Voting with a half full wine glass

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Contrary to an accusation disguised as an opinion, it is not my life’s mission to go into a restaurant looking for something wrong. Sure, I aim to sit with my back to the flow of the service-side of the operation. And yes, when possible, I prefer to make reservations to dine at the chef’s counter for the sights, sounds and smells of a bustling kitchen. Lastly, I rarely know what I’ll order, so personal menu prerequisites are almost non-existent. Like everyone else, I simply have basic expectations of good food, perceived value, efficient service and an enticing, appropriate atmosphere.

The “opinion-usation” misses the mark because I make it my mission to keep my wine glass half full. Anyone who imbibes with me knows that regardless of the hooped-wine charm depicting whose glass is whose, the fullest goblet is always mine. I’m a bright-side-of-life kind of gal, especially when sitting down to a dinner I am not serving someone else.

Just to prove I’m not about sour grapes I’ll share the real-life moment of an exemplary restaurant visit.

Having seen the Weatherman’s picture on a milk carton, I was delighted when he invited me to dinner on a mid-week school night.

Walking from his house to a popular, off-peninsula hot spot, reservations had been made and we were seated at a primo table overlooking the bright lights and busy traffic of Portland at rush hour. Bordering on the trendy, flannel-overload, urban-chic I have come to loathe, everything, and I mean everything, was glossed over by our super-star server, Jason.

I could go on about what we ordered, the price points, the pros and cons of a limited menu, and all the rest. But the buzz is, this guy resilvered us as if he had a personal vendetta against the dishwasher. He kept our water carafe full, suggested how we should course our meal and recited the specials as if he were in church. Lastly, even though we were full, Jason brought over the dessert menu. This was especially noted as there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, and our table would have turned in an instant.

The atmosphere was fun and unexpected. The food presented nicely and the craft cocktails were on par with the Old Port’s best (However, I lament classy Grand Marnier over trashy triple sec in my Cosmopolitans.) The prices were Old Port too, but we didn’t have to drive anywhere and left happy.

So, aside from proving I don’t just look for stuff to complain about, where am I going with all this?

Here it comes. Jason is a server’s server. And as a server, I say he deserves to keep every penny of the tips he personally earned (after taxes). The End.

However, it isn’t that simple and I don’t want to get preachy around question 4 (raising the minimum wage) or the all-for-one “service charge” policy versus traditional tipping that’s popping up. At least not until after the election. Let the people speak via the vote.

Speaking of voting, it’s like making a reservation at least two weeks in advance. Do your homework, shop around for information and seriously, don’t complain about the outcome if you’re not proactive in the process.

And as always, enjoy your meal.

Peas & Qs

We all know of people who may be alone, or have nowhere to go for a holiday meal on Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe it’s a few college students far away from family, a single person facing new life circumstances or a lone traveler in town on business. Or, maybe you know of an isolated elderly couple, a barely surviving family, a young person down on their luck or someone who is homeless.

It isn’t pleasant to think about, so maybe you don’t even know you know them. But take a moment and think.

“It’s a hard thing to recognize and act on,” says Debi Hubbard, who, along with fellow volunteers, has sponsored and prepared a soup-to-nuts, free Thanksgiving dinner at VFW 832, at 50 Perry Terrace, in South Portland, for 20-plus years.

“People think if they aren’t homeless, this dinner isn’t for them, but everyone is invited. No one should or needs to be alone on Thanksgiving,” she said. “Last year, a TV station came and filmed us stuffing turkeys, but that isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about getting the word out that we are providing rides and all are welcome, no matter what their circumstances are.”

For more information about the noon-3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day dinner, and to arrange a ride and seat for yourself or someone you know, call 799-8859.

Check out the Forecaster calendar, both in print and online for information on this, and other holiday gathering opportunities for those alone or in need.

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.