On a rather cold and snowy day, I decided to warm up with a latte and a Grand Marnier at a private club I belong to in midtown. A dear friend joined me and I told her about my blog, “The Tertiary Report.” She instantly exclaimed, “Oh my god, I have to tell you about the saddest and worst service experience I have had so far!” Here is her story…

I love stopping in Le Pain Quotidien on my way to work as I think they have the best croissants and lattes in midtown. Working in midtown can be challenging in terms of finding good food and drinks at reasonable prices. At LPQ, everything smells delicious and the flavors are just as incredible as founder Alain Count envisioned…right???? Well, maybe not. See more at hughesairco.com.

The Problem
On a few of my morning visits, I experienced rather un-welcome service. Staff members seemed more interested in chatting with each other than with helping the line of customers that snaked out the door. Nor were they paying any attention to the volume of guests walking in and waiting to being served. Once they “woke up” from their chat(s), the staff members seemed very annoyed and were so unfriendly that they pissed off the remaining clients, some of whom left without their orders!!!

This experience was so uncomfortable that I decided not to go back, and, in fact, I stayed away for 3 weeks. One morning, figuring it might just have been a bad day, I went back to Le Pain Quotidien 53rd Street for my favorite latte and croissant.

When I walked in, all the staff members had their back to the register and were busy chatting or texting. Hmm….I thought, this is weird. Should I wait for them to turn around? Finally, one of them did and the unpleasant attitude I got was appalling. The worst part? When I asked for my croissant to be heated, I got a really evil look. Nevertheless, the sales clerk took my croissant and said “Okay.”

I waited about 7 minutes for my “heated” croissant, which seemed excessive. After 5 minutes, I asked how much longer my croissant would take, and the sales clerk said, “It’s in the basement”! When I asked again, 3 minutes later, another sales clerk said, “I called your name twice and you never responded and the croissant has been sitting on the counter for 7 minutes!” What? I was standing next to the register the entire time. They could have easily handed it to me when it was ready. Furthermore, no one ever called my name!

I ended up not eating the awful, dry, and not-warmed up croissant, immediately vowing then and there to never go back. And I haven’t ever since!!! What a shame…

The Fake Fix:
My friend was so upset by this experience that she decided to find out who the manager of the 53rd Street Le Pain Quotidien was online and called.

Much to her surprise, he wasn’t really shocked by her complaint, repeatedly stating that they were working through a change that would take some time.

My friend is a humble person and she was very apologetic about calling. She almost felt guilty for shedding light on the LPQ staff’s poor service with regard to heating up a croissant and making a nice latte.
The manager gave my friend a $25 gift certificate and a free breakfast (with anything she wanted to order) in attempt to keep her as a client. But guess what: 3 weeks have passed and she still hasn’t gone back—and she probably never will!

The true fix is this:
Go back to the founder and creator’s mission and vision 21 years ago. This used to be about simply serving grandma’s bread and pastry recipes to the local community at a reasonable price with friendly service. Don’t let success go to your head. And make sure to get your old staff training manuals out!

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in Iceland, in a very traditional Icelandic family where we ate cod + boiled potatoes for most dinners and cod fish liver oil + skyr for breakfast. Our snacks consisted of raw licorice (which was sold at the local pharmacy), rhubarb, dried fish, and, on occasion, homemade cookies and cakes. Brand-name items such as Cocoa Puffs, Coca Cola, and Prince Polo (Polish chocolate wafers) were only for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays.
Now, everything Icelandic seems super popular, especially the yogurt-like dairy product known as skyr. Basically a byproduct of the cheese-making process, skyr has been part of Icelandic cuisine since approximately 900 AD.

Problem: An Icelander who got homesick while living in NY, Sigurdur Hilmarsson decided to make his own homemade, Icelandic skyr. After a few years of “fiddling around” in his kitchen, he recreated his Grandma’s skyr recipe and brought this wonder yogurt to market.
I was super excited when I discovered Siggi’s Skyr in one of my neighborhood markets, and I bought some even though I thought the price was rather steep (in the old days, my dad used to buy kilos of skyr that we had to order from the local dairy maker).

I slowly opened the tub and dipped my spoon in the skyr. Anticipating my childhood treat, I shoved a full tablespoon of it into my mouth. Oh dear… hmmm… I was confused: this wasn’t the skyr I remembered. I read the ingredients on the label and realized, much to my shock, that this wasn’t real skyr as I remembered it: too much sugar, plus a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients. I closed the lid and tossed the skyr tub I was eating to of in the garbage ;-( Then I took the rest to my office to see if my co-workers liked it and they did. Hmm… maybe I’m being too harsh, but I just haven’t warmed to Siggi’s Skyr as I don’t think it’s the real thing.

The Fix: Don’t FAKE IT! If you are asking people to try something “authentic” from your home country that they’re not familiar with, then deliver the real deal. There is no need to add “modern” ingredients, which, unfortunately, turned out to be mostly sugar and synthetic flavors that are often extractions of “natural” ingredients. If you do need to fake an authentic food, then just be honest about it. Position your brand and product as “based upon an old tradition of Icelandic Yogurt.” Or say, “a modified version of my ancestors’ recipe.” Don’t invent some hideous story about it being “inspired by my grandmother’s recipe.” Ugh…That’s just old and it reeks of fakery and deception…

So, January is considered the Month of Health, when post-holiday, everyone tries to cut down on sugar and fat and joins the gym. This is understandable, as most of us (myself included) have just overindulged on scrumptious holiday food and cocktails for the last 4 weeks of the year.

The sad thing is that brands and the media have convinced us that cold or hot pressed vegetable and fruit juices are the key to a cleaner diet!

Oh, dear! I was a victim of this way of thinking until I met Dr. Lipman (https://www.bewell.com/about/), who informed me that I should stop counting calories and fat and pay attention to my sugar intake instead. Huh? But then I started to investigate, and sure enough, it turns out that your body converts any extra sugar (that you don’t need or burn) into fat! Plus, it’s the kind of fat that settles around your stomach and midsection!

The Problem (and it’s a BIG one)
Brands such as Odwalla claim that their juices help us feel our inner vitality! What? With 45 grams of sugar per bottle?! Yeah, I’ll definitely feel my fatty vitality after drinking this sugary drink for a month… In all honesty, continual ingestion of sugar will turn your body into grease (mostly around your belly). Worse, not only will your body turn into a marshmallow, but sugar tricks your brain into thinking that you need even more of it!
Jamba Juice offers a product labeled 100% fruit juice (whatever that means), including a Banana Blueberry smoothie with 45 grams (or 11 1/4 teaspoons) of sugar per serving! Yikes— a whole bottle could fuel a whole army for a week!!!

The Fix
Read nutrition labels and stay away from anything with more than 8 grams of sugar per serving. In fact, ideally, we shouldn’t ingest more than 25 grams of sugar per day.
Just FYI for those of us who like our morning coffee (I love my medium latte): a medium latte with regular milk contains about 1.5 teaspoons/about 8 grams of sugar. There you go—that’s about one-third of the “normal” sugar intake for the day! I’ll stop here, as you’ll have to calculate the rest of your sugar intake (morning muffins, scones cookies, etc.) for yourself!

Two weeks ago, one of the Fiskur Bistro partners in Manhattan announced that they had closed their 7th Avenue South location in New York City. I was so bummed out to hear it, as I really enjoyed the atmosphere, food, and cocktails (especially their signature cocktail Viday).

On the bright side, rumor has it that they might reopen in a different location under new management. Once it’s confirmed, I’ll be counting the days until they open 🙂 and I’ll be one of their first guests!

Good luck Team Fiskur,

At the beginning of 2017, my partner and I decided to try one of the prepared home meal box services. We picked Blue Apron as our choice, as they offered the best sign-up discount. The system works really well in terms of choosing your meals 1-2 weeks in advance, and they claimed that their ingredients were truly seasonal, provided by local farmers.
Over a course of 3 months, however, we had a few not so pleasant meals, mostly with regards to the fish as well as other proteins that tasted either like over-boiled eggs (dry and stinky) or sour shark (a cured, rubbery, Icelandic shark that is positively un-chewable). So, we decided to try another service.

A friend who is a foodie referred us to Sun Basket, based out of California, and after doing some research, we decided to give it a try. It’s the same concept as Blue Apron, but all the ingredients are organic (if possible) and seasonal. So far, it has been good, and I much more prefer Sun Basket over the others we have tried. No more gagging over bad poultry or Tilapia as Sun Basket won’t provide ingredients that aren’t in season 🙂

The disappointments (but not too bad):
The people at Sun Basket promote that their packaging is recyclable and it is, but trash is trash. I wish they’d find a way to combine some of the ingredients in fewer bags to eliminate some of the tubs and plastic. It’s terrible tossing out all that paper and plastic, including an outer paper bag and several tiny Ziploc bags that cannot be easily reused. That said, my partner and I love the little plastic tubs, which we reuse constantly 😉
Also, on a few occasions, the recipes have been drastically off in terms of cooking time, resulting in either undercooked rice or rock-hard, inedible sweet potatoes 🙁 Basically a waste of meal!

My new favorite restaurant in town, Fiskur (which means “fish” in Icelandic) Bistro, is the go-to place for the freshest fish ’n chips, langoustine, arctic char, cod, shrimp salad, and gluten-free dipping crackers that are freshly made in their kitchen daily. The best part: the fish is caught in Iceland in the middle of the night, then airfreighted directly to NY that same day! Can it get any fresher? Not to my knowledge. Oh, and let me tell you: their cocktails are out of this world! My favorite, Dúfa (which means dove or pigeon), is made with Icelandic schnapps and other scrumptious ingredients that I won’t list here—you just have to try it.

The Problem
On a recent visit, I sat at the bar with a friend of mine, whose favorite drink is called Videy (an island in Reykjavik bay), a cocktail mixed with Brennivín and some sort of dill infusion. We had a few drinks and appetizers, and the place was happening. When we were ready to leave, we didn’t see a single staff member and no bartender was visible. All the staff members had disappeared, while there were at least 30 people in the restaurant, not including the bar scene. We waited a good 5 minutes before we found a manager who could bring us our check. Oh, dear. I emailed the owner (whom I know through a family friend) and expressed my concern. Of course, she wasn’t happy to hear my report. No one was fired, but they really had to step up their game, and they have somewhat done so.

The Fix
The staff needs a mentor on site all the time, meaning: don’t hire a young person who doesn’t have a stake in the restaurant’s success or someone who hasn’t been properly trained in hospitality. The immediate fix is to also set a rule that no one should leave the floor without checking in with the customers. It’s as simple as asking: “Can I help you with anything before I step away for a moment?” Train the staff to look up and scan the room, not stare at the floor. The waiters shouldn’t be lingering while waiting for their orders to be filled but rather they should be walking the floor and returning to the bar with (hopefully) more orders. These are such simple fixes, and yet this kind of attention can make or break a bistro! I, for one, hope they’re here to stay!

Or shall I say icetails?
On a recent school night, my best friends and I went to Rosa Mexicana (18th street, NYC) for virgin and non-virgin margaritas while catching up on business, life, travel, and everything in-between. But we soon discovered something that I wanted to write about here on TR before I forget! We ordered margaritas, and I ordered a club soda as well, as I like to thin out my drinks to pace myself. Here’s what happened: our alcoholic drinks arrived first, but by the time the chips arrived, we’d almost finished our drinks. I thought to myself, “WOW! Did I really drink this whole glass in 10 minutes?” Then I realized I hadn’t— it was all ice!!!

The Problem
After finishing our first round, we all paid close attention to the second round, particularly at how much ice was in the glasses (of both virgin and non-virgin margaritas). They all had one thing in common: too much ice and no liquid to speak of. AHA! Okay, I get it, they are struggling, so they’re sacrificing the quality I remember from back in 2003, when they took real pride in their mixology. Now, it’s long gone, probably never to return.

The Fix:
If your landlord is too greedy, move, and reestablish your pride in the quality of your food and drinks. The food was mushy and bland, lacking in flavor, and there was no appetizing aroma when it came out. I didn’t eat much, wanting to gag, as it looked like baby food!

One weekend morning, my partner and I were purging our closets (both clothing and pantry) of stuff we thought we should get rid of. We came across 3 Calphalon pans that we had stopped using because of the buildup of gunk and residue that had been deposited on those pans over the years. I’ll confess they were about 12 years old and probably not worth keeping, so they went into the “get rid of” pile.

The next morning, for some reason, my partner decided to Google the pan warranties, and sure enough, it said “lifetime,” which doesn’t mean anything these days.

Two days later, my partner decided to call Calphalon. Right away (without having to stay on hold!), he spoke to a very helpful representative, and without any fuss or attitude, he was informed that when Calphalon writes “lifetime warranty,” they mean it. We sent the pans back the next day, and 3 weeks later, brand new ones showed up! We still can’t believe the amazing service—or how quick and easy the process was.

The Problem
Not a single problem to report with Calphalon! As a matter of fact, I think other services and corporations should use Calphalon as a role model, especially when it comes to serving their clients. Those who fake “lifetime” warranties should immediately stop and not bother putting it in 6 point or less type with some disclosure mumbo-jumbo written by a sleazy lawyer.

The Fix
Not one single fix suggestion for Calphalon. All I can say is that I LOVE them! But if I want to call out those brands in my kitchen that need serious fixing, I’d add:

Samsung: One Saturday morning, we were woken by our co-op building super, who informed us of a water leak dripping from our apartment into the 4th floor. We went downstairs to our neighbor’s apartment and spotted the water leak right away. Sure enough, the leak was coming from our fancy, new fridge—which was only 2 months old.
Investigating the cause, we found out that there is (in my opinion) a design flaw with how the water feed connects to the back of the fridge. The pipe can easily kink when it is pushed against the wall. After calling the company we bought it from, we were told that this is not technically part of the fridge and therefore it was our responsibility to fix! What?!? My partner, who is quite the handyman, was able to find a replacement part at our local hardware store, and he hooked it up himself. It just pisses me off that a company like Samsung admits there is a flaw, but if it breaks, you’re on your own!

Electrolux: This concerns a dishwasher we purchased in 2007 (yes, 10 years ago), which we didn’t use much because for the first 4 years of its life, we were bicoastal. Not until recently (thanks to Sun Basket) have we made the time to cook at least 3 meals at home per week.
The other day, after a scrumptious Sun Basket meal, we cleaned up and got ready to use the Electrolux dishwasher, but it wouldn’t turn on: there was no power. We called the service center and were referred to a local service company that made us wait nearly 10 days before sending someone to take a look. After another 10 day wait, the service company called to tell us that the needed part was no longer available, so the dishwasher had to be fully replaced. What a waste!!! And that was the only answer we got after spending $55??? What serious lack of pride in service (and really, it takes 20 days to get an answer?).

I went to the Met the other day to see the Irving Penn show, “Centennial,” before it closed. As a New Yorker, I know not to go to museums on Sundays unless it’s a “go or miss it” situation! So, my friend and I (who decided to join me at the last minute) braved and survived the mad crowd. Thank god we had pre-purchased tickets that got punched at the visitor’s desk. We raced straight to the southwest wing and were delightfully surprised by the well-curated show and the impressive body of work that Irving and his wife, Lisa, produced.

We walked down Madison Avenue as we discussed the amazing photos. My friend suggested we stop at the Met Breuer, designed by Marcel Breuer, as it’s one of our favorite modern architectural spaces in NYC. Of course, I agreed, and as soon as we arrived, the ceiling in the lobby area caught my attention — ceilings are among my favorite things to admire.

After enjoying the architectural beauty, my friend suggested that we grab a bite and a drink downstairs at the Fiore restaurant, but I was reluctant: the last time I’d eaten there, I’d spent way too much money on awful food and service.
Though he was reluctant as well, he suggested we try it once more. If it sucked, we’d vow never to return. I said okay!! We went downstairs, and to our surprise, the bar and dining area looked completely different. The interior design was refined, with an edge, and it recalled Irving Penn’s design sensibility, which we much appreciated. Now, onto the restaurant experience: after settling in at the bar of the dining section and perusing the menu, we realized this place was no longer called Untitled (which I’ve always thought a strange name for a restaurant), but rather, Fiore.
The bartender attended to our orders immediately, professionally pouring a very dry Grüener from Austria and a bottle of location-made sparkling water (basically, filtered water carbonated in a Soda Stream, which I’m totally fine with rather than shipping gassed water from Europe). Our food came out before we finished our drinks, which, in my books, shows that their staff is professional and coordinated, not waiting until you order a second drink to serve your food. All in all, I’m so pleased that Fiore has replaced Untitled in this amazing Marcel Breuer-designed space. He’d be so pleased!

The fix: Unfortunately, I think that Untitled might have tarnished the location with their bad and inconsistent service, sloppy food, and overrated reviews. It saddens me to think that I almost didn’t experience Fiore’s amazing food and wine. My suggestion is that everyone reading this should go to Fiore and forget about what was there before. Fiore will not disappoint you!