Thursday, December 24, 2009

holidays...with cocktails

Perhaps you saw this? LUPEC's debut in the Style section of the Globe's "G"?

I'd recommend you try any of these drinks as you gear up for a weekend with the family and whatever that may bring this Christmas.

Silent Night Punch, my contribution and a beverage of which I am particularly fond, will cast a rosy glow over any party. Just don't drink too much, lest your night become fully cloaked in silence, as it might if one were to black out or something.

Cin cin!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The Mathematician's mom Suzanne is a truck driver. This fact often elicits a blend of shock and awe from people. It's tough work but she's been at it for over 30 years, since before power steering and commonplace automatic transmissions in rigs, meaning she's nothing short of a badass.

I, on the other hand, hate driving. I dislike it so intensely, I've taken to telling people I don't know how to drive so they'll never expect me to take the wheel. Whenever I do happen to be stuck behind the wheel, as I was while running an errand for a PR client yesterday afternoon, I think of Suzanne. I think of her especially when I'm stuck in traffic and wonder, "How does she tolerate this? This endless waiting to get from point 'A' to point 'B'?"

Last night as I waited for my last table to finish their dinner, then finish their coffee, then put their credit cards in the check presenter, then sign their charge slips, I realized: waitressing is the exact same thing. Endlessly waiting for someone else to finish doing something else. All this waiting, something I've done since I've been old enough to work essentially, as I wait for my 'real career' to take off.

Perhaps I've finally figured out why they call it "waiting"?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

Hello, friends, it's been a while! I've missed you so, and happy to be back from my six month hiatus.

Anyone catch this post on a NYT blog about Small Businesses? I find it so irritating. First of all, there are many points in here that I consider "Waitressing 101" and total common sense. Any server worth their salt should know them and if you're interviewing potential staffers who don't, it's indicative of a problem with management. For example, pointers #1, 12, and 13:

#1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.

#12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.

#13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles.

Other rules seemed simply silly to me, such this #23:

#23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.

When they are kind and sweet and generous, I love to take care of guests in my restaurant. I really do. And I'd happily supply a label for you from a wine bottle if only I could figure out how to do it. But I've tried this mystical "steaming the wine label off the bottle technique" and been left with a fistful of soggy paper pulp, a ruined label, a disappointed guest, and typically in the weeds because I've wasted so much time. Why not print business cards with space to write wine information on the back, then dole those out to guests instead?

Other rules, such as #43 confused me:

#43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.

I mean, the question I am most frequently asked by my guests is "what do you recommend."

And many rules made me want to gouge my eyes out, such as #40 and #41:

#40. Never say, "Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.

#41. Saying, 'No problem' is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do."

Yech. I find it so interesting when owners/managers set guidelines for acceptable vocabulary in their establishments. No profanity is one thing, but saying "no problem"? Come on.

I'd rather eat at Toro any day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

in Spain...

They sell tortilla at the convenience store.

I fit right in in such a place.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

No more corn at Toro...

...was an April Fool's joke.

Thanks for all who expressed concern for my plight!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Corn for the Weary

As we all know, it's cause for major, major crisis when we run out of the corn at Toro. You can read about my past painful experiences with this here and here.

In fact, while I was filling in as a manager at Toro, I had to make an emergency corn run to Stop & Shop at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, just to avoid such a disaster. I called the Mathematician from South Bay Center to have him help calculate how much corn to buy. My shopping cart was half full of corn and nothing else, causing other shoppers to gawk and even talk about me loudly in Spanish in the check out line.

For Toro waitstaff, running out of corn is pretty much the worst thing ever. 4 out of 5 tables bitch about it, and some guests even get up and walk out, even after waiting half an hour for a table. And while I love and respect our chef and think he has done some amazing things for the restaurant since he came on board in November, I'm not so sure about his latest menu change:

"As of tomorrow, we're only going to be serving the corn seasonally at Toro, in a move to exclusively support local farmers," Jamie told us at pre-meal."

"But...but...but...people freak out if they can't have the corn!" Juan said.

"They can still have the corn," Jamie said, "just seasonally. In late July, August, and September. It's something I feel really strongly about, and Ken and I think it's going to be really great." He was visibly annoyed, so we all just nodded: yes, chef.

I don't know about the other servers, but I am mentally preparing for riots. Big, hunger-induced, angry riots.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I awake with a start when the Mathematician comes back into the bedroom to get dressed after his shower:

"I just had the craziest dream," I tell him.

"I had weird dreams, too. I bet yours weren't as weird as mine."

"Mr.T was in it and I was really pissed at him," I say, rubbing my eyes as I sit up. "We got into a huge fight."

"A fight with Mr. T, huh? I bet I know who won that battle."

"No way, man," I say, "I was winning. I threw a pile of junk mail at his head. What was yours?"

"It was about the moral struggle I felt when I hired a hermaphrodite as an intern at work, and was then forced to fire...uh, them...because they weren't competent. I didn't want them to think it was because know..."

"Hermaphrodite discrimination? Yeah, that's pretty weird. That all you got?" I say.

"No. That happened, then I introduced George [the owner of Giorgiana's] to my dad and they started wrestling. Playfully."

I'm still not sure who won.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

hate + love: a waitress's tale


"Ma'am? Excuse me. Uh, ma'am?"

Surely the mid- to late-thirtysomethings at Table 52 aren't beckoning ME. I look over my shoulder - perhaps there's an older woman standing behind me with whom they'd like to speak? The guy with salt-n-pepper hair gives a little wave. Oh. They DID mean me.

"Um, yeah?" I say.

"Is it okay if we write on this menu?"

I think, It is clearly NOT okay if you write on the menu. Do you see little check marks next to each tapas item? Did I supply you with a pen and pencil? Would you walk into No. 9 Park or even the Butcher Shop and start scribbling all over their menu? What kind of animal are you?

"Sure," I say instead, since he has already started sullying it up with red ink. "Of course. Go right ahead."

I head to the service bar to collect their mojitos.

"Dude, Table 52 called me ma'am," I lament to the barback.

"They didn't mean it, Kitty. They didn't mean it," he consoles me.

"I don't care. I now hate them."


"Here are your mojitos," I say, careful to conceal my contempt as I hand them their drinks. "Did you have any questions? Are you ready to order?"

"Hey," the salt-n-pepper guy says, "You look just like that woman in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Know who I'm talking about?" he says. His companions, two men with accents and a pretty brunette woman, nod and murmur "Yes...she does...mmm-hmmm."

"You mean the blonde chick?" I say. "Scarlett Johannson?"

"Yes! Scarlett Johannson," he says.

"That's a pretty hefty compliment," I say, "She's pretty hot. She's also one of my favorite actresses."

"Yup, you look just like her," he says. Then, to his friends: "You know, she's the most beautiful woman in the world according to this magazine I just read." They nod and murmur "Yes...Scarlett Johannson is the most beautiful woman in the world and our waitress looks exactly like her...mmm-hmmm."

And just like that I love them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ring Redux

I was pretty much beside myself with excitement when I finally got home last night after a long slow waitressing shift at Toro and found the check for my engagement ring in my mailbox. I almost tore it right open in the foyer.

I can't believe it, I thought as I climbed up the stairs towards my fourth floor walk-up. After holding on to that damn thing for 3+ years, I'm finally free of it - and richer for it! Whatever will I do with the money?

Then, as I rounded the corner between flights 2 and 3, a more rational voice inside my head reminded me: No matter how much they offer you for the ring, it will never feel like enough.

I shrugged off my coat and threw my bag and apron on the floor when I reached the top floor, bracing for the possibilities as I tore the envelope open. But no amount of practical reasoning could have prepared me for what I found:

A check made out to me in the amount of $120.44.

That's not even enough to pay my damn cell phone bill.

While I didn't expect to be magically rich from the sale of my engagement ring setting, I know the damn thing appraised for ten times as much when it given to me back in 2002. I have no idea how jewelry sales works, if these things tend to appreciate or depreciate in value. But I know I can't sell it for $120.44. I not that desperate for money. And I am definitely too proud.

Now I have to call Customer Service and ask them to send the damn thing back to me. And think of something else to do with this vestige of my former life.

Boo jewelry site.

Boo old engagement ring.

Boo trying to place monetary value on sentimental things.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The post office

Significant things that happened at the post office today:

1. I mailed the check to activate my very first month of my very own individual, independent health insurance plan. It's f***ing expensive, but it's mine, I chose it all by myself (which was much more challenging than it sounds), and I love it.

2. I returned the contract to the publisher for my very first book project. No, it's not a book length version of Undercover Blonde, or the LUPEC book project, it's definitely not what I ever would have imagined my first book project to be, and I'm just a "researcher" on it. But it's my first one and for that reason, I love it too.

3. I sold my engagement ring setting. You know, this thing?

That has been lying around my apartment acting as a paperweight for all of my bills collecting dust? I FINALLY sent it in to this website which I read about in Daily Candy a really long time ago.

The post office woman looked at me like I was crazy when I told her I wanted to insure the humble looking box I used to send it. When the transaction was complete, she threw it into the bin of mail behind her as if it was just some piece of junk and walked away.

That's it? I thought. I stood on my tiptoes and peered over the counter at the box laying atop a mountain of small envelopes. For a second I considered waving someone over to ask for it back, but all of the post office personnel had mysteriously disappeared. Yup, that's it.

Then I burst into tears. I guess the sudden meaninglessness of a piece of jewelry that had once been so significant just got to me. Or perhaps it's because tossing that old thing in the mail symbolized that I am finally, truly moving on from the relationship that defined my 20s. And the end of an era is always a little bit sad. I cried the entire way home.

Then, when I got home, I popped open a bottle of cava to celebrate because I really love my life right now, and I'm twice the woman I used to be.

So I raised a glass to myself, without whom none of this would be possible.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Pink Lady

I made my small screen debut this week, demoing my signature LUPEC cocktail! Check it out here:

There's also a short bio of me here:

Note how, when pressed, I reluctantly admit to having once swilled cosmos like it was my job. I can't believe I said that - what will all the cocktail nerds of the world think?

Cin cin!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ask the management

As we all know, I work part-time as a waitress. In a few short days, I'll also be filling in as a manager.

"Oh, really? Moving into management, huh? Good for you!" people keep telling me, encouragingly.

"No, no, no," I rush to explain. "I'm just filling in for the real managers while they are away in Spain for a week, doing research and development. They're my friends, I'm really just doing this as a favor."

Fact is, moving into management is the last thing I want to do. I don't mind filling in, especially because the managers at Toro work so hard, do such an amazing job, and totally deserve this working vacation. But managing sucks.

First of all, there are all of these little things that you have to take care of starting before service begins at 4 p.m.-ish and continuing well after all of the customers have gone home at midnight or 1 a.m., like making sure the bar has the bank and the IPod by 4:30, dimming the un-labeled lights to the right level lest the restauarant look like an operating room ("Is that the back bar I'm dimming? Or the back hallway? Who knows?"), and making sure the hosts have enough menus and that they all contain the correct, spell-checked, properly priced information. I could write press releases and marketing copy for days, but somehow formatting those menus is beyond me.

Fortunately, all of these rote happen-every-day-type tasks can be easily accounted for - I'm making a list for myself. Plus, if the manager forgets to handle any of these items, the staff is pretty swift to remind you, and it usually sounds something like this:

"Kitty, where are my menus??? It's 5:05! They're still not done yet?" or,
"Hey, manager! Do you have a bank for me tonight? Or am I just going to give the drinks away?"

Then, in addition to handling all of these hateful little tasks, there is all of this other stuff that someone in a management position has to deal with, the problems that come up during service, the seemingly unsolvable things that you have to somehow find a way to fix. Everyone comes to you with them since you are in charge - kitchen, bar, back-waiters, servers. It sounds something like this:

"Kitty, we only have 25 napkins left for the rest of the night and I don't have enough roll-ups to set the dining room," or
"Kitty, we're almost out of bread" at 9 o'clock p.m. when the restaurant is full.

And I haven't even crossed the angry customer bridge yet, where I have to smooth over some awful situation with a pissed-off guest.

"I'm scared," I told one of the managers. "I hope that doesn't happen to me while you're away."

"Oh, it will," she said. "Trust me. And get ready for what people will say to you. I heard someone refer to the general manager as 'that little girl' once."

"No way! I mean, she's short, but that's so...rude. Ugh, I can only imagine what people will say to me. People already treat me like I'm a stupid blonde as a waitress."

"I know. It sucks. But hey, maybe you'll get some good material out of it for your blog!"

Yes, maybe I will. Hopefully it's nothing too good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baby names

My mother called me on Thursday afternoon while I was finishing up some office work and about to run out the door to go to Toro. I was too busy to talk, so I screened the call. I know it's terrible to screen your parents but I felt it had to be done. I picked up her message after leaving Toro at midnight:

"Hi honey, it's mom. Just wanted to give you a call. Umm...give me a call when you get this, okay? I'm going to be on my way to work soon, but will be around tomorrow if I miss you. By, dear."

A nonchalant message to the casual listener, but I was slightly alarmed. Let me translate: my mother has it in her head that I am the busiest person in the world, and always humbly assumes that I am far too busy and important to actually call my parents back. She never actually requests that I "give her a call" unless something is up or wrong, like when our dog Happy died, or when she had that little breast cancer problem. Ordinarily, mom just says, "Just thinking of you, hope you're doing well, talk to you soon." Because I'm so busy and important (ha.)

Since mom's tone was decidedly even and calm, I thought it was probably okay to give her a ring at the end of my busy Friday afternoon.

"Hi Kirsten, how are you dear? Are you busy? Did you have a busy week?" my mom asked.

"Yes mom, it was a busy week. I'm sorry I missed you the other night, but I have a minute to talk now. What's up?"

"Well, I just wanted to call, and give you the news...your cousin delivered the baby on Wednesday." This is my younger cousin, who I found out was pregnant until last month. I'm just six years older than her, but since we mostly only ever saw each other when I was a teenager, said cousin is fixed in my mind as an 8 - 12 year old girl. In light of this, I was surprised to learn that she with child...and even more surprised when my mom said she was practically due.

"Oh, that's great! Boy or girl, mom?"

"Girl. And guess what she named the baby?"

"Um....I don't know, mom. Mary (after Grandma)? Liz (after her mom, my aunt)? I'll never guess. Just tell me."

"She named her...Kirsten Elizabeth."

"But...really? But...that's my name. Does she know that's my name, too?"

"I'm pretty sure she does, honey. People keep asking me if I think you'll mind. You don't mind, dear, do you?"

"Mind? No, not at all, of course I don't mind. I'm ridiculously flattered!"

And it's true: this news, which I felt certain would be bad news, has turned out to be some of the most flattering news I've ever received.

And a strong reminder to reconnect with this side of my family.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

6 Questions with Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine

When I told the lovely and talented Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine about my Undercover Blonde project, she instantly got it. Sascha has also traversed both sides of the color wheel in the name of research while editing the magazine's much-beloved "Best of Boston" issue.

Here's a little glimpse into Sascha's take on blonde- vs brunette-ness:

Kitty: Are you a natural blonde? If not, how long have you been dying your hair blonde?

Yes. Well, natural enough. I was very light blonde as a kid, right up through my teen years. I started getting highlights in college, not because I really needed them but because it was the thing to do—and a nice escape from the class-bar-class-bar routine. I probably got a partial twice a year (shout-out to Joseph’s at the Carriage House in Syracuse!). As a “grown-up,” I get highlights three or four times a year.

Kitty: A few years ago you conducted an experiment for Boston magazine that required you to dye your blonde hair brown, then back to blonde. What was it like to be a brunette all of a sudden? Did you like the experience? How long did it last?

Sascha: I loved it. Alas, I was the only one.

I had my hair dyed very dark brown in November; it lasted through March (albeit somewhat faded). Being brunette was great. Almost immediately, people took me more seriously, especially new acquaintances. I’m aware of all the stereotypes, but it was amazing how much people played to cliché. It was like I had a sudden anonymity—no cat calls on the street, no lewd stares—which, again, was surprising in the fact it seemed so scripted. I wavered between missing the attention and reveling in looking “brainy.” Of course, it was also somewhat annoying as the great majority of blondes I know are smart, intuitive people, and blonde is a hair color choice, not an intellectual status meter.

The biggest (and only) compliments I got were about my skin and eyes. Most people told me both looked much smoother/striking surrounded by brown hair. But just about everyone I talked to said he/she preferred me as a blonde. Period. Now, when I mention going brunette again, I’m met by a host of sighs, eye rolls, and quick dismissals.

Did the color changes affect how you saw or felt about yourself? Or was it mostly an external thing?

Sascha: No. Ok, maybe a little. It’d be hard to measure but I’ll say I might have been slightly less outgoing as a brunette. (Another huge-but-unfortunately-somewhat-true stereotype: Blondes will be forgiven anything.)

Having experience both ends of the color spectrum, what did you like and dislike most about being blonde or brunette?

Sascha: Blonde: I feel/look like myself.

Brunette: It was nice to step outside my physical comfort zone for a while, switch it up. I thought I looked like a totally different person, which was fun while it lasted. The worst part for me was the constant re-dying. Because I have a naturally light base, the brown would fade after my first hair wash. Going to the salon every three weeks proved way to high-maintenance (and expensive) for me. Also, I had to wear double the amount of makeup I typically do to keep from looking washed-out.

Your best friend is about to dye her hair blonde for the very first time. What’s the one thing you think she NEEDS to know about how her life will be different before she reaches for bleach?

Sascha: People will stare. Or, at least, stare more than she’s used to. I won’t guess at the sociology behind it here but, in my experience, there’s something about blonde hair that draws the eye. If you’re not comfortable with attention, don’t go for superblonde hair. My advice would be to take it slowly and make sure your skin tone can handle the change.

Kitty: Who are your picks for best color & corrective color (going brown to blonde again) in Boston? Anyone you’d refer a girl to in a heartbeat?

The best colorist in Boston, in my opinion, is Jeffrey Lyle at Emerge on Newbury. No one does natural blonde like he does. I’m not sure Emerge does color correction, though. When I wanted to strip out all my brown I went to Umi; they did a great job.

Sascha de Gersdorff is Executive Editor of Boston Home and Boston Weddings and editor of New England Travel, as well as travel editor for Boston.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented on my rather melancholy last post.

I spent the first half of my New Year's Eve at an amazing yoga workshop last night. I did a bunch of soul-searching while there, as you do when you spend four hours om-ing and chanting on a yoga mat. In the midst of all this New Age-y-ness, I rediscovered my energy for this project. I'm inspired to recommit to it in '09, and to you, all of my supportive readers.

I spent the second half of the evening guzzling champagne, so for now it's back to the couch, with plans to start fresh in 2009 tomorrow.

Happy New Year to all!