Short Order: The customer is always wrong

There must be a hatchery somewhere in the country that breeds your typical trendy restaurant manager.

salad 88 (photo credit: )
salad 88
(photo credit: )
I hadn't intended to actually describe what happened to me in a well-known Jerusalem restaurant recently. It seemed too disgusting. But when a friend to whom I told the tale pointed out that the chewed-up ball of gum I found stuck to the inside of my cup as I drained the last of my English tea "was probably clean gum, having almost certainly gone through the dishwasher together with the cup," I decided that readers of this column could cope. In any case, the point of the story, discomfiting as it was, is not the sinking of the heart and quaking of the stomach that occurs when off-putting objects show up in unexpected places. The real turnoff was the reaction of officialdom. There must be a hatchery somewhere in the country that breeds your typical trendy restaurant manager, because they are astonishingly alike: young, thin, flashily dressed, humorless and almost openly contemptuous of the customer. When I pointed out that I surely deserved some compensation for my misadventure, this representative of the owners first implied that nothing untoward had occurred; then, when that position proved untenable, insisted that his staff was well-trained and incapable of any failing. Finally, he offered me a free dessert. It's hard to believe that such a manager cares whether a customer returns to his establishment or not. I certainly feel reluctant to do so. Innocence, once lost, is hard to regain. A few days later, ordering tea in a cafe, I decided to forgo the milk. Better to have a clear view of what's in the bottom of the cup. I DON'T know what the weather will be like when you read this, but as I write, it is 37° here in Jerusalem, which means one thing: salads! Here's an unusual one from For the Love of Cooking by Rae Dayan. TOMATO & CHICKPEA SALAD 4 medium tomatoes 11⁄2 cups celery 2 small cucumbers 1 green pepper 1 red pepper 1 large onion 450 gr. canned chickpeas Dressing: 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar 1 cup oil 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1⁄4 cup fresh dill, chopped 2 tsp. salt 1⁄2 tsp. pepper Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then peel, seed and chop them. Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers. Chop the celery, pepper and onion. Drain the chickpeas and combine with the vegetables. Whisk or blend the dressing ingredients, add to the salad and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. WRITES Rena M. Isaacson of Jerusalem, referring to a recent column: "Now that you have 'finally found the nerve to cook fennel,' here's a recipe I got years ago from a Jamie Oliver Naked Chef program and which I have been serving ever since. Even friends who say they never eat fennel lap it up." BAKED FENNEL 3 large fennel bulbs, with fronds if you have them 2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin olive oil white wine salt and pepper to taste Trim the fronds off the fennel bulbs and slice the bulbs, vertically, very thin. Chop the fronds and add to the fennel. Put in a Pyrex baking dish. Add the garlic and seasoning. Drizzle with the wine and olive oil and, using your hands, mix the whole thing together. Wet some baking paper (niyar afiya) and crumple it. Tuck it loosely around the fennel mixture. Bake in a 200° oven for about 40 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. This reader adds: Incidentally, sliced raw fennel with thinly sliced oranges and oil-cured black olives, drizzled with very good olive oil, makes a delicious salad. LEMON TREE very pretty / And the lemon flower is sweet / But the fruit of the poor lemon / Is impossible to eat. Well, sometimes. But offers this tip: "Some lemons are more sweet than others. A rule of thumb for selecting a lemon that is both sweet and high in mineral content is to pick one that has a high specific gravity measurement and is heavy for its size. "Comparing equal-sized fruit, the one with the greatest weight will have the most mineral content and sugar. A thick-skinned lemon will not be as heavy as a thin-skinned lemon, and will not have the desired sweetness or mineral content." WHEN LIFE throws you a lemon, find someone with vodka and throw a party. [email protected]