We got some negative feedback today about the food. The guests in question stayed with us about a month ago. They were with us for two nights and never complained about anything in the dining room. Apparently they then went back to our PR firm and to the owner and complained about the food. She noted a lack of choices and the fact that we had strange combinations of food that didn't go together, for example we "served chocolate on a salad at lunch".
Well, that last bit stumped us both. As far as we could remember we had never put chocolate on a salad. We've done some pretty strange things in the kitchen, but never that. These particular guests were extremely high maintenance and so we all remembered them quite well. I could say more but discretion is the better part of valor and I will leave it at that. Finally an hour later Alex figured it out. We served a salad with a Sonoma Vella Jack cheese whose rind had been rubbed with cocoa. It's an interesting process but the unsweetened cocoa that is rubbed on the cheese does not actually impart any cocoa flavor to the finished product. It is a wonderful nutty cheese and a beautiful complement to lightly dressed greens and fresh tomatoes. So the criticism was technically correct since there was cocoa in the cheese but there was no chocolate flavor in her salad. In all fairness, her comment about the strange flavor pairings was correct as well. Anyone who reads this site knows that we're not afraid of unusual pairings. Although we do try to keep them out of the dining room until we're sure they work.
Another complaint was that they were not allowed to order omelettes at breakfast. Interestingly enough a couple staying with us the week before had asked for and received bacon and cheese omelettes. The lady in question never bothered to make the request, she simply complained about the lack of options after her departure. It's certainly true that we have set menus. We also go to great trouble to ask people before they arrive if they have any aversions or special requests so that we can take care of them to the best of our ability when they arrive. We talk to them after their arrival to try and make sure that their needs are being met and they are happy with our offerings. We know that we can't please everyone all of the time but we are certainly willing to try. It's a very difficult task in the best of circumstances but when people are unwilling to communicate with us we are almost guaranteed to fail.
Bitterness aside, I won't lie there is a bitter taste in my mouth as I write this, there is something to be learned from this experience. Perhaps we need to be more communicative with our guests. Alex greets every table at every meal and talks to our diners about the food but somehow we missed this woman's unhappiness and were unable to make her stay a pleasant experience. Our radars were faulty or off in this instance and we made a bad impression. It could be that we talk to people but do not always listen as well as we should. It's a reality check and will remind us to be more vigilant in the future.
On the other hand, there are some people that you simply cannot please and we usually recognize them early on. Occasionally we can win them over and that is a true pleasure. Other times we simply grit our teeth and smile until our cheeks ache and they take their leave. Fortunately the majority of people who come to stay with us are witty and wise and incredibly interesting. We've been blessed with good company and so I can accept a little bitterness to temper the sweet. Hopefully it will make me a better person, a better chef and a better restaurateur.