Visiting new restaurants can be dreadful.

Last weekend I joined a group of friends who were dining at a new area restaurant. While I enjoy culinary ventures, I dread visiting new restaurants during the first three months of business. I remember all too well the process of opening an eating establishment. While excitement builds in the preparation of presenting a creative, personalized menu in an updated facility, the headaches abound.

My recent experience confirmed my feelings. I was impressed with the clean facilities with walls painted in navy and tan. The tables were nicely presented with navy tablecloths and matching napkins rolled with silverware. We were greeted by a friendly server who exhibited traditional behavior of a new employee. She was familiar with the names of menu selections but was unable to provide true guidance related to flavors and wine pairing.

The menu was odd for a restaurant trying to portray a higher-than-average appearance. The main entree selections were limited and most included a cheesy sauce used to smother the meat. The other menu offerings included a lot of fried foods. I searched for a healthy option and decided upon a fettucine dish that included several of my favorite ingredients:  shrimp, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and capers served with olive oil instead of a traditional cheesy sauce.

My first few bites were satisfying but the pasta was lukewarm as I had waited for the rest of my table to be served. Our party of 11 experienced one of the biggest errors restaraunts make with a larger party. The server brought food to the table for the first half of the group, and then we waited for the remaining five dishes to arrive. My generation was taught not to begin eating until everyone at the table had received his or her dish. I was the first to be served; thus cold pasta.

How did the pasta taste? I have to admit the ingredient combination sounded good when I placed the order, but it didn't take long for the powerful, conflicting flavors of the artichoke hearts and capers to keep me from consuming more. I was so disappointed.

Our meal was preceded with salads, which resulted in another error. The server neglected to inform the group that the salads were not included with the main entree. Thus, several individuals did not receive salads because they were never ordered. I don't have a problem with excluding the salad from the main entree, but the server certainly needs to mention this fact. In the Midwest providing a salad with the main entree is often expected.

The most disappointing part of the evening was at the beginning when we ordered drinks. The wine list was small and boring. For me, a wine list should be exciting and introduce selections not readily available at the local liquor store. And the staff needs to be properly trained on how to open and serve a bottle of wine.

After ordering three bottles of wine for our table, I watched in horror. The manager brought wine glasses to the table and placed a glass at each place setting. He placed the glasses updside down! Not only did the presentation of an upside down glass look tacky, all I could think about were the germs that were on the table cloth that were now touching the rim of the glass from which I was going to be drinking. And, what about the wasted step of having to turn the glass up before pouring the wine?

Ah, pouring the wine! My attention was drawn to the server who was attempting to open a bottle of wine. My husband was eager to lend a hand because it was very clear the server was not comfortable uncorking the bottle as he balanced it on the table next to ours. His presentation was simply setting the bottle on the table and asking if we wanted him to pour its contents. We quickly said no suspecting disaster ahead as he wouldn't have a clue about letting the bottle breathe, allowing the host to sample the wine first, how much to pour into the glasses and how to turn the bottle at the end of pouring to eliminate drips.

My heart goes out to the adventurous restaurant entreprenuer. Great intentions are abounding, but it takes great attention to detail for quality results. Will I return? Probably not for another six months!