I Peeve. You Peeve. We all Peeve.

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pet peeves, gael greene restaurant critic, the three tomatoes

“How are you tonight?” the bread man asks me at Kerry Heffernan’s South Gate in the Jumeirah Essex House. What’s going on? The bread man? Puleeze. Make this guy the maitre d’. He’s got too much personality for bread. Has no one told him he must just succinctly tell the choices, serve and fade into the background?

“How is the tripe done?” we ask.

“I don’t know,” says our server at Merkato. “I don’t think I’ve tasted it. Dullet spiced tripe, it says here on the menu,” she adds.

Yes, we can read, my dear. Just say: “Good question; I’ll get the answer.” And stop calling us “You guys” please.

I have peeves I didn’t know I had.

Why are chefs suddenly pickling everything? Is it the myth of Momofuko’s pickles? Is it the press acclaim and rediscovered passion for sour pickles at the revived Second Avenue Deli?

That long curl that looks like sweet red pepper in the pickle dish that I just popped into my mouth is a fiery jalapeño. Even after a month of chile training with habañero in Mexico, I’m burning. And the delicacy of sweet raw shrimp in Eighty One’s amuse is overwhelmed by the marinated cauliflower.

A friend who loves to start the evening at the bar writes:

“I hate it when bartenders don’t measure what they’re putting into the drink, especially in those $12 and $14 cocktails.”

“I hate having to ask them to put Vermouth into my martini. A martini has Vermouth in it.”

“I hate barstools with no backs. And the backless wooden cubes at Momofuko too.”


Here are some readers peeves:

Kirsten Nobman lists her three biggest pet peeves: 1.When servers refill your wine glass after you’ve only taken 2 sips! I always tell the server I will pour my own wine.2. When servers clear plates before everyone at the table is finished dining. It’s an American thing, but it’s downright rude. 3. When you don’t receive new flatware between courses. I don’t want my dirty fork back!!

Penny Pollack, Dining Editor at Chicago Magazine responds: I hate flavored butters. Comes under my blueberry bagel rant. If I want blueberries baked in something, I eat a muffin. If I want butter on my bread, that’s all I want: fabulous pure sweet creamy butter. Not herbed butter, not oil-infused butter, not butter rolled in kosher salt or flecked with Italian parsley. Please pass the butter means just that.

Authors and wine columnists Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg sent a list:1. Seeing TVs anyplace that’s not a sports bar, but especially in otherwise upscale restaurants. 2. Being called “guys” (as in “Hi guys” or “How are you guys doing?”) by an invariably 20-something waitperson we’ve never even met before. 3. The over-pouring of bottled water, especially in larger groups where the focus is on conversation so you might not even notice until you see how many bottles of unordered water end up on your check — and see how many full glasses of water are left on the table. 4. Serving from an open bottle the wine you ordered by the glass, and then not even bothering to let you taste it first before pouring. 5. Wine served at an improper temperature. 6. Desserts that are too sweet (more common in the 1990s) or too-salty (more common today). 7. Bringing 7 petit fours for your table of 8.

Zarela Martinez writes: I hate overpouring of wine and I resent that they always serve the man more. We’ve stopped that by telling the server that we’ll pour our own wine and it works. Jamie Gillis, her companion adds: I no longer let servers pour my wine. I want to feel more as if I am home with my own servants. — I find it intrusive even when done by the best of them. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: “That server is best who serves least” and I don’t want to be infantilized by them telling me to “enjoy” or asking me “Is everything ok?”

Maurizio de Rosa, Italian Wine Specialist at Southern Wine & Spirits, emails: When I go to a restaurant with a confirmed reservation, but am not allowed to sit unless every member of my party has arrived. And when I am waiting for a reserved table and it is evidently not ready, a drink should be offered as a gesture of apology. That seldom happens.

Restaurant publicist Steven Hall: Hates when runners give lengthy descriptions of the food as they place it on the table, and you have to wait to start eating as they go through the dishes ordered person by person.

Susan Toepfer, editor of Quick & Simple: Hates waiters who take away one plate before others have finished. [I might add…how about grabbing the bottle out of your hand so they can pour after they’ve neglected your table for a course or two? Or taking your glass away when there’s still an ounce or two of icy diluted cocktail you’re having such fun sipping?

What are your restaurant peeves?


  • Gael Greene

    In her role as restaurant critic of New York Magazine (1968 to January 2002) Detroit-born Gael Greene helped change the way New Yorkers (and many Americans) think about food. A scholarly anthropologist could trace the evolution of New York restaurants on a timeline that would reflect her passions and taste over 30 years from Le Pavillon to nouvelle cuisine to couturier pizzas, pastas and hot fudge sundaes, to more healthful eating. But not to foams and herb sorbet; she loathes them. As co-founder with James Beard and a continuing force behind Citymeals-on-Wheels as board chair, Ms. Greene has made a significant impact on the city of New York. For her work with Citymeals, Greene has received numerous awards and was honored as the Humanitarian of the Year (l992) by the James Beard Foundation. She is the winner of the International Association of Cooking Professionals magazine writing award, 2000, and a Silver Spoon from Food Arts magazine. Ms. Greene's memoir, "Insatiable, Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess"(www.insatiable-critic.com/Insatiable_Book.aspx )was published April 2006. Earlier non-fiction books include "Delicious Sex, A Gourmet Guide for Women and the Men Who Want to Love Them Better" and "BITE: A New York Restaurant Strategy." Her two novels, "Blue skies, No Candy" and "Doctor Love" were New York Times best sellers. Visit her website at: www.insatiable-critic.com

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