Goat Cheese of Death.

Recently, to celebrate a special occasion, my wife and I were eating in one of those restaurants where the reputation of the food outweighs the ambiance. You know the type -- those places where the tables are so close to each other that you can't help overhearing the topic of conversation at the next table. You're having your own conversation, and listening to three or four others at the same time, and everyone just pretends that it's not happening. It's pretty funny when you think about it. Here we all are, in a big room, sitting literally within arms reach, and ignoring each other completely.

Also, I have three different forks, and I don't know what to do with them. Can you tell I eat in expensive restaurants all the time? At any rate, I tend to be self-conscious in a place like this and find myself unable to hold a normal conversation. I think the primary reason for that is because my 'normal' conversation could quite conceivably consist entirely of quotes from the The Family Guy and the Venture Brothers, and I don't want anyone overhearing that unless they can appreciate my vast knowledge of all things irreverent and animated.

So eventually, I just drift off into eavesdropping. The funniest interchange of this particular meal was a conversation that happened between the waiter and the woman at the next table. It went something like this:

"I'd like the prime rib, medium rare, and a glass of the 1998 Muller-Catoir, please."

"A suggestion, madam? You'd be much better off with the 2000 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. Trust me. It has a much fuller nose and is a better match for the beef. The other wine will simply not hold up."

"Thanks so much. I'll try that instead."

"My pleasure. Will there be anything else?"

She paused for a second and then said, "Yes, actually. I was thinking of getting goat cheese on my salad, but I'm allergic to dairy. Can you tell me if I'd be allergic to goat cheese?"

I don't think the waiter was expecting this line of questioning, because he immediately dropped a few pegs on the smoothness scale and almost lost that veneer of efficient, elite professionalism.

Playing for time to gather his thoughts, he asked, "What happens to you when you eat dairy?"

"I get giant hives and my throat closes up and my tongue swells," she replied.


You could see it in the waiter's eyes. He was clearly thinking that he wanted none of that happening in his dining room, now or at any point in the future. He was also clearly thinking - 'What the hell is wrong with you? Don't you know your own food allergies? Do I LOOK like someone who is well-versed in the contraindications of goat cheese?'

He said none of these things, however. My wife and I were trying very hard not to laugh, and failing.

The waiter caught my eye for a second, and the side of his face twitched a little. He almost cracked a smile, then regained his composure. He was good.

"You'd probably be OK, but personally, I don't think you should chance it," he said after due consideration.

"Yes, you're probably right. I'll have it without the cheese, then."

"That's for the best, I think."

There are many things a good waiter will do to earn a great tip, but apparently stabbing needles full of epinephrine into a stopped heart is not one of them.

That's what I get for going to a place where you have to pay for your meal after you eat it instead of before.


  1. Great story! But hello, screw Miss Manners and her three freakin' sizes of forks, just find the one that feels most sensuous in your hand and after massaging it for an appropriate amount of time (do NOT groan aloud and pound the table and say YES! YES! OHGODBABY YES! in restaurants though), grab hold of that sucker and dig in.

    You'll thank me for this advice, I know you will.

    And by the way, I've linked you to my blog, I hope you don't mind.

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Silly woman. I bet her father was a hamster and her mother smelt of elderberries.

  3. I hate to rain on your parade, but an epi pen is administered in the upper/outer thigh. So, was she hot? You might've seen her ass if she'd chanced the cheese.

  4. Yeah, I know. I just like to watch ER when the heart stops and they jam the adrenaline right into the heart. You have no appreciation for the art of exaggeration, carly.

  5. Oh jeez, people are really stupid sometimes.
    JV have you ever read that waiter rant blog? It is pretty funny. In the archives, he complains (rants) about being a waiter. He apparently is not a waiter anymore, so now he writes about other stuff.
    If you want to check it out, I have a link to it on my blog.

  6. Doesn't the very idea that something is called "cheese" tend to make you lean toward the idea that it's dairy? Or is head cheese a delicacy up there?lol

  7. Anonymous7:13 PM

    "unless they can appreciate my vast knowledge of all things irreverent and animated."

    another CLASSIC LINE....

    I thought I was the only one. If
    I overheard THAT conversation I would have jumped right in!

    Now I must go back and read more.

  8. Anonymous7:17 PM

    That lady was a MORON... Ha ha ha.

    As someone who lives with food allergies I am fully (and painfully) aware of what I can and cannot eat in a restaurant. It is my duty to educate myself to prevent the need for the dreaded Epi-Pen.

    That waiter WAS good.

    I would have berated her. (but I am mean like that)

  9. To add another comment...I think the waiter handled the situation very well. People like this woman make me think that stabbing myself in the eye would be a better alternative to ever being a waitress again. I was losing my my classines by about the 10th year anyways. I was either written up or verbally reprimanded at least a half dozen times in my last year for arguing with the cooks at with such intesity that the entire restaurant could hear or for being...umm rude to customers, especially men customers.

  10. Personally, she should've gone for the Ernest & Julio Gallo jug of Hearty Burgundy, eaten the prime rib and had the fuckin' cheese on her salad. That Gallo wine would counteract any harm she'd done to her body like a roto-rooter. It kills virtually everything.

  11. She's probably the same woman who'd say, "does this dress make me look fat?"

    Found you from the infamous JCPenny post.

    good stuff

  12. Forks, start from the outside in (at least that's the general rule). Asking the waiter about allergies, now that is smart, because as we all know, waiters all have to have specialized medical training in allergies, so they are obviously the best people to ask. ;)

  13. I grew up near goats and don't want any part of them anywhere near whatever I'm eating at the time...or really ever. I'm surprised the waiter didn't start laughing when he saw you...he gets an A for strength. I'd have lost it.

  14. Anonymous10:09 AM

    hey Johnny, funny stuff, I found your blog after someone forwarded your Penney's entry. I am reading back and having fun. Only one problem, after a few minutes, I get lines in my vision from the white on black. any suggestions?

  15. If you use firefox, you can go into Tools, Options, Colors, and uncheck "allow pages to use their own colors" then you will see it with a light grey background and black text.

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  17. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Maybe she could use some good "head" cheese.

  18. This reminds me of the time years ago I went to a 5 star Michelin rated restaurant in Chicago for an anniversary and these waiters are really ready for anything. When the soup course was served - the waiter would bring out a large silver tureen and actually serve the soup into your bowl. Then the tureen would be taken away. But I recall this gentleman who probably hailed from Texas (I think the cowboy hat, boots and the fact he kept saying he was from Texas, gave it away) - nearly tackled the waiter when he tried to take the tureen away. He said (I kid you not), "Whoa there fella - you could just set that right there because I am awfully hungry." The waiter without missing a beat, left the tureen right there next to him and smiled and said "no problem sir."

    Talk about professionalism.

  19. I am announcing my official crush on JV. Too bad you're married. And that you live in the frozen tundra of the north. Spare me.

    Anyway, this reminds me of the time my friend Marianne and I went to that fancy-schmancy Chinese place, P F Chang's. They serve "family style", in ironic juxtaposition with their snootiness. Marianne and I wanted an order of crispy honey chicken and an order of crispy honey shrimp. The waiter actually told us WE COULDN'T HAVE THAT!

    He explained that they were essentially the same dish (neglecting the fact that one is seafood and one is poultry) and that "we" encourage patrons to try a variety of dishes.

    I have no idea what possessed me and Marianne to allow him to bully us in this fashion, but I have never darkened P F Chang's door again.

    Ever wonder what the "P. F." stands for?

  20. I HAVE to know how to subscribe to your Blog and i do not see anywhere to do that???

  21. Wow - never had anything like that experience at PF Changs - and find most of their servers to be college students and anything but snooty! LOL Guess cause our PF Changs is in a college town? Great post - and love the waiter telling her he didn't think she'd have a problem??? Well many people who are lactose intolerant can eat goat products but not allergic! LOL Too bad she didn't try it.

  22. Anonymous3:02 PM


    I just found your blog via the viral JCPenney post.
    Your writing is fabulous. I feel like I've just stumbled upon the next Dave Barry!

    I'm telling everyone.

  23. Anonymous5:17 PM

    Funny story. I like your writing style.

  24. Anonymous7:02 PM

    but you have to love women (and men) like this. they make your meal. i live for them on public transportation. if a stranger makes me clench harder for fear of wetting myself, i really ought to thank them.

    but only if i just came close.

  25. Anonymous9:08 PM

    I agree. You should definitely stick to eating at places where they give you toys with your meal.

  26. I can see that you are not used to eating in New York City, where all the tables are jammed together and everyone listens to all the conversations while pretending not to.

  27. Exactly! You should always eat in restaurants that post giant, back-lit pictures of their meals behind the counter where you place the order.

  28. Anonymous10:16 AM

    "I'm allergic to dairy, do you think the cheese will bother me?"

    Ok, how did you not bust out laughing when she asked that? I would have pissed my pants...

  29. found your site while researching that JCPenney email that every person I've ever met in my lifetime has forwarded me.. and it turns out you are the "father"...

    While I hate you for the 9 hours I've lost deleting the 12,384 copies of this email from my in box, your website is kinda similar to mine.

    Except I think yours is funnier.

    So of course I hate you now.

    Damn you.


  30. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Seems like I'm not the only one that found you by the JC Penny's post. While rummaging through your previous posts, I stumbled upon your Elvis posting with pictures of yourself "morphing". I laughed so hard at that I woke up my 1 year old. I tried to find it again last night but couldn't find it! Did you delete it? I've searched the archives to know avail.

    HELP!!! Where did it go???

  31. holy shit Virg!

    I just got your JC Penney post forwarded to me by some random person. My coworker got it from her niece this morning too.

    You're a star!

  32. OMG - Your stuff is so funny... but where's the darn RSS feed????

  33. Anonymous11:47 PM

    Poor woman... it's goat cheese- cheese has dairy! I don't miss the days of waiting tables... So did you use all 3 forks? ;-)

  34. so: favorite Family Guy quote? mine (and probably misquoted)is from Stewie about Maria Shriver: "Yes, yes what a delightful little endoskeleton."

    second: Meg asks how she looks, Stewie replies: "Somewhere there is a picture of you getting prettier."

  35. I saw you were first on Humor Blogs, and after reading the JC Penny post I understand why. Now I'll have to add another blog to my reading list which is taking up far too much of my time as it is.

  36. Anonymous8:08 AM

    just wanted to let you know, being in the law enforcement/security field does not allow you to sit in close proximty of other diners without listening to their conversation or observing their menu choices! i hang out with someone in the same field and while he hears everything, i hear nothing! and no, i am not deaf, he is just a "trained observer" lol!

  37. Dayum, we always end up next to the LOUD TALKERS no matter what restaurant.

    It's a curse. These people need to STFU!

    But they seriously think what they have to prattle about needs to be broadcast to every table in the vicinity.

    As well their chortling laughter...at themselves.

    shuddup. just shuddup

    Read the forums at:


    You'll never send food back to the kitchen EVER again!

  38. I'm so glad you went viral. This is my new favorite. I am officially linking you. :)

  39. I got to your blog through the JCP thing. Go figure. Someone on Sport Illustrated.com mentioned it.

    I've come to think we live in the same town. I've read other postings and it appears we do. I won't mention the town but I owe you a few beers for the hardy laughs!

  40. I've seen the movie "Waiting" and whatever I get, I eat.

  41. Wow JV, 40 comments! One day when you're uber-famous I can say I read his blog way-back-when.

    Great post, as always.

  42. Anonymous7:07 AM

    I love restuarant cutlery, especially the magnetic type so when you're sitting inches away from the next table, you can have competitions of whose fork can magnetically lift the desert knife the highest...

  43. I could never ever wait tables. I don't deal well with obvious stupidity.

    I, too, found you through the JC Penney Catalog entry - I had three people send it to me, but I bookmarked you because of this story.

  44. Add me to your list that got here via JC Penny. You remind me of my friend back in Texas- he could tell a story that would have us laughing till beer spewed from our noses.(it stings-not recommended) I miss that- but now I have you. Thanks.

  45. I was a waitress for ages at a restaurant that served all sorts of pasta. We had one with a pesto sauce and I was always asked what was in pesto. I replied, basically, spinach and pine nuts.

    One evening I had a woman ask, consider, and order the pesto pasta.

    When I got her pasta up there fifteen minutes later, she proceeded to berate me for bringing her pasta with pesto because she's allergic to pine nuts and someone at her table had just informed her that there were pine nuts in pesto.

    It takes all kinds.

  46. So the whole "He he he...you said 'big meat." "Yeah, I almost let that one get by, didn't I?" Family Guy quote wouldn't have gone over well? :)

  47. Anonymous1:41 PM

    OMG!!! I was sent a link to your "Fashions of 77" post and, while I laughed, it really wasn't your best stuff. This IS. I was taking a sip of soda and seriously had to lean forward so it would sit in the front of my mouth and not get sucked down my throat as I giggled and tried to be quiet in the middle of my gopher farm.

    Luurvvvvve yer blog, man!

  48. Anonymous5:00 PM

    I too found you from the JC Penny masterpiece and have turned my entire address book and most of the newsroom where I work on to your fantastic blog. You are a god. I have to be careful reading this at work because I explode with guffaws and that gives it away that I'm not writing about some poor dead child or other nasty news story. Bravo.