Ask Tom: Breastfeeding in restaurants, Restaurant Week service and tipping managers

Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, January 20, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema discussed dining in Vegas, service during Restaurant Week, tipping managers and breastfeeding at restaurants (again) on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 11 a.m. ET.


Alexandria, Va. nursing mom: Hi Tom,

I am entering this comment as I read the chat from 1/13. My son going to be one on Sunday and I am a breastfeeding mom. I have several comments about nursing in public.

1) The baby is eating -- we all have to eat and this is what breasts are actually designed for. A woman should not be made to feel as though she should sit in the bathroom to feed her child -- would you want to eat in a bathroom?

2) It is very easy to be discreet when nursing -- whether you use your clothes carefully or you use a cover/blanket.

To the poster who feels that children should be left at home -- sometimes, that is not possible or desired. And person should have the right to eat and the waiter/other patrons can simply turn away if it bothers them.

Tom Sietsema: Like Restaurant Week, the topic of nursing in public has been extended!

The following story comes from another chatter:

State College, Pa.: Last week, I read with interest the debate on nursing in public. I'm still going through this with my baby and have nursed him discreetly in several restaurants and no one burst into flame.

Last summer, we were in my favorite Santa Fe restaurant (La Choza), and the manager started to bring us to a table in the middle of the room. I saw an empty table in a cozy nook near a window.

"Could we sit there?" I asked. "I'll probably have to nurse my baby and I think I'd be more comfortable there, plus I don't want to offend anyone."

"Of course," said the manager. "But," and he leaned in close, "If anyone has a problem with you nursing your beautiful baby, you send them to ME."

Lunch was marvelous, I was able to nurse in comfort, and I remain forever grateful to that restaurant manager who supported a new mother and the continuation of the human race.

How's THAT for an opener on Hump Day? Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining me today.


Kudos to Urbana!!: Hi Tom,

I feel like I'm more inclined to kvetch or inquire on this chat, so I wanted to take a moment to recognize a really positive dining experience. We had dinner at Urbana during restaurant week, and it was one of the best dining experiences we've had in recent years (and we're fairly frequent diners!) The entire menu was available for restaurant week - which only made us want to go back and sample more of the delicious options - and the food was really fantastic. Service was cheerful and gracious, and when there was a slight delay in our desserts arriving (which we barely noticed, because we were so stuffed from the previous two courses) they appeared with a complimentary glass of prosecco. We will definitely be back and have been recommeding it to friends -- way to go, Urbana!

Tom Sietsema: Glad to hear that about Urbana. My last meal there, a month or so ago, was less than memorable. But I really like the mood of the dining room there.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom -- my friends and I just had a very unique Restaurant Week dining experience that we wanted to share with you. Our waitress at PS 7's was, to say the least, very quirky. She seemed a little out of it from the start -- she dropped the tray with our drinks, got some drink orders wrong and had this glazed over look throughout. The icing on the cake was when she asked one of my dining companions how he liked his drink. He told her he didn't really like it, at which point she proceeded to pick it up and take a swig before setting it back down on the table (perhaps she'd been doing this throughout the night?). Anyways, she replaced the drink and we still had a good time and came out of it with a good story to tell, but I've never seen any wait staff taste guests' food or drink before!

Tom Sietsema: Wow. She drank from your companion's GLASS, at the TABLE? That's just wrong. Good thing you didn't complain about anything on your PLATE, huh?


Rockville, Md.: Hook called me to confirm an 8:30 reservation at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and told me they were overbooked but I could reschedule to next week and they would still honor Restaurant Week. When I told them I had a young child and I had a babysitter, tonight, she replied with, well, it could be a long wait at 8:30, quite snarkily. I remembered reading on your chat last week that someone waited 45 minutes for a table. I called around and got an 8:30 reservation at Ardeo, canceled my Hook reservation, and had a lovely meal, and got seated on time.

I know that it is Restaurant Week and restaurants are busy, but why do they have to treat costumers like they are doing us a favor. How about they just don't participate? And I can promise you from that one phone conversation I will never go to Hook. Ever.

Tom Sietsema: Ouch. But I totally sympathize. And let me get this straight: Hook called you a mere three hours ahead of your reservation to deliver the bad news? Not good.

Mantra for receptionists everywhere: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."


Chapel Hill, N.C.: Hi Tom, I've got a question about how you, or anyone, assesses a restaurant.

Maybe it's different because you're a professional restaurant critic and most of your bill is a business expense. But when I go out to eat, I want to like the food. I expect to like it. And I think this often this colors my judgment, at least initially.

I often find that I walk out of a restaurant with a more favorable opinion of the meal than I'll have the next day. The farther removed I get from paying for dinner, the more honest my assessment is. I find I focus on the positives, at least initially, and only later develop a full opinion of the meal.

(If I think a meal was bad when I pay the check, then it was really bad.)

Obviously, you eat multiple times in a restaurant before writing a full review, but I was wondering if you face a similar process or challenge. Does your opinion of a single meal evolve over time? Or are you sufficiently detached from the meal that you can develop a good opinion quickly?

And a side note: I made the mistake recently of ignoring your advice and having dinner at Millie's Diner, in Richmond. Despite the great ambiance, I was immediately disappointed with the food. The seasonings were uneven, the sides were greasy, the starches were tossed in far too much butter. I wanted to love the place, solely based on how it looked, but the food was a complete letdown.

Tom Sietsema: Wow. This could consume an entire hour.

Like you, I try to go to every restaurant, and every meal in a restaurant, with an open mind and wanting to like whatever awaits. I type up my impressions of the experience after each visit and assign that meal a rating. Sometimes those ratings are similar; other times they vary wildly from visit to visit. It just depends. I've been doing this for such a long time now, however, I can often tell what kind of review I'm going to give a place based on my initial meal. That said, restaurants have a way of surprising me -- sometimes in a good way, other times not -- so it isn't always clear until I sit down, after several meals, and hit the keyboard.

Re: Millie's. Too bad. But I warned you! ;) Postcard from Tom: Richmond


Georgetown, D.C.: Dear Tom,

As the owner of Hook, I was deeply disappointed to learn during last week's discussion about the frustrating experience one chatter had when they were kept waiting without word at Hook for their reserved table during Restaurant Week. There is no excuse for such confusion at our front of house. Should a guest be kept waiting at Hook, they deserve to know how much time, to our best estimation, it will take before they are seated. The truth is we were overwhelmed and understaffed last Tuesday.

The Hook family is committed to providing our guests with warm service and excellent meals built around sustainable seafood. I would like to invite this diner to contact me directly at the restaurant (202-625-4488), and be our guest at his/her convenience. As hard as it is to receive this feedback from our diners, it is extremely important to us. We look forward to correcting this impression.


Jonathan Umbel, Hook

Tom Sietsema: And we thank *you* for writing in to explain and apologize. (But you might want to have a chat with whoever answers your phones now.)


Alexandria, Va.: From the chat of Jan 13th

"Alexandria: Hi Tom,

How close to closing is too late to expect to be seated at a restaurant? Last Saturday, my husband and I stopped by Bombay Curry Company in Alexandria at 9:25, hoping to get dinner. The sign on the door stated that the restaurant was open until 10. After waiting by the door for several minutes, I caught an employee's eye and asked if it was too late to be seated. He told me that it was. 35 minutes before closing, and other diners were still eating! We would not have minded being asked to order quickly, so that the kitchen could still close on time. We were not even offered the option of takeout, even though the restaurant offers this. We have enjoyed meals there in the past and just moved into the neighborhood, so we were hoping that this could become a regular spot -- not likely.

Tom Sietsema: I can understand a restaurant shuttering before the stated closing time if there's no business or bad weather or some such. But 35 minutes before closing time? When there are others in the room? No fair! At the very least, someone from the Bombay Curry Company should have apologized or offered you the option of take-out."

I totally agree with the lady and you, Tom.

Please convey my heartfelt apologies to her. I cannot turn back time and rectify the situation but would like to offer her a dinner for two.

The guidelines to staff are very clear. The posted hours indicate the kitchen operation time. If a guest is seated just prior to closing he is given due time to choose his dinner and is never rushed. Even when the kitchen closes, if there are diners, a cook remains to execute any running orders. Time and again this is emphasized to the staff and they are told that there will be no turning up the lights, switching off the music, vacuuming or any indication to the patron that he has overstayed. They are told that if they cannot do that they are in the wrong business and should work elsewhere.

Slipups like this do happen but I assure you that this is not the norm at Bombay Curry Company. We are a modest operation, the majority of our patrons are regulars and this is our 15th year, we would not have made it so far if we did not care about our customers.

An option to carryout should also have been offered.


Balraj Bhasin. Bombay Curry Company.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for taking the time to follow up and explain your policy, Mr. Bhasin.

Has it been 15 years already? Congratulations. 2005 Review of the Bombay Curry Company


Washington, D.C.: Dear Tom,

I had a very strange dinner experience last week and I'm hoping you can help me understand exactly what went wrong. Friday night, I had 6:30 reservations at Eventide. Myself and 2 co-workers -- all of us are event planners, well versed in restaurant mannerisms etc. We arrived on time, were promptly seated, had a lovely dinner (albeit a mediocre dessert which they comped us for -- completely gracious and unexpected!!)

All was lovely until the time that the waitress brought the check. She laid the check down at 8:05 and said, "No rush". She came back at 8:15 and we hadn't paid yet. Again, she said, "No problem." We gave her the check back around 8:20 and she brought it back immediately. We continued to talk for about 20 more mintues -- with the waitress continuing to refill our water glasses. At 8:40 a hostess showed up at our table unexpectedly and said, "I see that you're finished, do you have coats in coat check that I can bring to you?" Needless to say we got the hint and gathered our things and left, feeling quite embarrased. The busboy was actually standing next to the table as we left, so it was quite obvious that they wanted the table. I took your advice and stopped to talk with the manager on the way out, expaining the situation and asking why we were so unceremoniously booted out. He made some excuse about their policy being "20-30 minutes after they bring the check they offer to bring your coats for you." Clearly, they want you to leave soon after your meal is over.

My question is this -- I've NEVER experienced this kind of treatment from a restaurant before. I understand that restaurants need to be able to seat guests in a timely manner, but being forced to leave long before we were ready definitely left a bad taste in my mouth -- such a shame since the restaurant was lovely -- but I'm afraid to go back to avoid another embarrasing moment. What is our obligation as diners and what obligations do restaurants have -- considering that they are in the hospitality industry.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

P.S. They were not participating in RW, had they been we would have understood more the need to clear the table quickly.

Tom Sietsema: Actually, I'm inclined to sympathize with the restaurant. In part because you were clearly finished eating. In part because two hours for three diners is an acceptable, no-rush amount of time to enjoy dinner. And in part because it was a Friday night and people obviously needed to be seated there.It doesn't sound to me as if you were "booted out." I actually like the idea of a host or manager offering to bring you your coats as a sort of reminder to move along.


She drank from your companion's GLASS, at the TABLE? : Please, PLEASE tell me you told the manager about her!

Tom Sietsema: Did you?


Frederick, Md.: Hi Tom! A quick note about our unexpected experience with Restaurant Week. My boyfriend and I visited the bar at Volt on Friday last week to have a drink and order a snack or two off the bar menu. The bartender let us know that we could order off the Restaurant Menu at the bar! So we were able to enjoy a delicious meal at a restaurant that is currently next to impossible to get in (our reservations for Table 21 are for Feb 2011!). The bartender also provided great recommendations and we really enjoyed the chowder and sweet breads at his suggestion. And all of the wines he suggested were affordable and delicious. It was such a nice surprise when our evening went from casual drink and snack to full blown meal!

Tom Sietsema: Lucky you. Lucky Volt. (I'm a huge fan of eating at bars, and Volt's is among my favorite counters.)


Hook again: Yes, they called at 5 p.m. to discuss my 8:30 reservation with me. To be fair, that is 3 and a half hours.

Tom Sietsema: Right. But that's not a whole lot of time to make alternate plans.


Landover, Md.: Recently returned from Vegas and had an amazing dining experience at Joel Robuchon. Bread cart with over 20 varieties was heaven. The ocetra caviar and crab amuse bouche was unbelievable. We ordered the four-course meal and even with the fantastic four courses several amuse bouches and several desserts were presented in additional to the dishes we ordered. I want to thank you because of you and your recommendations we had the best meal of our lives. And recently we dined at Plume at the Jefferson Hotel and had a similar experience with the amuse bouche presented of tuna and orange zest followed by leek and potato soup. The amuse bouches sometimes seem to be the highlight of the meals at restaurants. Can you recommend others where these little treats are the stars?

Tom Sietsema: I adore the gratis bouquet of french fries at Bourbon Steak, the chicken liver spread at BLT Steak -- and just about anything the chefs at CityZen and Restaurant Eve send out before the appetizers.

Anyone else care to weigh in with favorite gifts from the kitchen? Postcard From Tom: Las Vegas


Washington, D.C.: Has the food at Restaurant Nora improved or are you disapppointed, but not surprised, that the Obamas dined there over the weekend?

Tom Sietsema: I wasn't surprised at all that the president took the Mrs. there for her birthday. Nora is known for her organic cooking; the First Lady is big on that, too. But I have to say, the meal I had there a few days before the First Couple dropped by was a real mish-mash of combinations, a lot of "stuff" on a plate and not edited very well. It was also pricey: $240 for two of us with wine.


13th St. S.E.: Just a word of defense for Hook during RW, we went on Saturday night with a party of six and were seated promptly and had a great meal. It was certainly very busy at times but I thought they handled themselves well.

Tom Sietsema: Fair enough.


Eventide: I also sympathize with the restaurant. If you wanted to contine to talk, why not move the conversation to the bar?

Tom Sietsema: My thought as well.


Washington, D.C.: Tom: I know you tweeted about it, but what do you think the odds are the Fabio Trabocchi returns to the D.C. area?

Tom Sietsema: I have no inside knowledge about his plans, but wouldn't it be great to see the chef back in the area? Let's hope some investor(s) here can help make that happen. (The space that housed Trabocci's late, great Maestro remains vacant, but I think that would be odd for him to return to that venue, especially if he does something less formal for his next act.)


Staying Seated After Dinner: A couple times my party and I have been asked to leave restaurants long after we've finished eating -- and you know what? They're right to do it! They are businesses -- not your living rooms. Sure, we folks catching up get carried away and forget the time. And I've never been offended once -- just apologetic for keeping the next party of hungry diners waiting!

Tom Sietsema: Bless customers like you. You're doing both the restaurant AND your fellow diners a favor by exiting in a timely fashion.


Breastfeeding: First, we can dismiss any supposed "medical benefits" of breastfeeding -- 95% of the people reading this chat grew up on formula, and we turned out fine. The real point of breastfeeding is to show your superiority to people who don't, similar to why one buys a Prius. Breastfeeding in private is pointless -- if I can't see a woman doing it, how am I going to know how much better than me she is?

Tom Sietsema: My producer warned me about letting the breastfeeding topic live on!


Washington, D.C.: I am surprised by the number of posters who have one bad experience initially, and then say they will write off the restaurant forever. I understand this is the hospitality industry, but can't folks attribute the first mistake as a fluke before black-listing the place? Tom, you visit a restaurant 3 times before writing the review, right?

Tom Sietsema: At least three times, yes. I, too, am sometimes surprised by how firm some folks are about never returning to a restaurant after a single unfortunate incident.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Tom. I wrote in with a question late last week about winning a contest at work and having $500 to spend on a fancy dinner with my hubby. I asked about a few restaurants but in the last few days thought about adding another to my list of possibilities: Plume. What do you think?

Tom Sietsema: Can I join you?

(Yes! Go!)


Staying seated: Fine if you've finished,but I've been booted from a restaurant table and given my check in the lobby.

And the waiter managed to kill his tip by being blatantly sexist to our table of six women. AND taking 15 minutes to get us our check in the lobby.

Never gone back to the place, of course. Nor have any of the other five diners.

Tom Sietsema: Let's make this clear that we're no longer talking about Eventide, but another establishment.


El Paso, Tex.: Sorry to allow politics to enter your genteel discussion, but - are all my fellow D.C. natives eating the New England classic Hot Browns today?

Tom Sietsema: Chatters?


Re: nursing in restaurants: I'm not nearly offended by nursing babies as I am with screaming brats, but they're kind of in the same vein so here goes my cynical opinion (and, yes, I do plan to have kids some day): When you have kids, you have to make sacrifices. Sometimes you can't go out like you used to and simply bring a child along. Yes it's natural; yes, the baby is eating; but for whatever reason people think it is unseemly. You know this. People who are offended by the nursing in public chose to either not have kids or bring 'em out, so they shouldn't have other people's children forced upon them. So skip the night out, order delivery, or hire a babysitter. Sorry.

Tom Sietsema: Wowza. What screaming infant in what restaurant prompted that feedback?


Alexandria, Va.: Tom, sticky question. Went to dinner with my SO the other night (had a reservation) where we were seated next to a table (close proximity) where a woman was wearing a surgical mask and who was obviously sick (coughing). We immediately flagged down our waitress (discretly) and asked if we could be reseated. She went and got the manager. In speaking with him, he was apologetic, but did indicate the restaurant was full with no open tables at the time. Mentioning our concerns, I said we'd be happy to wait until another table became available, but being the place that this is, reservations were totally booked and the manager suggested via a counter-offer for us to sit at the bar area. While I usually don't mind sitting at the bar to eat, I thought perhaps the manager might make an exception to try and squeeze us into a table, rather than offering us a seat at the bar and a free round of drinks. Thoughts?

Tom Sietsema: Gosh, when you're out of tables, you're out of tables. And had *your* party been given the next available spot in the dining room, someone behind you would have had to wait. Or go to the bar. Me? I'd be happy to graze at the bar and enjoy a free cocktail.


Re: nursing in restaurants: Well, I didn't choose to participate in your cell phone conversation either, so if I leave my kids home, will you leave your cell?

Tom Sietsema: I watched in amazement at brunch this Sunday as a table of four people in front of me ignored each other to use their cell phones. Simultaneously. What ever happened to excusing oneself from the table to take or make a call?


Kudos to RIS!: Many of us who work in the area have been eagerly awaiting the opening of RIS and after my first lunch there last week, I'll definitely be back. It's classy yet not pretentious, and I'd be equally comfortable there with clients as with co-workers or even a family outing. The six of us were thrilled! Congratulations on what has been a very long process, but I think the neighborhood has a real gem here! And while the lamb shank was as good as advertised, I was glad to find there's much more to enjoy at similar quality.

Tom Sietsema: I'm getting very mixed reviews from readers thus far. First Bite: Ris


Washington, D.C.: Your producer is right. (Hi producer.) For the love of all that is holy, stop posting the breastfeeding debate. Those people (the pro- and anti-) have plenty of other forums where they can carry on this tired old fight.

Tom Sietsema: Back to FOOD now, ok?


Anonymous: On Sunday, January 19, 2010, in the Magazine Section, you reviewed a restaurant in Crystal City and gave it one star. I am curious why you bother to review restaurants where you clearly do not intend to have patrons rush to enjoy a meal. Why bother to list the clunkers at all?

Thank you -- Northern Virginia

Tom Sietsema: Kora sits in a well-trafficked area, in a well-known space and is co-owned by a well-known chef. I think a lot of readers are curious to know how it tastes and whether it's worth their time and money. This Week's Review: Kora


Falls Church, Va.: I was recently at Avondale in Avon, Colo. (near Vail), with a group of 8 others and we had to wait a good 25 minutes past our reservation time because two people had paid but not left the table. I tried to be patient, because I had been that lingering couple (although maybe not at 8 p.m.) but I did feel that at a certain point the restaurant manager should have said something to them -- they were left alone to dawdle and we were left at the bar to fend for ourselves and buy our own drinks.

Tom Sietsema: Yep, I agree: The manager should have invited the couple to continue their evening at the bar. Did you say anything to the host? Prompt him or her?


Washington, D.C.: Tom, you ever get the feeling that your chats revolve too much around the service and not enough around the food itself?

Tom Sietsema: Today perhaps, but not always. I actually like variety in this forum. The more topics, the better.


Washington Cathedral: Morning Tom,

Any suggestions for a group of 12 with varying tastes near the Cathedral. I'd like to steer my team away from a chain if at all possible. And not pricey of course!

Thanks as always.

Tom Sietsema: Is this for breakfast, lunch or dinner? I'm a big fan of the Italian small plates and pizzas at Two Amys, but the place has been packed almost every time I've been in. Another option, south of there, is the Turkish-themed Cafe Divan. Two Amys and Cafe Divan


Washington, D.C.: Tom:

As you have often stated, holidays are often not good times to dine at otherwise good restaurants, and my recent poor experience at Plume supports this. After reading your positive review of Plume, which reliable friends confirmed based on their own experience there, I was really looking forward to Christmas Eve dinner. The problem, I think, was a special menu consisting of dishes not on their regular menu. Hot food arrived cold, portions were unbelievably small (two courses just slightly larger than an amuse bouche), and incredibly long waits (45-50 minutes) between courses. I found the setting to be wonderful -- possibly the best in the area, and the wine list excellent and well priced. I will probably return at some point, but after spending several hundred dollars for a very disappointing meal, it may be awhile. Oh, and upon departure, no list of wines consumed, no elegant bag, no anything! Not even a thank you and goodbye.

Tom Sietsema: Oh dear. That doesn't sound like the place I raved about (well, apart from the stunning setting and ace wine list). Thanks for the feedback. You'd think of all the holidays, Christmas Eve would be the most relaxed. December Review: Plume at the Jefferson Hotel


Washington, D.C.: Woohoo 4 weeks and I'll be eating at CityZen I can't wait!! I hear the breadbox is like Crack!! is true no?

Tom Sietsema: What you've heard is true: the warm, lightly salted, pull-apart Parker House rolls at CityZen, presented in a small wooden box, are close to illegal.


Tom, you ever get the feeling that your chats revolve too much around the service and not enough around the food itself?: This forum is about dining out, not solely about food. Service is an integral part of dining out, and can make or break a meal (see the space cadet who drank from a customer's glass).

Tom Sietsema: Good point.


Qualifications: Hi Tom - I love your reviews! But some might see critiquing food as subjective. I'm curious, what would you say are the top 5 qualities one should have to review a restaurant accurately? Thanks so much!

Tom Sietsema: Off the top of my head:

A sense of fairness; the ability to see the whole picture; good taste buds; a healthy budget to sample more than one meal; and finally, the ability to take all those meals, the funny thing the waiter says, the lighting, the ambience, the crowd, etc. and weave everything into a hopefully entertaining and accurate story.


Anonymous: Looking for great doughnuts in D.C. area.

Tom Sietsema: As in *restaurant* donuts? The fried ones served at brunch at the Tabard Inn (with cinnamon sugar and fresh whipped cream) are among my favorites. Chatters, what else are we missing? 2009 Dining Guide: Tabard Inn


Springfield, Va.: Tom, Hubby and I want to spend a weekend at a B&B in the (close in) Va. countryside. Was thinking of Ashby Inn, but I heard rumors of an ownership change and decline in service. We're also considering the Gladstone Inn in Middleburg. Any advice?

Tom Sietsema: Ownership change, yes. But decline in service? Um, I guess you didn't catch my update on the Ashby Inn that ran earlier this month. 2010 Review: Ashby Inn


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom. My wife and I are celebrating a special occasion at one of your faves, Rasika, this weekend. We've been there a couple times, but it's been a while. Any standouts on the current menu? Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: Rasika: Lucky you two. All my current recommendations are in my most recent dining guide. But really, it's hard to go wrong on Vikram Sunderam's menu. 2009 Dining Guide: Rasika


Arlington, Va.: Tom and chatters: Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it not standard to tip hosts/hostesses who take and retrieve your coats? I'm not talking about stand-alone coat checkers -- it's clear that they accept tips. But more than once in the last few weeks, I've experienced an awkward moment when offering hosts/hostesses a tip for retrieving my coat at the end of a meal. Thoughts?

Tom Sietsema: I don't tip managers or owners for retrieving my coat, but I do give hosts/hostesses a buck or so for the help.


McPherson Square: I'm starting to wonder if I'm over-sensitive to salt. I've had meals at Central and Tallula recently that would have been exceptional had they not been so salty. It wasn't salty enough that I felt I could send the food back but it did keep my from enjoying the meal. Is there a good way to ask servers when I order to limit the salt? Is it even possible when the salt comes in sauces that probably aren't made to order?

Tom Sietsema: Interesting questions.

I've noticed over-salting at other restaurants and I wonder if those situations are flukes or if the cooks in question have built up a tolerance for the seasoning. I love salt, but it needs to be used judiciously. The best cooks taste, taste, taste through the course of a shift.

As for warding off future saltiness, it wouldn't hurt to let your waiter know you would prefer the chef to go easy on the seasoning (although you're right about a lot of sauces; they've likely been whipped up and seasoned earlier in the day).


Hot Browns: Are not a New England classic, but a hot sandwich from the legendary Brown Hotel in Louisville. There is a cold brown sandwich as well, but it never gained the popularity of its artery-clogging cousin.

Tom Sietsema: I shouldn't have let that slip, above. Thanks to you and others for giving proper credit.


I, too, am sometimes surprised by how firm some folks are about never returning to a restaurant after a single unfortunate incident.: There are so many, many, many dining options in the D.C. area that it's easy to decide not to go back to a place where you've had a bad experience. Especially if dining out is an infrequent treat for you.

Tom Sietsema: And on that note, I bid you all a delicious rest of the week. See you here again next Wednesday. Thanks, everybody.


A veteran food writer, Sietsema has worked as a critic in Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee and covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns and moderates the Sietsema's Table discussion group. Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post writing at Join his live Q&A every Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET.

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