The New Threatening Reservations, Slow Food Honors Pour Mount Kisco with its Snail of Approval, and Pho-Like at Jewel of Himalaya (Guess What? We Like!)



Best of Westchester Party Alert! Don’t get voted off the island on July 18! We’re already sold out of VIP passes (unless you’re a 2012 BOW winner), and general admission badges are going fast on our sales site. You don’t want to miss 2012’s party of the year, your last chance to enjoy a summer gala that gathers the best of Westchester’s food, drink, and services under one roof for one night only. And, Party People,Like_Button_No_Logo the Best of Westchester Party on Facebook for weekly ticket giveaways, BOW news, prizes, and more—good luck!

Rezsanity: Once a Courtesy, Now a Threat

Recently, on OpenTable to place a reservation for a Westchester restaurant that I was reviewing, I was forced to cough up a credit card number (no mean feat for an anonymous reviewer), and then faced with this threat: If I should cancel “within the 48-hours preceding the reservation, (I) will be charged $25 per person. No call, no show, will be charged $50 per person.” Yikes.

This restaurant is part of a growing backlash against the dreaded no show diner that reserves a table (or multiple tables) and then simply never shows up. In an economy where restaurant profit margins can run as small as 3% - 5% (as citied by this Wall Street Journal article), some restaurants report no-show rates as high as 20%. The reasons for no-shows are endless. OpenTable makes reservations so easy – they’re only a click away (and depersonalized, to boot) - while some restaurants cite multiple bookers: diners that reserve several tables for one night, then, according to whim, decide which they’ll honor.

Aside from the rising number of restaurants that charge no-shows, restaurants are also making it personal. The Wall Street Journal article cited that restaurateur Drew Nieporent, reacting to a 40% no-show rate at Nobu, has personally called absentee diners on the day following a skipped reservation.  Others restaurants make proactive strikes and confirm reservations by phone. One or two days prior to your reserved table at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and X20, you will receive a call about your booking. This is an expensive service for restaurants to offer; they’re yielding precious margin points to pay someone to remind diners of their bookings. It’s also ironic. Reservations originated as a special courtesy that busy restaurants extended to their clientele. Now that courtesy is cutting into the bottom line.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable for small restaurants, like Dobbs Ferry’s the Cookery or Croton’s Ocean House, to simply refuse to accept reservations for most of their tables.  They can keep their margins down and their dining rooms filled – as long as they don’t annoy diners who refuse to wait (or who demand a committed table).  How do you feel? Do you take your chances with restaurants that don’t accept reservations? Do you refuse to gamble? Have you ever been a no show? And, how would you feel if you were charged $200 for missing a res?  Let me know your story in the comments section below, I’d love to hear it…

HotFlash

Pour Mount Kisco Receives Its Slow Food Snail of Approval!

Here’s one thing that I love about Slow Food. Every time I’m in Italy (and dining at iconic Slow Food restaurants) I see parties of Slow Food folks enjoying epic feasts.  They laugh.  They argue.  But mostly, they eat and drink.  Slow Food just released a guide to Slow Wine and, I feel, it’s about time they got behind spirits. I know for a fact that those Slow Food guys like to drink! But this is risky in the US – the very upright folks of StilltheOne/Comb were forced to build their distillery a regulated distance from schools and churches (just like a porn shop). In the US, we still have “Dry” counties, our streets are nobly decorated with Temperence water fountains, and, once, we even lost our damn minds with Prohibition (no link – it was a whole big thing. You really should Google it).

I don’t mind saying that when Slow Food declares that bars and distilleries can exemplify the Slow Food tenet, to be “good, clean and fair, I get a special anarchic thrill. Pour Mt. Kisco has long supported local, small-production distilleries like Delaware Phoenix (from Walton, NY) – which also received its Snail at Pour on July 1st. The Luca Pizza Truck was there – they also got a Slow Food Snail.  In fact, Pizza Luca should have gotten a Slow Food Medal of Honor for manning a blasting pizza oven on a 90 degree day (on asphalt, too)!

Just a word of warning – there was some scuttlebutt (of my own, sole generation) of a new, anti- Slow Food award similar to the Razzies. The “Cheetah” - a name so helpfully proposed by a bona-fide Slow Food member, I won’t say which - would go to restaurants that make slow, local, sustainable claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Don’t get caught with a Cheetah, folks.

 

HotPlate

Thukpa Soup at Jewel of Himalaya

 

Tender, hand-thrown wheat noodles and a beefy, spicy stock that hints and star anise, cloves and cinnamon but with the herbal crispness of cilantro.  Sure, it’s hot soup in a really hot month (but, like its Vienamese cousin, pho) it’s the sort of clean, warming dinner that makes AC feel just divine.

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