Periodically I write about my dinner club and the different venues that we visit. The usual routine is that three members host the evening including the bar tab, and then they dine on other member’s dimes for the rest of the year. Of course there are also a few “Dutch Treat” nights as well, where each member pays his way for the evening, and we still have as good of a turnout as we do with a “hosted” meeting. The meal usually starts with a salad, then a choice of three different entrée dishes with assorted starches and vegetables, and finally coffee or tea and a dessert. Most of the time the dinners work out wonderfully, but there have been exceptions. I will not mention the restaurants as I do not think it is necessary.
One evening we were meeting at an ethnic restaurant, which was novel at the time for our club and to this day, it is still unique as a choice. The restaurant was on the second floor above some merchants and shops and it had an older style steep staircase without a landing to break up the flight, not a good thing for some of the members. The dishes that were offered by the hosts were very unexciting considering that this was an ethnic restaurant, and not to be catty, but I am sure that the entire evening’s tab (bar included) was less then my one-sixth of the Christmas Dinner that I host. It was unbelievably hot in the restaurant and the windows would not open, not to mention that when I asked for a glass of Coke, just to cool off, the waiter informed me that the restaurant was out of Coke and that if I would give him some money, he would run over to a store and buy me a bottle, which was good service from him, but poor for the restaurant. That evening I remember starting off with a glass of Avia Cabernet Sauvignon 1990. Not a wine that one usually encounters as the winery/company is located in Ljubljana, Slovenia and the wine came from the Primorska Region of Slovenia which is in the Western part of the country. Slovenia actually shares the same latitudes as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Northern Rhone as is surrounded by other older established wine countries; Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. The wine was the best part of the meal, but since it got so hot, I had to change over to Coke that evening. We did not return to this venue.
The second story where the house wine was the star was a “Dutch Treat” evening in the middle of the winter. I had been told that this particular restaurant offered good value and they had a private room, which we require. I made the plans for the evening, and since we had no history with this restaurant they requested a hundred dollar deposit on the room and that it would be deducted from the dinner bill at the end of the evening, which was fine. I chose the menu, and estimated that there would be about twenty-five for dinner that evening. The evening came for the meeting and it was a major blizzard, and I kept walking out into the restaurant proper to see how they were coping, and my group was the only ones there. All total we had twenty-two member show up, so I figured that the restaurant would be happy, especially if you figure that each member was probably good for at least two drinks each, on top of the dinner. I was drinking a Woodbridge Merlot Vin de Pays d’Oc 1996 that is part of the Robert Mondavi group of wines. This particular wine was from France, the Languedoc-Rousillon region that is now getting some better reviews, but back then it was just considered table wine. There are six Vin de Pays regions, in a three tier setting. This wine is from the second tier, a departmental tier (d’Oc) which is the largest department. After dinner and the conclusion of the meeting I called for the bill, as I knew that I had to fight the blizzard to get home, and the waiter came with the bill, and I noticed that the deposit had not been deducted. When I asked about the discrepancy, the waiter said that his manager, who I had made the arrangements with, said that “I lied about the group number, so he was going to keep the deposit.” I asked the waiter to have the manager come over to my table, before I paid the bill, the other members were started to chip in to cover my loss, when the manager appeared, and he repeated the fact the “I lied.” I asked him what Business College did he attend that he had such fantastic customer service and how they could let him graduate. I informed him that he should actually kiss every man’s derriere that was having dinner, because he could show some revenue for the evening, and that I did not “lie.” I said that for that many men to show up in spite of the weather was wonderful and that if he was so concerned he should have charged me for the “missing” dinners and then deducted my deposit. He left the room and the waiter came back, with an adjusted receipt for the original charge, less my deposit. I told the waiter to relay some additional information to his manager, that we would have used the restaurant again, except for his lack of judgment and that it was not the waiter’s problem. I also said that he had lost not only any future business from the club, but from the individual members who like to take their spouses out for dinner and frequent some of the venues that we meet at, and that the manager’s action would be repeated often by the members to their friends that might have been interested in trying the restaurant. Thankfully the club does not usually encounter restaurants like these that often.