“An ardent or refined interest in the dining experience,” defines a foodie and surely applies to the membership of our gourmet group, who I recently surveyed to get their opinions. Wright Elliott has brought a sophisticated palate and passion for food from his native New Orleans. Wright’s many talents include a recipe for jumbo lump crab cakes honed to perfection over many years from when he owned a house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Art Nagle brings expertise in finding the freshest and highest quality ingredients, and on the visual aspects of food presentation, he is most certainly a perfectionist.
Eating out is indeed a special occasion for these men, because they have high standards when cooking at home. Both believe that restaurant food should be original and memorable, prepared by a chef who takes a personal interest in customer satisfaction. Farm-to-table ingredients and quality (or the seafood equivalent) are high on their list, and they tend to seek out restaurants that are building this concept into their menu options.
Service is very important too. Beautiful food, beautifully served is 90% of a “memorable dining experience” in Wright’s opinion, and Art adds that he also wants the host or hostess to be friendly, along with the wait staff. As wine connoisseurs with large personal wine cellars, both Art and Wright look for moderate to expensive offerings, as well as esoteric wines from different areas like Sicily or Greece, if these selections seem more appropriate. They like to be able to consult a sommelier or resident wine expert, as restaurant wine lists rarely provide sufficient detail about their choices.
To sum up a positive dining experience, both men like to go first class, and don’t mind paying a premium for good food and service. The two ladies from our group, Judy Foley and Paige Nagle, are excellent cooks in their own right, and have high interest in seasonal menus with a good balance of flavors. They too look for creativity and, even if premium priced, the menu has to have a Wow factor to it.
Judy and Paige both stress service, cleanliness and ambience to make for a “memorable dining experience.” They like it when the chef comes out at the end of a meal to inquire how your dining experience was, and a warm and inviting atmosphere with pretty flowers and tablecloths on the tables is a plus.
Here are ways a dining experience can fail to impress:
- Poor acoustics and noise top the list, as all of them want to be comfortable and able to carry on a conversation with their fellow diners.
- Hovering service or, on the other hand, slow service, are frowned upon. No one enjoys that moment when the second you put your fork and knife down, the plate is whisked away; you feel like you are being deliberately rushed.
- Overly large portions is a no-no, especially with the ladies.
- Overly small servings of wine are not a very hospitable gesture and can be especially annoying.
- Another pet peeve is a “No Reservation” policy -– no one wants to run the risk of a lengthy wait the next table. Restaurants should take reservations no matter how many people arrive with the party of diners.
To create a positive dining experience for his customers and to attract new customers, a local restaurateur hired a new chef and added high quality seafood at affordable prices with great success. He believes that cleanliness and ambience are the ultimate expression of hospitality.
Karen Talbot is a Westchester-based personal shopper and restaurant reviewer. The love of cooking runs in her family! Karen’s son Alex and his wife Aki Kamozawa have just opened “Curiosity Donuts” in the Stockton Market in Stockton, New Jersey.