Santa brought me a bagful of correspondence for Christmas, and the missives - most of them e-mails, some rants and some raves - keep arriving with the new year.
"How does a guy get your job?" John, a Nevada resident, wondered after reading the "Mouth" column online. "I'm a native N.Y.'er," John continued in his e-mail, "and as you may know, food is a N.Y.'ers life. We are now stuck in the Nevada desert, but we will be building our retirement home (in Astoria) next year. Looking forward to the expanding restaurant scene."
John also wondered about a restaurant coupon book. "I was thinking it would work in the Astoria area. The only problem - I would have to get off my retired butt and sell the concept."
"Really appreciated your article on restaurants," ("The Munchie Awards," Jan. 1) another John e-mailed. "Recently we had dinner at the Silver Salmon (in Astoria): great food and wine ..." John was displeased with the service, however. "We arrived at the restaurant dressed to the tens and found the place empty. We were placed in a booth near the front door and the bar, only to be disturbed every time a customer came in. Our waiter was much too talkative, and when not attending to us, carried on a loud conversation with the help near the bar."
John provided eight tips for servers. Among my favorites, "the waiter should know:
The man should be given the opportunity to order for the lady and (the waiter) should take her food order from him unless he directs the waiter to the lady.
The lady should always be served first.
Check in at reasonable opportunities but do not become a pest.
Do not give the appearance of trying to get a customer to finish and go.
I sincerely hope those in the business will heed your commandments and also improve their table service."
Dianne, an out-of-towner who has "been in the food and wine industry for 25 years and has eaten all around the world," was considerably more upset with her experience at Astoria's Tokyo Teriyaki restaurant. "I read your column and was excited to see the review for the new sushi place," her e-mail began. "The waitress greeted us and we could tell she was behind, so we gave her the benefit of the doubt when she didn't deem it a priority to wipe the table down or bring water."
Dianne noted (as other readers also did) that sake was not available, even though listed on the menu. When she asked for hot tea, the waitress responded that Dianne and her companion would not like the herbal tea, so she wouldn't serve it. Meanwhile, "the yelling match between the waitress and the chef (concerning another customer's order) was like something out of a movie. The tension in the room was palpable," Dianne reported. "I do not know how this place got such a favorable review from you unless everyone in Astoria knows you and treats you differently. We left without eating."
Dianne's comments beg a clarification: Just because I write about a restaurant doesn't mean I'm recommending the place. Occasionally I write "split" columns - that is, articles devoted to two or more restaurants. Usually I don't rate any of them; I just write about the food and atmosphere (and sometimes, the service) at each place. The closest I came to endorsing Tokyo Teriyaki was saying, "The end result (of my sushi experience) was an agreeable fusion of colors, shapes, textures and tastes." ("Sample the textures, tastes of sushi at local eateries," Nov. 13). And the sushi was up to snuff the day I dined there (and I'm fairly certain neither the server nor the cook recognized me). If I had contemplated writing a full review, I would have dined at Tokyo Teriyaki at least twice more.
Paul, from Gearhart, had this to say about Tokyo Teriyaki: "Some of the rice was dry to the crunchy stage and the fish was room temperature, indicating a counter stay longer than is appropriate." He also forwarded some wine advice: "Among your adventuresome wines, include tomato. My cousin used to make it at home, and the resulting spaghetti sauce truly was incomparable."
Brad e-mailed with some good words about Seaside's Dog Water Cafe. "The Dog, as I like to call it, has one of the best prime rib dinners. My wife, who is not a beef eater, loves the seafood and pasta dishes. I would also like to mention that the breakfast served at Dog Water is the best! We need to have more eateries like Dog Water Cafe to make up for the countless 'greasy spoon' operations that litter the coast."
Previously ("Holiday shoppers can partake of these meal deals," Dec. 4), I had written favorably about the Dog's rice bowl. I'll have to return for dinner.
Rib news came via e-mail from Kathleen, who responded to my rib-roundup column ("Which ribs rate? The Mouth conducts yummy research," Oct. 30). "As a reader who enjoys ribs, I found it interesting you neglected to mention two other local restaurants. Sandtrap (in Gearhart) has ribs on Thursdays and Bigfoot's (in Seaside) has ribs on Sundays. If you haven't tried them, I urge you to do so."
Also in an e-mail, Lisa said I left out a key purveyor in my column concerning holiday sweet treats ("Holiday guests will savor sweet treats and seasonal breads," Dec. 18). "I hope it was just an oversight that you omitted a terrific chocolate store in Seaside, Tipton's. Please investigate their fine products and you won't slight them next time ... in fact, they deserve special notice."
Contact the Mouth at The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or phone (503) 325-3211 or e-mail email@example.com