May 21

Wild Blackberries. Service Industry. Rib Mountain. Dewberry. Raymond Burr. Plato. Delmonico Restaurant.

This is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. One of the four major elements in the restaurant organism (cooks, management, and customers are the others), service people probably contribute more to the personality and success of a restaurant than any other force. Every survey ever done on the matter has shown that service is more important to restaurant diners than anything else. If you want to get better service, make up your mind never to give less than a twenty percent tip. A server can smell that fact about you, and will respond in a way that will be worthy of that gratuity.

Days Until. . .

Phase 2 Begins-- 10

Annals Of Service

This is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. One of the four major elements in the restaurant organism (cooks, management, and customers are the others), service people probably contribute more to the personality and success of a restaurant than any other force. Every survey ever done on the matter has shown that service is more important to restaurant diners than anything else. If you want to get better service, make up your mind never to give less than a twenty percent tip. A server can smell that fact about you, and will respond in a way that will be worthy of that gratuity.

Today's Flavor 

Today is Southern Wild Blackberry Day. At this time of year in the New Orleans area, blackberries and the closely related dewberries are coming to fruition wherever they can. This is rather hard to predict, we find. Over here on the North Shore, we always find lush stands of dewberries everywhere around us, but rarely on our own property--even though we have quite a few wild dewberry vines growing. They're a little frustrating, because the vines grow nothing but leaves and thorns (the latter are tenacious and aggressive if you get caught in them), but no berries in their first year of rapid growth. Those shoots will flower and give berries next year--maybe. We have a few blackberry vines, too, producing juicier berries, but no more of them. But we still have lots of fun going out there and picking the ripe, black ones, eating as we go. We never get enough to do anything with them. One day, I hope to find out what we have to do to get as many berries as once grew over a neighbor's lot until he mowed it down to build the house.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Rib Mountain is a long ridge rising some 700 feet above the otherwise nearly flat terrain in central Wisconsin. It's the main feature of Rib Mountain State Park, and is near the Big Rib River, a challenging stream for canoers. The hardest part is Rib Falls. All of this is just west of the city of Wausau, which is where you'll have to go if you're looking for something to eat. Try Fazoli's, a mile away from the mountain. It's on US 51, which is a direct 1171-mile route back to New Orleans.

Deft Dining Rule #320

If you have to choose between ordering breakfast a la carte or getting it from the buffet, the presence of fresh blackberries on the latter tilts the decision toward the buffet.

Edible Dictionary 

dewberry, n., A fruit resembling a small blackberry, growing on a brambly, thorn-covered vine. They begin as white flowers with five petals, then produce small green fruits that go through shades of red as they grown, becoming dark purple or black when they ripen. They are edible, with a tart flavor. They're so small. however, that the typical picker eats them as fast as he picks. Dewberries are not grown commercially, but are much liked by people who have large patches of them. They grow for two years, first putting forth unfruited vines, then flowing and growing fruit on them the following spring. They leave behind dead canes afterwards that have a way of getting hooked on clothes or skin.

Gourmets On Television

Today is the birthday, in 1917, of actor Raymond Burr. He began his career in radio westerns (!), but became a superstar on television as Perry Mason, attorney. He went on to star in other big programs. As could be told by his growing size, he was a dedicated eater. He liked New Orleans, visited often, and was a regular at Commander's Palace until not long before his death in 1993.

Philosophy Of Eating 

The Greek philosopher Plato was born today in 427 B.C. his theories about the ultimate expression of a state of being gave rise to Richard Collin's expression "platonic dish" in his New Orleans Underground Gourmet, the city's first critical restaurant guide, in the 1970s. The term was so original that it is still used, often by people who have no idea where it came from. Some of the dishes he deemed platonic were oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's, shrimp remoulade at Galatoire's, crabmeat St. Francis at LeRuth's, and eggs Hussarde at Brennan's.

Restaurants Through History 

Today in 1923, Delmonico Restaurant in New York City closed. It is regarded the first modern restaurant in America, opening almost a century earlier. Prohibition was blamed for its demise. Delmonico's was the kind of place one went for the most lavish of meals with celebratory quantities of wine and spirits. It just didn't seem right without the beverages, but styles were changing too. Delmonico's and the Jazz Age didn't really fit together well. It would later reopen, close, and reopen again (it's on now). Its intermittent past allows Antoine's to claim to be the longest-running restaurant in the country. Many restaurants around the country used the Delmonico name even when there was no connection at all. The one here, for example.

Food Namesakes 

Today in 1955, Chuck Berry recorded Maybelline, the song that pushed the accelerator of his career to the floor. . . Oil executive Armand Hammer, who had no connection with the baking soda of the same name, was born today in 1898. . . Jazz pianist and composer Fats Waller was born today in 1904. . . Tabasco Cat won the Preakness today in 1994. . . British social reformer Elizabeth Fry came into the cold world today in 1780. . . Chris Raab, comic actor in the Jackass series and others, jerked out today in 1980.

Words To Eat By 

"Pepper is small in quantity and great in virtue."--Plato.

Words To Drink By

"The harsh, useful things of the world, from pulling teeth to digging potatoes, are best done by men who are as starkly sober as so many convicts in the death-house. But the lovely and useless things, the charming and exhilarating things, are best done by men with, as the phrase is, a few sheets in the wind."--H.L. Mencken.