Dining Dilemma

Recently I was out to dinner by myself (Will was away for a bike race) and I encountered a little dining dilemma that (I believe) all of us have encountered at some point in our lives. For this post I will refrain from naming the restaurant because I love them and don't want to seem like I am bad mouthing them.

I was out to dinner at one of my favorite local eateries, treating myself, and ordered an appetizer, entree and glass of wine. The restaurant was pretty busy, but was at their second turn so it was starting to mellow out. My server brought my wine and as I bring it to my lips it has a strong pungent, stale odor...it's corked. Oh no. I take a sip, it's okay, not foul, just okay. Cork taint can very in degrees, and sometimes it can be so faint it's barely noticeable and sometimes it's so strong like wet dog/cardboard/basement. However, in this case, speaking as a professional, it's extremely corked and it's very noticeable. So now, the dilemma has presented itself: whether or not you are familiar with wine is inconsequential, we have all faced this dilemma...do you send it back?

For me, it is a very serious decision to send something back. I've worked in fine dining in Portland for five years and it's not something I take lightly. In fact, this is only the third time in my life I have sent something back. The first time was also carefully thought and was when my brother took me out for my birthday and my trout was overcooked to the point it was beyond edible. The second, was a time when I was out brunch with my mother and grandmother and there was hair in my food. I try to consider all scenerios, for example: if you're at a dive bar/diner/fast food/cart/taqueria, you get what you get. However, at a nice restaurant, I feel you are paying a little bit more and you deserve to get things the way they should be.

This is another interesting point when sending something back: simply, is it not something you like, or is it not what it is intended to be. I have had many a thing that I did not like and have begrudgingly eaten it, on the other hand I never believe you should have something that is not the way it is intended to be. If food is over/under cooked, or a wine is flawed, by no means should you suffer through it.

At this point, I've lingered with the wine, received my appetizer from another server, revisited the wine to make sure it wasn't just me, but no it's bad. So, now I've decided to send it back and I don't want to seem annoying or difficult. I watch my server who is busy with other tables, and wait, because I don't want to interrupt her. When she finally makes it back to my table to see how I'm enjoying everything, I discreetly say "I don't want to be difficult, but I think my wine is corked." She responds somewhat defensive, but still attentive, "oh, um, would you like a glass of something else, or..." (This is where I face the hurdle in my dilemma) I feel like I ordered this wine because I wanted it. I carefully chose it to pair with my meal, and dammit I want it as it is intended to be, so I tell her no I would still like the same wine, she seems annoyed and put out by this because she will have to open a new bottle.

I realize that it is busy at restaurants and difficult to catch off wine when you have a billion other things to do; it's not always easy for me working in a tasting room to catch spoiled wine, especially when I open up 15+ bottles a day. However, I don't think customers should suffer for this. So she goes and opens another bottle and brings my old glass to one of the owners/chefs to smell ( I try not to seem like I am watching their reaction) and then she brings me a new glass. I apologize (I don't know why, it's not my fault, just a bad habit I have) and she tells me not to and that I was right, it was definitely corked, but still seems annoyed. Most patrons will not notice that the wine was bad, in fact, she could have served several glasses and no one would ever know, but I do and I don't want it and I don't think any one else should have it. The new glass was delicious and as it should have been, as well as the rest of my meal.

So my question to you is: have you ever sent back food/wine or drink? Was it because it wasn't good, or not how it should have been? Did you think about sending something back, but didn't because you were afraid? I know I'm not alone and am curious to see if you have been in the same dilemma.