Q. I had lunch with a friend last week, and she treated. We got a lunch plate of fried shrimp, hush puppies, cole slaw, and some boiled potatoes. Everything was fine until I cut into one of the potatoes and saw that it was bad on the inside. The waitress never did come over and ask how everything was, and I was too embarrassed to tell my friend about it, so I didn’t say anything. How can you fix a problem like this without making your host feel you’re not enjoying the treat?
A. Congratulations on your sensitivity. But there are ways you can remedy a problem in restaurant food or service without your dining partner’s having to know about it. And you certainly should have let the restaurant know about big shortfalls like this. A good restaurateur, chef, or waiter would want to be alerted about that. Deficiencies can sneak into even the best kitchens buying the top-quality foodstuffs. If you don’t tell them, they have know way of knowing. Inform them discreetly, and they can fix the pestilence for you and others.
Here’s how to do it without embarrassing your host. First, excuse yourself from the table. (The others at the table will think you’ve gone to the restroom.) As soon as you’re out of sight, ask any service person to call for the manager. Tell him that you don’t want to embarrass anyone, but that you think they ought to know about the wasp larva inside the grape. Unless the manager is a jerk (there are a few of those, but not enough to worry about), he will likely take care of it without the host being any the wiser.
And if he’s really smart, dessert will be on the house. But don’t bring up any kind of tit-for-tat demand. It’s hard to believe, but true: there are people who carry roaches or loose teeth around, insert it into the dessert (always at the end of the meal), and demand to have the check picked up. Restaurateurs get enough of these weirdos to be on the lookout. But you don’t sound like that kind of person.