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Published: Tuesday, 2/12/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Put your heart where your mouth is

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

This Valentine’s Day, have a heart.

Perhaps you are thinking about taking your main squeeze (or one of your side squeezes, if you get my drift) out to dinner. That’s a wonderful idea, very romantic. But here is the thing: Everyone else is thinking about doing it, too.

That means the restaurants are going to be slammed. Valentine’s Day is one of their busiest days of the year. The restaurants are packed, everyone wants their meals at the same time, and that can lead to minor problems.

Quillie Alexander, executive chef at Cousino’s Steakhouse in Oregon, urges patience.

“When you’ve got a line out the door, the seating can be a problem sometimes … Basically, everything needs to go out [of the kitchen] at the same time,” he said.

On busy days such as Valentine’s Day, diners occasionally get antsy because they see that other tables have been served while they have not. Once again, Mr. Alexander encourages patience — and a bit of understanding.

“Sometimes, some of the food is easier to cook,” he said. “Depending on what [customers] order, some things can come out a little quicker than others.”

In other words, a lobster tail is going to take less time than a rare 12-ounce New York Strip, and a rare 12-ounce New York Strip is going to take less time than a well-done 16-ounce T-bone.

Obviously, restaurant kitchens do everything they can to keep the food coming out in a timely manner, but let’s face it: On extremely busy nights, the chances increase that there will be a back-up of orders at some point. To keep your Valentine’s dinner romantic and unstressed, Mr. Alexander recommends ordering appetizers.

Appetizers are made at a different station in the kitchen from the entrees, and the dishes are built for speed. Appetizers are likely to come out quickly, and they will help take the edge off your hunger while you wait for your entree.

On a night like Valentine’s Day, just getting through the door can be a problem. To make sure you get a seat, reservations are vital. And according to Chris Kamilaris, co-owner of Georgio’s Café International, it will help everyone if you can show up on time.

“Couples need to have a little bit more understanding, because it is a special night,” he said.

To keep everything moving smoothly, Georgio’s is offering a four-course meal with a limited number of chef George Kamilaris’ signature dishes. Fewer options means the dishes can be prepared more efficiently. They should come out of the kitchen quickly, and the diners will find it easier to relax and enjoy themselves. (Cousino’s will have its usual menu, plus a number of specials chosen particularly for the whole week of Valentine’s Day).

“I want people to enjoy their time while they’re here,” said Joey Amador, one of the servers at Georgio’s.

Mr. Amador looks at the Valentine’s Day meal as only one part of the entire evening. He sees it as important, but as a kind of prelude.

“The food is the foreplay,” he said.

So while you are out with your squeeze, by all means have an enjoyable meal. Linger with a glass of wine (but don’t linger too long. Restaurant owners will never tell you this, but I will: Unless it is late at night, someone is waiting for your table). And if something minor should go wrong, try to be a little understanding.

Have a heart. While you are out on the town, having a lovely, romantic dinner, remember that the harried restaurant staff does not even get to spend Valentine’s Day with their squeezes.

They are working hard to make sure you have an evening to remember. Don’t forget to leave an extra-big tip.

Contact Daniel Neman at dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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