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Oct 6, 2012 02:54 AM

Tips for taking notes of dishes during meal

Hi fellow epicureans,

I was wondering for those that like to update blog posts or write down what they had to write reviews later on, are you allowed to bring a small notepad to write down the dish you had and any comments on it?

I have made reservations to dine at Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire and Tour d'Argent later this month and I was hoping to write a review on the dishes I've tried, so was wondering if its normal to take notes or ask for a menu? How do you normally take notes to remember what you had?


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  1. "are you allowed to bring a small notepad to write down the dish you had and any comments on it?"


    "if its normal to take notes"

    Most people don't take notes. Is that what you mean? Or do you mean if it is permitted? The answer would be yes.

    "or ask for a menu?"

    Again, i don't think most diners ask for a menu to keep. But if you mean if it is permitted, the answer is yes. I do rarely, but did once and was initially refused, at the old Fogon when it was still fréquentable. Turns out it was the waitstaff who did not dare make a decision. The manager came over and told me by all means.
    More recently at Atelier Rabanel, I asked for a menu, and the somelier took down my email and told me he would email the carte to me, which he actually never did.
    Conclusion: you don't ask, you don't get.
    How do you normally take notes to remember what you had?"

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thanks for the replies on this one, it is something that hasn't occured to me until now. I'm planning in bringing a small Moleskine notebook to jot down ideas/thoughts during the meal, as one tends to forget every single dish after a 3 hour meal.

      Normally, I would type up what I remember onto my phone once I leave the restaurant, but especially with the meal at Pierre, I was thinking it would be hard to match up with each dish.

      It would be nice to get the menu not only to know the dishes we tasted, but also to keep for the memory. I agree, if you don't ask, you definitely wont get, so definitely wont hurt to ask.

    2. I have been using a notepad program on my iPhone since they were invented. Most discreet way of taking notes. Now I use Evernote, even better since I can sync it with my computer.

      I also take quick photos (Lumix GF1 with pancake lens, setting "food" or "intelligent auto", works every time) to fixate my memory of the dish. NEVER any flash. Never a DSLR.
      No iPad or voice recorder, ever. Use small stuff.

      I used to ask for menus when I worked for the Lebey, but I don't like attracting that sort of attention.
      Best method: choose the right angle from where to stand without being too visible from inside the restaurant, and shoot the menu outside. Or take a snapshot of the chalkboard.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ptipois

        May I add: Pti is lightning fast when it comes to taking a pic, so fast that most other diners do not notice she has taken a pic. It is a nice and polite thing to do, to minimize - or eliminate - the disruption for others. My Asian friends are the worst shutterbugs. Once the neighboring diners actually told my girlfriend to stop the flash-flash-flash-flash-flash-flash-flash-flash-flash-flash…, and they were right. She was being disruptive.
        Likewise, all restaurants in France - including modest bistros - make a point of laying out an attractive table setting. A small notepad is no problem. Some diners feel obliged to push the plates and silverware to the side to make room for all the tech gear. It is a real eye sore.

      2. Do it, but do it on paper (small moleskin notebook is perfect), not on an intelligent phone or tablet, especially in the evening in a dimmed restaurant it will disturb the other people (they light up quite hard !!)

        Do a combination of both photos and text, make it quick and keep it as simple as possible by listing ingredients/taste/flavors.

        Use the images and the "cryptic" text to make a real text when you get home after.

        You might need a second notebook just for Pierre Gagnaire !! :-)


        1 Reply
        1. re: Maximilien

          I have used the Moleskine notebooks for years before i started using the iPhone, and believe me, they attract attention far more than an intelligent phone, which is why I switched to digital. Nobody notices it when you type on an Iphone, since the entire universe is doing it now. They think you're only texting someone or checking your mail. Sad to say but handwriting is vanishing (not to mention that people like me who type a lot have nearly lost the ability for it).

          Tablet of course is a no-no. Might as well bring a large chalkboard and a box of chalk.

          For Pierre Gagnaire I think you'd need a leatherbound 350-page volume, or a desktop computer on MS-DOS.

          @Parigi: yes indeed, there is a way of melting into the scenery when you take photos, and using a flash is not part of it.
          Hence, too, my insistence on using "dumb mode": food setting (so sensible of Panasonic to have thought of that), or IA, which, with the addition of a fast lens, makes you the Speedy Gonzales of food photography.
          I also use a manual lens (25mm 0.95 Nokton) when I also want my photos to be beautiful, but with that training I focus and shoot almost as fast.

        2. I use a very small notebook, and don't ask permission, wouldn't occur to me to do so any more than I'd ask permission to talk to my companion, go the bathroom or choose to eat my meal with the "wrong" cutlerly.

          As long as what I'm doing is not disruptive or rude to either fellow diners or staff, I'm not sure being allowed comes into it.

          For photography, I agree, no flash. It's disruptive and produces crappy images in any case. I mostly use a small point and shoot, but occasionally will take my DSLR, though the same rules apple - no flash, quick shot or two only, no rearranging tables, no standing up, no drama. If I'm at a banquette table, it'll sit on the bench beside me. If not it's on the table, but it's one of the small DSLRs, strap removed, so it's not particularly enormous.

          People seem to be self-conscious about notes/ photos but actually, there are many behaviours of other guests that are far more annoying - use of tech that has bright lights, or noises, loud conversations with their companions, people being rude to staff...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kavey

            In restaurants and in the markets in France, I always ask the restaurant or market vendor if it was ok to take photos. The answer is not always yes. Therefore I myself would always ask.

            1. re: Parigi

              Market vendors etc. absolutely, I would always ask too. Especially if I'm not a customer, but even if I am,. I'm usually looking to take images of things I've not purchased, the stall as a whole or a range of items on it, or even the stall holder. Always ask first on those occasions.

              At a restaurant, I'm mainly taking images of my dish, at my table. Very different, in my opinion.

          2. Back in 2004 when I first started obsessively noting what I ate and losing what little short-term memory I had, I was eating with a 40 y.o. really "hot" food critic and a good friend from Geneva and both of us surreptitiously pulled out identical 7.3x9.0 Rhodia pads to the astonishment of my Swiss friend - "you guys both take notes?" says he. I've since graduated to 10.5.x14.8 in honor of the troisieme age