Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In recent weeks, I’ve had some pretty great dining experiences around Boston. Yummy meals of late: Dining on fisherman’s-style risotto, fresh doughnuts with rhubarb compote, and rosé at the bar at Tremont 647, which has a new executive chef and pastry chef; checking out Il Casale in its opening weeks (read about it here); dinner with my dad at Tomasso Trattoria (awesome Neapolitan-style pizza and to-die-for tagliatelle alla Bolognese).

But my eating RBI is admittedly better than usual. You have no idea how many half-baked meals I’ve choked down without a peep in the last several months. But we’ve been through this already; the truth is, I just have trouble sending food back.

But then I bit into a rock.

Yep, that’s right. Dining at a new restaurant (which shall remain nameless, but just opened near Faneuil Hall) a few weeks ago, I took a forkful of lentils from beside my roast duck entrée, and chomped down on a tiny pebble. Crack went my fillings. “Whoa,” went my husband.

Since no server came back around till the end of our meal, I had to mention it post-incident. Pointing to what was unmistakably a small black stone on my plate, the server asked, “Is that it?”

“Yup,” I said.

He flicked it. It hopped, clinking, across the plate. “I’ll tell the chef,” he replied.

Ten minutes later, he returned. “Chef says it’s a juniper berry.”


“I looked at it with a magnifying glass and couldn’t tell. But Chef knew what it was. It’s a juniper berry. Used to season the lentils.”

“I know what a juniper berry is,” I said, rubbing my jaw.

The waiter shrugged. End of conversation.

Again, I’m relying on chefs, restaurant owners, and professional eaters to make sense of the evening. Who’s to blame in a situation like this? A chef, who either a) puts petrified juniper berries in his food, or b) fibs about his oversight? The server, who didn’t deem an apology necessary, merited or otherwise? Or me, who apparently can’t tell the difference between stones and food?

I’m sure all of you have stories—finding razor-sharp bones in your bluefish, a fly in your frittatta, a hair in your ham-and-cheese. What’s the right thing to do when this happens? Should the server offer to replace your meal, take it off the bill, or just shrug and walk away?

Let the debate begin.