Tim Foolery

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Correcting a Restaurant’s Wine List?

Following our recent trip to Yosemite, we capped our vacation with a meal at Coi (pronounced kwa, not coy) in San Francisco.  We opted for the tasting menu and decided to splurge and do the wine pairings as well.  I was that guy who took photos of the meal, but I did so with my phone, without flash and as clandestinely as possible.  I will share those photos and the full menu shortly.

After a bit of a debate on whether we would spring for the full wine pairings, we delved a bit deeper into the list.  Their was a Burgundian wine that looked and sounded great.  The menu read:

2006 Sérafin Père et Fils Les Millandes Premier Cru (Morey-Saint-Denis) Premier Cru, Bergundy, Germany.

I am not in the wine business.  I am just a consumer.  I love Pinot Noir and I think Burgundy and the Willamette Valley (Oregon) have the best in the world.  I had never heard of Burgundy, Germany.  Was it a misprint, or was there a small German region of which I was unaware?  I was told by MS to leave it alone and not to ask about it.  So I obliged…for a while.  This wine was to be served with the seventh of of the 10 courses.  We had some good laughs with the server and when he mentioned this was what was up next, I asked him about the menu and our interaction went something like this:

Server: Gentlemen, next up is the 2006 Sérafin.
Me: Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this wine.  I am a huge fan of Burgundian wines.  What should we be looking for as we taste.
(He then proceeded to talk about the grapes and the key influences of terroir, etc)
Me:  So this is the wine from Burgundy, Germany?
Server:  (Flabbergasted).  Um, no sir.  Burgundy is in France, not Germany.  It is located southeast of Paris, but just a couple hundred miles from the German border.
Me: Oh, my mistake.  I would have sworn the menu said it was a German wine.
Server: (Scoffs). Oh no, sir. It says Burgundy, France.
Me: Ok, my mistake.  Well, you may want to take another look at the list.
Server: I am sure it is accurate. (Giggles nervously).  If we did make a mistake, we will have it corrected immediately….and we will make this worth your while.
Me:  Thank you.

Fast forward about four minutes and the server returns.  He has a semi-shocked look on this face.  He quietly apologized for both the menu error and for his doubting us.  He said the menus were being reprinted and we would be given a proper menu before we leave.  He would not let me have a copy of the menu with the error. He also mentioned that this wine list hadn’t changed in months and no one had said a word about it.  He continued to thank us throughout the dinner, but the best part, was that he continued to joke with us.  For example he mentioned the lobster (which was served with this Burgundy) was from “Maine – a beautiful Region in Northern Germany, not too far from Berlin.”

The menu had an error. He was horrified. He fixed it and we all had a good laugh about it. We had some delicious food at Coi and some amazing wine, but we also had a fantastic time chatting with the staff (some of which are recent Bay Area transplants from Chicago).  I love places that can be serious, but also poke fun at themselves and have a good time.  The world isn’t perfect, but this meal was one of the closest version I’ve gotten to culinary perfection in a very long time.

So, how did the server “make it worth our while”, you may be asking.  He added a wine pairing for us with the first of the desserts and quite honestly, his ad hoc selection paired so much better than the pre-planned wine (which was still great).

We ended the evening with some long chats with the staff, getting recommendations for breakfast and lunch the following day, even some recommendations for Chicago.  This would be a great place to visit more regularly – I just loved the team at this restaurant.  Too bad we are in Chicago and they are in San Francisco.  This restaurant is definitely a splurge meal and not a regular occurrence.  If you have the opportunity to dine here, I would highly recommend it. It was such a great experience.

Have you come across a menu with an error like this?  Would you have said something?  I’m not a wine expert and I’m sure I’ve come across, but didn’t notice, many other errors on wine lists (incorrect vintages, block blends that don’t make sense, etc), but this error just jumped out at us.  How would you have handled it?

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