of Ilhabela is off the coast of Brazil between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. We have spent the last couple of days lounging on the beaches and sipping fresh coconut milk from the fruit through little straws. There are tiki huts on the beach and vendors walk up and down selling jewelry, sarongs, fake tattooes, barbecued cheese, and popsicles. It´s exactly what I´d imagined it to be and it feels really surreal to be here, burned pink (I used SPF 15 religiously but burned up anyway, have bought SPF 35 for the outrageous sum of about $15 US dollars for a tiny tube--sunscreen and aloe vera and other skin products are really expensive here, I think because the only people who seem to need them are white tourists!! I am by far the whitest person I have seen here so far).

We are staying in a little pousada (like a low-rent B&B) up on a hill with a view of the ocean and coconut trees all around, banana plants, etc. There are giant ants and salamanders in the room (big bugs, little lizards), which is a whitewashed little bungalow with a low door that I hit my head on three times in the first day. After being reduced to tears twice, I received a sign from Felix, taped on the door, that reads (Careful! don´t hit your head again, in Portuguese). Fx speaks a bit of Portuguese, and understands much more than I do (which is about 20% for him of what people say), but luckily everyone is really friendly. They speak in Portuguese to us, and we speak in Spanish to them, and there are a lot of smiles and thumbs up and thumbs down, and things seem to work out.

It´s really relaxing to be doing nothing. It´s also flipping hot here, about 90 degrees 24 hours a day, but sometimes nice winds blow, and the humidity is very high. It rained most of our first day here but nobody seems to mind and goes about their business as usual, since it´s warm anyway so the rain (which is warm) can be kind of refreshing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You Can Take the Girl Out Of the Restaurant but You Can't Take the Restaurant Out Of the Girl

Going from my spoiled-princess-waitress San Francisco lifestyle, to the middle of a humid, sleepy, Argentinean summer is a LOT harder than I thought it would be. I was working 16 hours a day before I left San Francisco, writing and putting in bankrollin’ 9-hour shifts at The Restaurant, and now I’m doing nothing but sitting around in Buenos Aires, moping.
Isn’t that awful? I feel like such a spoiled brat; my honey rented us an apartment in posh Palermo, dragged all of this stuff from his place in bohemian San Telmo to make me comfortable (like candles, a giant fan, and loads of fresh flowers), and I sit here whining about how I miss San Francisco and my friends and my cat.
I think I’m just a workaholic; a friend of mine recently said to me, “I took a vacation once in 1985 and didn’t like it very much,” and that resonates so true. With no pressing deadlines (I’ve done some work over here but only a couple of small stories) and no pressure to jump and run to put on lip gloss and curl my hair at 4:30 for work, I feel completely useless.

I should be taking this time to write, but I’m too busy sulking about missing the cat and being afraid I’m going to miss something exciting in San Francisco. Being still and having no agenda each day in a strange place makes me realize how important running around the city and having tons of crazy deadlines meant to me. Traveling before, I’d always been in the company of other foreigners, staying at hostels and getting to know people. Now it’s just me and him, and while that’s lovely too, I need more external stimulation.

We’re going to the beaches of Brazil for 2 weeks, leaving Monday, which I’m really looking forward to. My Che is a workaholic as well, and I don’t think either one of us feels really comfortable being on vacation at home; being on vacation in another place (Brazil) should be easier.
I’ve been eating out some, but nothing really to write home about; it’s so hot that my main staples are ice cream and salads. The good news is I’m much healthier now that I’m not drinking like a fish and consuming 2,000 calories a night at midnight, as is the Restaurant Way. I’ve got time for exercise so I’ve been running this week, but I’m so exhausted for no reason (I think living my life in Spanish, plus the heat, is really taking a toll on me) that I haven’t been writing at all.
Many guidebooks say that January is the worst month to visit Buenos Aires and I have to agree; many things (like restaurants, museums, shops) close down during this month as everyone’s on holiday, and it’s really hot and humid. The fresh breezes that blow through sometimes are very welcome.