Tuesday, February 12, 2013

“No Soup for You”

No, we didn’t encounter the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld episode), but there will be more on this later.

Having eaten the bread from La Baguette on our 5.0 Addie sandwiches at Chicago Luke’s, we knew that a trip to the source had to be added to our Tucson list. And, better yet, the bakery is next door to Ghini’s French Café where we could also have lunch.
And both are run by the same father-daughter team.

“This French Canadian-owned bakery has been operating out of the same location since 1984…. (T)his small Tucson shop boasts an array of fresh baked goodness everyday. Dinner rolls, French baguettes, ciabattas, sweet bread, and my favorite the epi. In addition to traditional bread they also have a lovely assortment of cookies, cinnamon rolls, pastries, turnovers, chocolate éclairs, cheese cake and much more. The staff is super friendly and always takes the time to chat, offer suggestions and make a personal connection.... If you plan on visiting this amazing bakery make sure you get there early because they tend to run out of the more popular items later in the day” (tucsonreview.com).

We arrived at around 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday, and the bareness of the shelves attests to the truth of the previous sentence. There were a few loaves of fruit and nut bread and a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies remaining but most of the breads were gone. Still, I did manage to snag a few small piccolo rolls and a loaf of ciabatta. (I was less than impressed by the ciabatta.)
After making our purchases, we went next door anticipating lunch at this acclaimed café which was named Tucson’s best French restaurant in 2012, 2011, 2010 by Tucson Weekly, and is another member of Tucson Originals. “Ghini's is a restaurant fueled by love and passion, which is evident with every morsel that hits your lips. A quaint little cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and tapas…. Ghini's has always been dog friendly since its inception in 1992, as it is done in France” (tucsonnightout.com).

“Serving country kitchen-style French and American favorites, this sidewalk cafe buys locally grown produce and displays local artists' work. Menu options include a variety of omelettes, crepes, soups,
salads, and sandwiches made from scratch. In addition to French wines, Bloody Marys, mojitos, and other alcoholic drinks, Ghini's offers a unique menu of non-alcoholic Endurox Recovery Beverages, designed to rejuvenate the sick, rundown or hungover“ (metromix.com).

I was tempted by two items from the Starters and Salads list—the Blackened Ahi Salad (served on a bed of greens garnished with radishes, carrots, red cabbage, scallion and grilled fideo pasta [a pasta often used in soup] topped with a ginger vinaigrette) or the Soupions a L’ail (calamari sautéed with red onion, garlic, and white wine and garnished with baby greens and basil grilled baguettes). But I was especially hungry for soup.
Ghini’s has two soups on the daily menu. One is a traditional French Onion Soup with a Provençal herb-infused beef stock and topped with grilled baguettes and melted Gruyère cheese. The other is called Vegetable Soupbowl and is a medley of vegetables sauteed together and served in an herbed tomato broth. In addition to these two, there is a soup of the day.

So a server comes to our table. “What is the day’s soup,” I ask. “I don’t know. No one has asked me,” she replies. “I’ll go find out.” And so off she went. Never to be seen again. Or at least at our table. Soon she was running the cash register. Then she was going out to the patio and calling the name of the next party to be seated. Then she was waiting on another table.

After about ten minutes, another server approaches our table. “Has anyone taken your order? Do you want a beverage other than water?” “No” to the latter question.

“Someone was waiting on us, and she was checking on the day’s soup,” I responded.

“Oh,” she says. “All we have today is the French onion.”

I have watched enough Gordon Ramsey (Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares) and Robert Irvine (Restaurant: Impossible) to know that it is the dual responsibility of management and servers to know what is on the menu. The appropriate response isn’t “I don’t know. No one has asked me.” Especially when you then disappear.

Well, I didn’t want onion soup, so my decision came down to one of two sandwiches, both of which came on a French baguette. One, the Pain Bagna, contained Spanish anchovies, hot house tomatoes, hard boiled egg, lettuce, and vinaigrette. The second, and my ultimate choice, was the Garden of Eatin with zucchini, avocado, green chile, cheddar, Swiss, muenster, alfalfa sprouts, and ranch dressing. And I chose the small salad for my side.
For Chuck it would be the Pilgrim with oven baked turkey breast, Swiss, cranberries, lettuce, and mayo.
I can’t fault the quality of the food, but both of us left Ghini’s annoyed. Perhaps annoyed is to strong a word. Is irritated any better? My soup problem didn’t seem to be the only one that day. I observed a woman at a nearby table request ice coffee. They were out. Soon, her server came and replaced an item on the same woman’s plate. This woman did not look happy as she left. And, while I don’t know the problem, I could overhear another server saying “Sorry about that,” to a couple at another table.

Although there was much bustling to and fro on the part of the servers, little real service was happening. And when Chuck went to the front counter to pay, a gentleman stood behind the cashier the whole time, which seemed to make her nervous, thereby lengthening the time it took to pay.
Ghini’s serves dinner on Fridays only and the dinner menu contained a number of intriguing sounding small plates. Just the kind of meal we like to share. But we won’t be returning and have to divide this rating. We’ll give the food 4.5 Addies, but the experience only earns 2.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog

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