Wednesday, July 20, 2011

sometimes the sequel is better

While it is rarely true in motion pictures, I find that a dish is usually better the second or third time I make it.  I can only imagine that this is because the first time, I stay strictly close to the written recipe, and on future adventures, I break free of the tyranny of the recipe, allowing myself to tweak a little here and there.

Tonight, I reprised Pasta Shells with Black-Eyed Peas from The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.  We liked it just fine the first time around, which is why I made it again, but since I looked back over my original post, I remembered to give it a little more flavor this time around.  Mission accomplished: a generous sprinkling of my beloved sea salt blend took this from a decent dinner to a fantastic meal.

The shells were a little bigger than I thought they'd be, once they were all cooked up.  I knew they weren't as small as the ones I usually get, but these are really big - as in, almost clever-hors-d'ouevres-stuff-them big.  It was actually kind of fun trying to see how much "filling" I could force into each shell before stuffing it in my mouth.

I'm an adult.  I can play with my food if I want to.

extreeeeeeme close-up!

Anyway, in about 24 hours, I'll be trying to force myself to go to sleep so I can get up at some horrid time like 4am (which is when I should be going to sleep, not waking up).  Fortunately, the happy ending is that after I sleep through a four hour plane ride and groggily locate the bathroom and Starbucks at the Salt Lake City airport, I will find myself in San Francisco, ready for a much-needed, incredibly deserved [albeit short] vacation.

I've been researching cocktails on so I know some fun things to order (I am Over-Prepared Woman - that's my superhero name), and I've scoped out a natural, non-toxic nail salon where I hope to get a manicure to pass the time between my flight's arrival and my sister's.  This time tomorrow I'll be packing and panicking and hopefully, remembering to check-in online.  I'll be packing my fun little owl book as well as my camera (and the battery charger!), but I have absolutely no idea if I'll get a chance to post while I'm out there.

That being said, it's time to reveal what's behind Secret Door #1.

I've decided to create a new blog.  Don't worry - I'm not abandoning this one!  Angst Loves Spinach will continue to be my primary blogging home, but Pretty Woman in an Ugly World is going to be a kind of supplement, so to speak.

I realized that although this was meant to be a "look ma, I'm learning to cook vegan!" blog, there are a lot of times I've written up reviews of restaurants or other food-oriented establishments.  Customer service is very important to me and I feel like it is a dying art.  In an effort to put the spotlight on those businesses that continue to offer World Class Customer Service, as well as expose those who don't quite know how to spell it, I've created this new blog.

The spark behind it was two-fold.  If you want to wander over there, you'll find the "story" laid out amidst the tabs (which I know are still woefully lacking from this blog, and I hope to correct that soon!), but let me give you a brief synopsis:

As I mentioned in the last post, 13 of Mister's and my friends joined us for an evening of fun at North Bowl, based on our recommendation because we so enjoyed the first time we visited.  Our experience this time around was so far from the first experience as to be unrecognizable.  Our waitress was quite possibly the worst waitress I've ever had.  It was embarrassing, since it was my suggestion and most of our friends were from out of town.  I sent off a long, detailed, and "passionate" email to the management that very night, letting them know how unacceptable our experience was.

Management's response was swift and favorable - they reviewed their video tapes, identified the "culprit" and will address this occurrence with her.  Additionally, at the time of my choosing, Mister and I and two friends have been invited back to the bowling alley for a round of bowling and drinks on the house.

At my work, we try to keep an evaluation of World Class Customer Service by asking ourselves at the end of a customer interaction, "How does the client feel about me?  How the customer feel about our company?"  So, how do I feel about North Bowl?

I'm thrilled with them.

Seriously!  Within 12 hours of me writing that email, the management took the appropriate steps to ensure my future satisfaction with their establishment.  That kind of customer service is so out of fashion these days that it reminded me of something I had pondered long ago.

In the beginning of the movie, "Pretty Woman," Julia Roberts's character, Vivian (perfect '80s name) finds herself rudely turned away from a boutique on Rodeo Drive.  She is devastated because all she wanted to do was buy a dress so she would look appropriate for her dinner date.  I'm sure at least most of my readers are well enough acquainted with the scene that I don't have to rehash it, but here is what has stuck with me for years now: when she returns to the hotel and gets "in trouble" with Barnard, the hotel manager, she tells him her sob story (while losing her composure) and he, despite his notions about her and her occupation, has an irrepressible desire to make it right.  He picks up the phone, calls a fancy department store and calls in a favor, resulting in Vivian getting the perfect dress and everyone is happy.

The reason this stuck with me is because it is my opinion that a person should not have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per night at a high-end hotel to be treated with respect and dignity.  The a$$-kissing is nice and I suppose that's something for money to buy, but it just feels like more and more often, we accept substandard service simply because there is no outstanding service available (or affordable).  I had an entrepreneurial moment while watching the moving about 5 years ago that I would like to get into hospitality just so that I could start my own hospitality business modeled after the service demonstrated at the Beverly Wilshire, but somewhere "normal" people could go.  Everyone deserves a little sucking up once in a while, don't you think?  (that is, by the way, absolutely a goal I have for this vacation - we're staying in two boutique hotels and I expect to be treated like a female version of Edward Lewis.)

So, in an effort to shift our service paradigm, especially in a time when money is far more scarce, so far more valuable, I want to highlight businesses that either offer incredible service consistently or companies, like North Bowl, who are willing to do whatever it takes to regain your business after someone messes up.  Occasionally, I may also write a scathing review of a business that exhibits unapologetically horrendous service, obviously hoping to influence my readers to take their hard-earned dollars elsewhere.

So, if you get bored in my absence, please, feel free to poke around on Pretty Woman in an Ugly World and let me know what you think!


  1. Every Starbucks has free wifi, and there's a SB on every corner. :)

    I hope you're staying in a Kimpton hotel, they are awesome! Keep in mind that your room will likely be teeny-tiny. For some reason in SF less square footage = higher prices.

    If you get the chance, do go to Gracias Madre (that suggestion is from Ryan). If you're anything like me (an overplanner) you already have your meals mapped out, but take that suggestion for what it's worth. :)

    Have a wonderful time!

  2. I shall certainly check out the new blog. :)

    Have a great time in San Francisco. Millennium will amaze you. I was there less than a month ago (oh, I miss my holiday!) and it lived up to all my hopes and dreams!

    As suggested above, you probably have everything mapped out, but I would also suggest going to Saha (it is at the Hotel Carlton on Sutter Street, about a block up from Hotel Vertigo), the food there blew my mind. Little Bird on Geary St (a couple of blocks up from Millennium) has a great vegan breakfast muffin as well. And Source is a fun and kooky restaurant, out on Division Street. And yes, Gracias Madres really is a must! And if you are there on a Thursday go to the Ferry Building markets at get Scream Sorbet! And... and... OK, time to stop reliving my holiday and let you enjoy yours. ;) I can't wait to hear about it!

  3. ladies! thank you for your enthusiastic suggestions. You can both rest assured that Gracias Madre was the second place on my food list, right after making reservations at Millennium. I also hope to visit Cafe Gratitude and Herbivore, but I will absolutely take your other suggestions with me!

    Jackie - we have a Kimpton hotel in Philadelphia, which oddly enough, I considered applying to work at! We are staying at The Chancellor, down the street from Millennium, and while in Oakland we'll be at The Waterfront. Living in Center City Philadelphia, I'm not too concerned about a tiny hotel room ;)

    Also, Jackie, I love how the very beginning of your comment tells me exactly how I can continue posting :) Nice to know you're that interested!