Lemons again? The Birthday. Customer experience. Olive Garden Restaurants.

So I used them again. The preserved lemons made their way back into the mealset, Tonight I used them in the teriyaki marinade of these breast strips. I think I may have found my new meat.


As part of my son’s birthday, we give the kids an opportunity to select where they would like to go for dinner. Benihana . . . I think not, tonight! Olive Garden (San Diego, Tri-City, El Camino Real shopping mall) happened to be the selection for us this evening. We are a party of 7 so I expected a small wait. No problem, I’ll see you at the bar.

Once at the bar I noticed a small group forming around me since my son, now 21, and his brother, now 26 dummied up . . . and I mean dummied up to the bar and quickly pointed at me and said, ‘on him”, as I ducked my head anticipating an expensive night.

Once at the bar and gaining control of the bartender that night, I asked what he had in bottle beer. I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name; “The bartender” hesitated just less than a moment and I didn’t want to appear ill prepared, so I trumped his hesitation by claiming I’ll have a (something on tap). The bartender was quickly getting busy yet countered by saying, “I was catching my breath” and began to rattle off the entire bottled bear menu . . . then proceeded to open the fridge directly in front of me so I can make a visual selection.

Just about that time I met Seajay, the Manager that evening as he assisted the bartender by ringing up his bar tabs and identified my beer by leering at it with some serious “stink eye”. I noticed his momentary ponderance of evidence in front of me and claimed, “hey, did you just give my beer stink eye?” Seajay and I began a night of friendship and introductions to other staff members such as Scotty, our server. Seajay assured us, once we were seated that Scotty, would be taking excellent care of us that night . . . and that he did!

Scotty professionally dealt with every table scenario encountered, like a lactose free selection and the serving, and quickly replacing, an incorrect beer order. Not one instance went by that Scotty wasn’t on it, from waters to extra sauces. He even got my special order right . . . albeit, the butter was burnt, by still edible.  Scotty made my visit easy . . . especially when giving him the tip. Wow and an extra $10 on top of the already rounded 20+%. Scotty deserved it, yet Seajay, the manager deserved it as well. The manager precluded my visit by quickly accepting my stupid “Dick” humor and taking one of my business cards while at the bar.

Just as we had entered the car to go out that evening, my son picked up a book I had placed behind the passenger front seat in my truck. The book was titled something like, ” Managing the Customer Experience”. I explained to my son about meeting the expectations and maintaining the customer experience we expect from going to “Olive Garden” that evening. I explained that we have had experienced Olive Garden in the past and we are arriving with an expectation of what we had previously experienced before at other Olive Garden locations. I then explained about the customer experience and meeting or exceeding that expectation to achieve the “experience” we had before during our visits. Well tonight was a perfect example of our experience . . . a perfect example of providing the customer experience we hoped for; yet exceeding that expectation to provide a wonderful evening for my family. Perhaps that equates to Olive Garden’s slogan “when you’re here, your family”.

As for those lemons. Keep using them in new stuff . . . try new combinations. The teriyaki tonight was good, yet could have used more lemon. It really began to cut through the teriyaki and brighten up the dish. BTW, the breast chicken meat was super moist and delicious. I normally always use thigh meat. Not tonight. The green beans, perfect. And the rice was nice and sticky. And this food was a “must cook” tonight combo before everything turned south in the fridge.


Lemons & Leeks … and Granola

Here’s a perfect use for those preserved lemons. The Risotto . . . not necessarily the granola.


Photos and migraines

LemonsAndLeeksVertR Lemons and LeeksR I have been utilizing my new cookbook, “It’s All Good,” by Gwyneth Paltrow, a lot lately. It’s pretty good. And healthy to the point my migraines have been considerably reduced! Whoo Hoo!

Anyway, I plan on trying a risotto recipe this week, and decided some of the ingredients needed to be photographed.

I have not tried this recipe yet, but it looks pretty good.


1 quart vegetable stock
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
Coarse sea salt
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups baby spinach or any other baby greens
1 cup fresh English peas (you can substitute small frozen peas)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper

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Showing up “Spectacular!”

RoTelVelveetaWell if you know the history, you would better understand. I can’t just arrive at an event with just a bag of chips, I have to have them (the chips) arrive in spectacular fashion. They cant just be thrown on a the table with some jarred or canned salsa or cheese. No it’s gotta be a chip throwdown. Now that I’ve got this education, people expect to see something . . . something . . . everything! The word gets out even before I arrive. I’m labeled somekind of “chef”. But I’m not . . . I don’t necesarrily like being called a chef, and I have never worked in the industry. I was never working in the capacity of a chef, therefore I feel as though I am undeserving of the title. Yet, I arrive, and people already know, they are expecting something from me. I can’t just show up and plop a bag of chips on the table. I have to show up and somehow be spectacular.

“Bring some cheese and crackers”, she says . . . knowing it’s me . . . my bestest friend, knows I know. How does she know? Her son too graduated from the same university as I. Her son too graduated with a BS degree in Culinary studies. Actually he chose the hospitality side in which I had considered marrying with my previous aviation degrees. For that I had figured they married well in the airline industry. But no, I went Culinary Management. Her son is off to a rock solid career as a result, already a Sous Chef at a notable retirement resort community here in San Diego.Moscato

Well, I show up with some crackers and cheese. Actually, wine too! I had used a bit of my education to marry a slightly melted Brie cheese, pomegranate seeds, fresh squeezed lime juice with lime zest garnish. It was around the holidays so the colors were white, bright/deep red and green zest. It was a pretty plate. Sorry no picture (I don’t normally take pictures of my presentations at parties). Now what are your expectations of taste? Rich buttery cheese, bitter-sweet pomegranate crunch and tart lime. But see, I needed to break up the elements of those flavors and introduce a sweet element. My son had purchased a very sweet Moscato D’Asti  from Italy. The comments were very positive. It was a wonderful combination . . . but you had to try it with the wine, otherwise it was seeming meaningless. Then, after you tried the first bite, I could care less what you did.

Next time, I’m showing with some raw squid and pickles. Let’s see if that gets a reaction . . .


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