Posted on May 13, 2009 - by admin
A restaurant’s best friend is an educated customer.
By Pamela Silvestri
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Today I’d like to salute Staten Islanders who enjoy their wine and want the best possible experience with it. By the way, if you fit into this category of customer, people in the food business think you’re a high maintenance type of diner. A bartender I once worked with called this class of customer a “wine snob,” a term that actually I think is rather flattering. After all, what wine snobs do is make a waiter work for his money.
If you’ve done tours in the front-of-the-house as a server or bartender, you can spot a wine snob a mile away. He’s the one who asks about selections by the glass and isn’t satisfied until the brand is disclosed. He might go so far as to peek behind the bar to make sure wine isn’t coming from a box, a magnum or — visible shudder — a tap system. And if a neighboring patron stinks of perfume — how can one taste what’s in the glass when there’s a mouthful of White Diamonds wafting into the glass at the same time? — he asks for a seat change or just quietly leaves the restaurant.
Of course, there is that silly behavior that gives oenophiles a bum rap. A patron whiffs the screw cap or plastic cork — the latter stoppers hail from pulverized cork mixed with plastic and glue — and perhaps makes a face. What could one possibly tell from sniffing materials that don’t necessarily absorb aroma? Oh, this drama of such wine-os makes for great war stories. And when a patron furiously swirls house bubbly such as Prosecco in a glass and declares it as “just OK” — swirling in this capacity shakes out the bubbles, goofy! — or complains about the wine selections but forgets to look around at the venue — uh, places that specialize in greasy burgers don’t necessarily have to carry wines above swill grade — rest assured that this pretentious dance will be the topic of later booze-fueled staff discussions.
Rest assured, the wine snob is a waiter’s best friend. He’s the one who increases check averages, perhaps orders more than a single bottle in one sitting and who will reward the staff handsomely when they do their homework. (Free tip: Customers appreciate waiters who steer them correctly).
It would be wonderful to see more restaurants do what Enoteca Maria in St. George does so well: Catering to some astute palates and pushing wine snobbery to the limits. Co-owner Jody Scaravella presents every wine on the list by the glass and by the bottle. The restaurant opens fresh bottles for customers who order vino by the glass. Good quality wine goblets are presented to guests whether they buy by the bottle or glass.
Note other restaurants such as Angelina’s in Tottenville reward guests with the better stemware only when customers order full bottles. I know a couple who brings their own stemware to restaurants that don’t supply decent glasses of their own.
It’s not so bad to be fussy about wine. And I think most restaurants should be putting much more thought into their selections by the glass. It’s 2009, after all, and I do think most Staten Islanders are fairly educated on the subject. At Jean’s Fine Wines in West Brighton, for instance, regular Friday night wine samplings bring out educated palates. The typical customer can describe wines with words like “buttery,” “barnyard,” “acidic” and the like.
At Basilio’s Inn in South Beach, owner Maurice Asperti, fusses over his wine selections. And it shows: His wine list features affordable decent bottles that he’s taken the time to test drive himself.
Several things could improve wine service on Staten Island, in my opinion. First, servers need to be educated on house pours. Wines shouldn’t be introduced as, “What’ll it be? Red or white?” Surely there’s a brand name associated with the wine. Wine discussions should happen at the restaurant pre-meal meeting. Second, customers can be more demanding on the subject and become, well, a wine snob of sorts. Start asking for the better stemware. Request that wine by the glass is served from a freshly opened bottle, especially if it’s early in the day and clear the bottle has been cracked the night before. Staten Islanders really need to fuss more over the standard pour.
Pamela Silvestri is the Advance food critic and Food editor. Her restaurant articles appear each Thursday in AWE, the Advance’s weekly entertainment section.
INFO BOX: Wine Etiquette Keep hands off the bowl of the glass. Wines can heat up from the action. Plus it leaves unsightly smudges on the glass. Don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne. It tinkers with fellow diners/winos taste buds. Ask questions. If you’re indulging on a bottle, say, that is more than three years old it’s not unreasonable to ask how the wine has been stored. Drink wines at the right temperature. Nonvintage bubbly, many Spanish and Italian whites, fino sherry, Manzanilla should be served well-chilled. Full-bodied whites (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, some reds like Pinot Noir and Beaujolais) benefit from being cool, around 58 degrees. Medium to full-bodied reds and ports are ideal at room temperature.
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(Reprinted with permission from the Staten Island Advance)
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