IT SOUNDED as if Tony & Joe's, where everything tasted so fresh and real, was turning plastic.
Two diners complained they found pieces of plastic wrap in their food. The problem, according to executive chef Tom Kee, was that the compound butters served atop the fish were wrapped in plastic for refrigeration, then sliced. And Kee himself found bits clinging to the portion on occasion. So the restaurant changed its procedure, unwrapping the butter after it is shaped and storing it in containers.
In addition, a complaint about a bristle in the house-made muffins prompted Kee to explain that the muffin tins originally were brushed with butter but now the muffins are baked in Teflon pans. The restaurant is also working on producing its own key lime pie rather than buying it and making fruit cobblers to replace the apple pies it buys. It just goes to show why in the restaurant business you have to move fast to stay in place.
WALK SOFTLY & CARRY A BIG TIP -- Tout Va Bien, like most restaurants nowadays, serves brewed decaf as well as regular brewed coffee. But its decaf is made like espresso, cup by cup. So refills are not free, as they are with regular coffee. Thus, one night when a diner requested another cup of decaf the waitress refused because the table already had its bill. The diner left thinking the restaurant was ungracious. Manager Ben Kirane, when later told about the incident, agreed with the diner's conclusion. If a waitress had refused a second cup of coffee, he said, she made a mistake. In such a case the restaurant's policy is to forget the extra charge and just bring another cup of coffee. That sounds more like the Tout Va Bien I have known.
DAYS OF WINE AND MORE WINE -- You don't need to traipse over the entire state to find all of Virginia's wineries, and you don't even need a designated driver for your sampling if you explore Virginia wines at the Virginia Wine and Food Weekend at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., March 25-27. Fifteen wineries will be attending. The weekend agenda begins with a Friday tasting reception and buffet followed by more food and more wine at an "Epicurean Festival." Saturday is filled with talks by winemakers and a blind tasting, culminating in a wine competition. In the evening a champagne reception introduces a nine-course banquet accompanied by wines of the 15 vineyards. Sunday morning there is brunch with a champagne tasting. The cost of the weekend includes breakfast and high tea each day, and to work it off, dancing, golf and swimming. The weekend, including accommodations, costs $611 a couple or $403 for single occupancy. For registration or more information call The Homestead at 800/542-5734.
FOUR IS NOT ENOUGH -- Having opened the River Club, Paolo's and Georgetown Seafood Grill within the last year to add to J. Paul's in their Georgetown restaurant empire, Paul Cohn and Barry Silverman still haven't stopped. Now they are negotiating on a site for another Georgetown restaurant to open next year, perhaps a Chinese- Western restaurant modeled after Los Angeles' Chinois and New York's China Grill.