Friday, July 26, 2013
Friday, June 3, 2011
|I heart Boston.|
|I also heart vodka gimlets.|
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
When I was introduced to sushi many years ago, I was made aware that there are some etiquette nuances to eating this lovely cuisine. Without sounding like a cultural bull in a china shop, Japanese culture has many etiquette nuances. As a Japanese cuisine, sushi therefore has a few of these nuances, as well.
|Love edamame. But don't order them from the sushi chef.|
1. The sushi chefs are rock stars. Treat them as such.
Uh, Proper Paige, it's very cool that they are feeding me raw fish art, but what do you mean by this? In short, I mean -- don't order drinks or appetizers from your sushi chef. They are there for one purpose -- the sushi. Other needs will be attended to by your server. Keeping that in mind will make everyone happy. That said, it's cool to chat with the sushi chefs and, if you'd like, buy them a beer (this tends to go over well).
Sushi is a commodity. Raw fish is special and (like all food) shouldn't be wasted. That said, it is entirely appropriate and expected to order sushi in phases. Maybe you want to start with a few of your favorites -- tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. After enjoying them, maybe you'd like to try a fun roll or a kind of sushi you haven't tried before. Take your time, relax, and order in waves. That's totally cool, prevents waste, and is a great part of the experience!
Listen. I know that 99% of the time, I want some wasabi-infused soy sauce with my sushi. But I also learned that it's impolite to start blotting your sushi into big vats of soy sauce before tasting them. Why? Because the sushi chef usually uses what they consider an appropriate amount of wasabi between the piece of fish and the roll of rice. When someone starts globbing wasabi onto their food before tasting it, it's a teensy bit gauche. For the sake of comparison, it would be like going to La Bernadin and making a big show of salting your food before you taste it. Not so much.
|(photo credit) I heart you, Eric.|
Oh, Proper Paige, what is nigiri? What is this entry about? Are you turning Japanese? (I think you're turning Japanese; I really think so.)
Nigiri is what most people think of as sushi. It is a piece of fish on top of a rolled piece of rice. Sashimi is raw fish, usually served atop of shredded cabbage. Sushi rolls are rolled creations, sliced into bite-sized pieces. It is considered fine to use your hands to eat sushi rolls and nigiri. You should use chopsticks with sashimi.
This is (tuna) sashimi:
This is tuna nigiri:
As with anything, it's nice to say thank you.
And domo arigato to you, dear reader,
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
|Yes, I actually do drive across this regularly.|
However, I've lived in San Francisco, DC, and Baltimore, and frequented New York, Boston, London, and many other cities where cabs are a must. I know how to hail a cab. I've stolen cabs from people (more on that later; sometimes you have to). And I know how to tip.
How much do you tip a cab driver? Isn't this an easy question?
Maybe it is. But it has more nuances than you might think.
For example: Let's say that DC has an antiquated zone system for determining fares. (It used to. Shudder.) Let's say that you need to go five blocks in a suit and heels, in a hurry. Five blocks, and the cabbie tells you that the fare is $7.80. You know this to be frustrating, but true. I say $10, no change seals the deal. If the cab reeked of garlic and the cabbie's recent lunch, $9 is fine by me. Enh, it's almost 20% and the zone system is (was) stupid.
What? That's a $13 tip! Yup. I don't have to spend the day going stand-by at La Guardia. Money well-spent.
The ride that ensues is less like travel and more like a horror movie. The driver keeps confusing the accelerator and brake, causing you (in your delicate state) to hurtle around the backseat like forgotten groceries. He's slurping a suspiciously red soda (see note about Hurricanes) as he drives, while letting his styrofoam container of chicken sit, unattended, while stinking up the decrepit minivan that might be your death trap. You start thinking you might puke. You wonder how many other people have puked in this cab. You can no longer stop thinking about puke. While you fight this vicious thought loop, you manage to arrive at the airport in one piece.
Fare = Flat rate of $28. He's getting $28. I will even hand him $30 and wait for the change. Unless I need to run to the bathroom, in which case, he gets $30.
The lesson? One Hurricane is always enough.
The other lesson?
Tip your cab driver based on the service provided. Take into account "rounding up", good service, catching your flight, and other variables. If you feared for your life or the life of another outside of the vehicle, it is okay to not tip at all.
Travel safely (and properly), friends.
Friday, June 25, 2010
That said, let's hone in on one critical player in a hotel experience: the bellman. The bellman is the first person to greet you when you arrive. He mercifully takes your luggage from your car/cab/shuttle/tired hands. Once you've had a chance to check in, get to your room and take a few deep breaths, he magically arrives with your luggage and places it in the room, per your instructions.
If you're at a particularly lovely lodging, he will also show you around your accommodations. He'll show you things like the snacks, treats, and mini bar, the thermostat, and the view from the window (if it's good).
If you're at a particularly lovely lodging with impeccable service, he may also recommend a few things to do while you are in town. He may recommend restaurants, or suavely recommend that you avail yourself of the services of the concierge to arrange your meals and festivities.
Upon his departure, he will ensure everything is to your liking and begin his retreat to the door. If you have not thought ahead and don't have a carefully folded bill or sequence of bills in your hand, this is when people tend to flail through wallets and purses for their cash, all the while wondering,
Without hesitation, my answer to this question has always been: $1 per bag as a base. But once I started to think about it, I realized that it's a teensy bit more nuanced than that. There are times when you absolutely must tip more.
- If the bellman has to heave your thousand pound suitcase onto his trolley because you overpacked with vintage bowling balls, add a few dollars.
- If you have more shoes (and therefore, more luggage) than Imelda Marcos, then add a few dollars.
- If you are staying at the Ritz-Carlton, or another super deluxe hotel, add a few dollars.
- Regardless of how little luggage you have, the bellman's tip should never be less than $3.
- Round numbers, and dollar bill amounts, are awfully nice (as in $5).
Is it possible to tip too much? And look overzealous or inexperienced? Sure. But a bellman would disagree -- there is no excessive tip, there are only varying degrees of greatness.
I think this is the takeaway:
Friday, June 18, 2010
Rather, today is about linguistic quirks and how to handle them. I have a friend who is currently being seriously bad-ass in South Africa as part of her master's program. She's finding the differences between African English (which has a heavy British emphasis and its own twist) and American English to be amusing and slightly frustrating. In particular, she's not quite sure about how they say "petrol" instead of "gas." She mentioned this in passing in an email because she's witty that way, but it got me thinking.
People in Texas say things I've never heard before.
Fixing to: to prepare to do something. As in, "I'm fixing to leave this party."
Put up: to put away. As in, "Let's empty the dishwasher and put everything up."
When I lived in Ireland, people said things I'd never heard before.
Just after: something that you just did. As in, "I'm just after talking to her on the phone!"
Do you not?: instead of "Don't you?" As in, "I don't like cheesecake." "Do you not!? I love it."
People in New Orleans say things I've never heard before.
Lagniappe: (pronounced LAN-yap) a little extra. As in, "Oh, they threw in an extra donut with my order! It's lagniappe!"
Now, don't get me wrong -- bad grammar drives me insane. I'm not talking about that. But I am talking about different manners of speakings, idioms, and turns of phrase that are funny, weird, confusing, or just plan different. As in, the old petrol/gas debate. And here's the deal. I think the take-away (which, by the way, is how they say "to go" in England) is this:
Go with it. Linguistic quirks are called culture. Culture is good.
And hey, so long as you don't pull a Madonna and actually adopt a foreign accent, peppering your speech with different expressions is fun. And keeps your friends on their toes.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I am starting with the big one because it is just the most important. And yes, I realize that taking your own toilet paper to a festival does not smack of traditional etiquette. That's because it is not. However, it is a really good idea; one that will make you happier. The happier you are, the better the festival. And so it goes.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
My last entry has prompted some hard-core nostalgia for one of my favorite cities in the entire world: Philadelphia. So, in a continuation of the "on the go" series, here are some specific etiquette and travel nuggets that my traveling friends might want to tuck away when they visit.
1. See the crack. Love the crack.
2. Head South -- to South Street, that is.
South Street used to be named Cedar Street, and it used to be the southernmost city boundary for Philadelphia. It is no longer either of those things. South Street also used to be the live music hub of the city and home to the famous punk/biker store, called Zipperhead. (Zipperhead is mentioned in the song "Punk Rock Girl," by the Dead Milkmen.) It is no longer either of these things. (However, South Street will always be the famed locale featured in the timeless Boyz II Men video for "MotownPhilly." )
South Street is still cool, though, and remains one of my favorite places to go when in town. It features over 300 bars, restaurants and stores. You can get a cheesesteak, a tatoo, and an original piece of local artwork in the same experience. What's not to love?
Check it out for yourself: http://www.southstreet.com/
3. Repeat after me: I am an Eagles fan. I am a Phillies fan. I am a Sixers fan. I am a Flyers fan.
As an Austinite, I am slowly but surely being indoctrintated into being a University of Texas Longhorns fan. It is very serious business down here -- as UT excels at numerous NCAA sports. Football, anyone?
I have to say, though, that Philly sports fans give Texans a run for their money. You don't have to become an Eagles or a Phillies fan before you get on the plane/train to visit this fair city. You don't have to don the jerseys to be accepted. However, a little working knowledge of the local teams can take you a long way. Philadelphians are serious about their sports.
Suggestion: I don't know anything about football. Seriously. So I tend to play off Eagles comments when I am in Philly. But, I am a basketball fan, so I can use one sport to deflect another. As in: "I don't know about the Eagles this season, but how about those Sixers?" I think this is street smart and perfectly proper. FYI, Allen Iverson plays for the Denver Nuggets now. If you didn't know that, I wouldn't suggest bringing him up in a casual conversation.
4. Repeat after me: Whiz wit.
Admittedly, I am saving the best, and most etiquette-y, for next to last. This cryptic phrase "wiz wit" is your key to the best thing about Philly -- a cheesesteak from Pat's.
Let me be clear here -- there are a million places to get a cheesesteak in Philly. A lot of them are really good. A lot of them are bad. It's like getting a crab cake in Maryland or barbecue in Texas. It's not hard to find, but it's better to go to the places that make people tear up to talk about.
That said, there are two competing businesses in the "make people tear up" category for cheesesteaks: Pat's and Geno's. As luck, or Hatfield and McCoy caliber rivalries go, these businesses happen to be denizens of the same, neighborhood, Passyunk. (Prounounced PASS-uh-yunk.) There are people who declare that the heyday of Pat's and Geno's has passed, and that other local restaurants have far surpassed them. I don't know about that. But I do know about Pat's and Geno's...
I have a strange analogy -- go with it here. If making a good cheesesteak is like playing a piano, then Pat's is Beethoven and Geno's is Liberace. Both have their place in the world, but one is really worlds better than the other. Geno's is decked out in neon. Pat's keeps it simple. Geno's is overplayed. Pat's just keeps doing it right, year after year, steak after steak. So, for all of your Philly conneisseurs out there, I am throwing the gauntlet. I pick Pat's.
But what is this whiz wit stuff, you ask? This, my dear readers, is the key to getting the magical cheesesteak from Pat's. This is assuming that you accept that fact that "Whiz" stands for Cheez Whiz, which is what they use on the steaks. I know, that is shocking, but it's also runny, cheesy, and delicious. Trust me, you want this. That is assuming that you want sauteed onions on your cheesesteak. "Wit" translates to "with onions." Trust me, you want this, too.
The line at Pat's is serious business. They are open 24 hours a day and are busy much of the time. During lunch, they are feeding local workers who are on the clock and need speedy service. At 2 am, they are feeding people who have stumbled out of the bars and need grease. At mealtimes, they are dealing with plain old hungry people who need food.
To that end, you do not want to dilly dally in the line at Pat's. This is not the time to ask, "what's good here?" or debate the various social attributes and drawbacks of onions and subsequent breath mints. This is not the time to worry about fat grams or calories.
This is what you do at Pat's: You get to the window. You order. You pay. You step aside. You are handed steak. You step away. Variances from this routine have a ripple effect on the hungry hoardes behind you and a distinctly unsettling effect on the Pat's employees, which is bad.
This is not rising to the level of "No soup for you!", but it's in the same ballpark. (Occupied by which team? Repeat after me: I am a Phillies fan.) So, when you get to the window at Pat's after seven Yuengling lagers on South Street, smile, say "Whiz Wit," and step aside.
See for yourself: http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/. Oh, and they ship. You can thank me later.
5. Go ahead and be Rocky. You know you want to.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a great destination. It has a world class collection and is housed in a gorgeous building. It is also home to one of cinema's finest moments, from the movie Rocky.
Yep, these are the famous steps that Rocky trained on. And no, you're not crazy for wanting to run to the top of them, dance like a fool, and shout "Adrienne" at the top of your lungs. Is this proper? Enh. Is this advisable at a world class art museum? Not so much. Is it a good idea anyway because you only live once? You betcha.