How Much Should I Quiz the Waitstaff About My Meal?

We West Coasters have a reputation for a certain kind of persnickitiness when it comes to our menu choices, all of it earned. Who farmed these turnips? we want to know. Can I feel good about eating this scallop? This week, A.G. asks: How much can I quiz the waitstaff?

How much questioning is okay — encouraged, even — and how much is too much? Someone's new husband thinks she wants to know too much.

Midwesterners are free to mock us as much as they want. But the fact is, West Coast waiters should be responsible for knowing a certain level of detail about the dishes they're serving. Here's what I think you should expect your waiter to know offhand or quickly find out:

1. The basic ingredients in the dish — especially the ones with rare or non-English names — and some idea of what the dish tastes like other than “everything chef makes is fantastic.”

2. The broad strokes of how a dish is cooked: roasted, steamed, cooked sous-vide. Waiters at device-happy restaurants should be able to explain less-common techniques involved in the dish, like making herb soils or slow-cooking meat in a Combi-Oven.

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