September 4, 2008

What's on your cheese plate?

We stopped by a new restaurant recently. The menu wasn't that special, but I was excited to see a cheese plate listed. Bub was a cheesemonger for many years and we are quite the cheese fanatics.

I asked the host what was on the cheese plate. She didn't know, so she asked the person who appeared to be the chef. He said, "A blue, a brie, maybe a cheddar..."

A blue, a brie, maybe a cheddar?

Here were my expectations: I expected them to know what cheeses were on that plate, and even more, what kind of blue, brie, cheddar, and whatever else was on that plate.

It makes a difference to me whether the blue is a St. Agur, a Cashel Blue or a Maytag. It makes a difference to me whether the cheddar is from Grafton or Montgomery's.

I got the distinct impression that this restaurant wasn't the least big interested in standing out or being unique. It's possible that the cheese plate was loaded with outstanding choices, but how many people would I have to ask to find out? Because they gave the appearance of being generic, I didn't dig any deeper and I didn't eat there.

In contrast, I remember going down to a training in LA last year and staying at a big chain hotel. During the lunch break, I joined some of my colleagues for lunch in the hotel restaurant. I'm not a huge fan of hotel restaurants -- usually the epitome of generic.

But I saw a cheese plate on the menu! When I asked the server, she didn't know what was on the plate, so she went to ask. Then the chef appeared, and not only did he know exactly what was on the plate, but the cheeses he listed were fabulous and special. Not a generic cheese among them.

I will forever recommend this restaurant (and in fact, I'm looking forward to eating there again when I attend a training next month at the same hotel).

The other one -- I haven't even eaten there and I'm already disappointed.

Are you generic and indistinguishable from other speakers? Or are you doing something to stand out from the crowd?

What's on your cheese plate?

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