A periodic peek at the Post food critic’s e-mail, voice mail, inbox and online chat submissions.

Someone identifying him or herself on my online dining discussion as a career restaurant manager took issue with a participant who felt servers topping wine glasses were trying to push additional bottles.

“Keeping wine glasses filled is a basic service step, and near-empty wine glasses on a table are a red flag to floor managers that perhaps the server is not taking adequate care of the guest. When I see them, I go to the table myself and offer to pour,” submitted the hospitality worker.

As a general rule, the manager continued, if the glass is 1/3 full, a server adds to the bowl. “Ideally the server should ask if the guest(s) care for more wine” and for the guest(s) to let the server know from the start their preference for refilling wine.

Waiters who over-fill glasses are among my pet peeves, right there with servers who check in by asking “Is everything delicious?” The behavior comes across as intrusive and presumptuous. Such aggressiveness also upsets the confidence a diner puts in a restaurant. So I appreciate the poster’s 1/3 rule and the recommendation that diners be upfront about the pacing of liquids.


An online chatter notes that the Web site for Central Michel Richard downtown touts receiving “three out of three” stars from The Washington Post the last time it was reviewed in 2012. “You probably don’t need me to point out that you use a four-star rating system and Central did not receive the highest rating. Do you care?”

I do, and I reached out to Mel Davis, the restaurant’s spokeswoman, for comment. “It was a mistake, a typo, misedited,” she told me in a phone conversation this month. “Nothing intentional.” Davis says the Web site was redesigned last fall. “We’re still finding glitches.” She promised to fix the error the day we spoke. Anyone going to www.centralmichelrichard.com now should find it plugging three stars from this publication — an “excellent rating” — albeit without mention of a possible four-star, or “superlative,” rating.


Not a week passes that a reader doesn’t complain about noise pollution in restaurants. But rarely do they include in the gripe a possible solution to the problem that refuses to be silenced.

“My foodie friends and I were pleased when, some years back, you added ‘decibel level’ to your reviews of local restaurants,” writes Patricia Taylor of the District. “Since we like to converse while we eat, the [sound rating] has enabled us to avoid restaurants” where that’s difficult. “However, there are now so many well-rated restaurants with high decibel levels; our choice of suitable restaurants becomes ever more limited. This is sad.”

Taylor and her companions have an idea they want me to facilitate: Quiet Dining Night Out, a promotion that could be flagged online, where interested parties could sign up for peaceful meals in participating restaurants.

Logistically, I think businesses would want to host such events on nights that are typically slower (Monday rather than Saturday) and add or drop details that affect noise levels. At a minimum, I imagine host restaurants would need to minimize sound by laying down linens or carpets and laying off background music.

Restaurants, here’s your chance to fill seats — and make a lot of diners happy. Let me know if you’re up for the challenge — quietly, please.


A reader called me out for referring to the semolina quenelles — one of my favorite dishes at the new Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown (Magazine, Jan. 4) — as vegetarian when the composition contained Gruyere.

“Did you confirm that the Gruyere was made without rennet? If not, it is hardly vegetarian,” e-mailed Lily Engle from Alexandria. “Rennet is from calves’ stomach linings, as you know, and it is hardly picky for a vegetarian to decline to eat it.” Chef Brendan L’Etoile confirmed that the Gruyere he uses contains rennet, an enzyme that causes milk to form a curd.

Engle says she’s not “some ascetic person who takes no pleasure in life.” A “huge” home cook and a former caterer, she simply eschews meat and would appreciate chefs “being creative and seeing meals beyond a hunk of meat surrounded by accoutrements.”

And, no doubt, food critics who remember that a lot of cheeses are made with rennet.

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The regular Dining column returns next week.