Skip to main content

RESTAURANT ETIQUETTE, PART TWO: BY POPULAR DEMAND

My recent post concerning restaurant etiquette in France caused a bit of a buzz on various social media platforms. Lots of folks pointed out that most of the rules that I had proposed were simply grounded in common sense. Others replied that common sense isn't as common as it used to be. Some readers expressed disappointment that I hadn't discussed appropriate dress or the proper use of utensils or the correct way to taste wine. Rather than deprive my readers of my thoughts on these matters, freely given and worth every penny, here's Part Two.

PROPER ATTIRE: You're not going to wear that, are you?
A rule of thumb might be: The higher the expected tab, the more conservative the clothing.

Denim jeans are ubiquitous in France, on guys and gals alike. And ladies, the more bling the better. Ripped jeans are still a thing. God knows why, but She isn't telling. Don't. Just don't.

Shorts? Fine for lunch at that beach cabana. Long pants for dinner, please. Yoga pants? If you don't plan on doing the Downward-Facing Dog during dinner, don't wear the gear for it. That NY Yankee baseball cap? Ditch it before you step inside. Why the hell do so many French people wear those things, anyway? I'm a (Brooklyn) Dodger fan, myself.

Use common sense. There's that phrase again. Common Sense. If Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers) and Jeanne Phillips (Abigail 'Dear Abby' Van Buren) could make careers out of dispensing common sense, why not Ira (Ira)?

WHEN THE WINE ARRIVES: Don't pretend that you know what you're doing. You probably don't.
We usually order the house wine en pichet (in a pitcher) when it's available. But some restaurants only serve bottled wine and sometimes you want to try something special.

Unless you spot a wine that you know and particularly like on the list, ask the waiter for a suggestion. You'd like a light, fruity rosé for the start, a full-bodied red for the boeuf bourguignon? Ask. Limited budget? Add the words pas trop cher. Rather than being laughed at for trying to be the expert that you are not, you may get extra attention for being willing to place yourself in your server's hands.

When the server opens the wine and pours you a sip, you are being given the opportunity to discover if the wine is corked. Just that. A small percentage of wines with natural corks can be tainted by a chemical called TCA. Screw-top wines and wines with artificial corks cannot be tainted in that way, but you'll probably be given the opportunity to take a taste anyway. After the server pours, smell the wine and take a sip. No dramatics. Just sniff and sip. If the wine smells like your dog smells when he comes in from the rain, if it tastes flat and perhaps a bit astringent (overly acidic or bitter), the wine is corked. Not drinkable. You may return it for a replacement. 

Just about the only reason to return a bottle after first taste is if it's corked. Sweeter than you expected? Drier than you expected? That's on you. Not a sufficient reason to return.

Swirling the wine in the glass to test its 'legs' or holding the glass up to the light to see color or spending an inordinate amount of time with your nose in the glass before that first sip? You ain't Jancis Robinson. Don't pretend to be. Take the sip, nod your head, and let your server get on with it. If you feel the need to impress your table mates, do your little dance after everyone's glass has been poured.

TABLE MANNERS: Don't eat peas with your knife just about covers it.   
The best restaurants make certain that everyone at the table receives their courses at the same time. Otherwise, the rules on when you may start eating are simple, keeping in mind that it's always polite to wait until everyone is served. 
1.) If your food is served cold, as a green salad, it's proper to wait until all are served. 
2.) If your food is served warm, it is acceptable to begin immediately. A courteous table mate still waiting for service will quickly give permission. 
3.) When dining with the Queen, wait for her to begin regardless.

Europeans tend to bring food to their mouths with the tines of the fork facing down. Americans tend to eat with the tines facing up. Both methods do the job. Both methods can be abused. If the rest of the folks in the restaurant are concerned about the direction that your tines are pointing, that's their problem, not yours. Just don't slurp or burp (loudly) or chew with your mouth open or talk too loudly or laugh until the wine comes pouring out of your nose. 

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.

And don't eat peas with your knife.

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE: Do I really have to say that? 
A reminder. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.

THE TAB: Have the discussion sooner rather than later.
If you want separate tabs, ask for separate tabs. If you don't, decide beforehand how you will deal with the money. Will you split the bill in equal portions? Will you attempt to decipher who ordered the dry-aged Black Angus rib and who just had the mixed salad and how much was due from each? Whatever you decide, be quick about it. The meal is over. The longer you take to decide who owes what, the more likely you are to be driving home in tense silence. 

Having gone over the bill, it's alright to ask questions. Quietly and politely. I recently pointed out that our tab didn't include our carafe of wine. Really. I did. The server thought for a minute, then smiled and, walking away, simply said, "Offert." My good deed for the day and her's too. She'll remember me.

THAT'S IT: Questions will be answered in Comments.









Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

FRENCH VISA AND HEALTH INSURANCE FOR AMERICANS

The most expensive item in an American family's budget may be health insurance. But many Americans have no understanding of the true cost of their insurance because it's included in their employment package. Folks simply don't think about how much their employer may be reducing their salaries when factoring in insurance costs.

Before I retired, my employer paid for my health insurance but I had to pay to insure my wife. The cost, taken out of my every paycheck, came to about $6,000 annually. And even with insurance, there were co-pays and other out of pocket expenses. We were reasonably healthy (and still are, knock wood), but we each take a few common prescription medications - for blood pressure and cholesterol and the like, nothing exotic or costly. Even so, with regular visits to the doctor, periodic lab work, the drugs, and the occasional illness or injury, we normally spent an additional several thousand dollars annually in the States over and above the cost of the i…

CHÉ OLIVE / LE ZINC, CREISSAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

No, it's not Chez Olive. It is indeed Ché complete with red star and black beret. I have no idea why and I wasn't about to ask. The French are the French and not to be analyzed too closely when it comes to politics, especially these days.

Creissan is the next town over from our village of Quarante. We pass through it often and Ché Olive is right there on the main road at the entrance to town. (One of the signs still says Le Zinc. Olive says he prefers Ché Olive though.) Olive opened it a couple of years ago after leaving the Bar 40, Quarante's basic local watering hole that's undergone a bit of a renaissance lately. We hadn't heard much about Ché Olive from our usual sources for dining recommendations. So we just kept passing by. For reasons not central to this review, we decided to stop in for lunch on a mid-week in late December.

The bar is cozy, the restaurant open and bright and modern. Newly renovated and perhaps a bit sterile. We were the first…

RESTAURANT ETIQUETTE IN FRANCE: SIMPLE PRIMER (WITH TONGUE IN MY AMERICAN CHEEK)

My recent reading of a poor internet review of a favorite restaurant of ours prompted this post. Some people simply should not be allowed internet access. Speech may rightly be free, but it shouldn't be worthless.

From reading the review, I could determine that the reviewer was a tourist who started out in a bad mood because he had to pay extra for parking a camper van that exceeded the maximum height for parking in the free lot. His party arrived at the restaurant at the end of lunch and without a reservation. At first, he was told that an empty table that he pointed out was reserved. When he persisted, he was informed that lunch was over. Since none of the other restaurants in town were still open, the reviewer had to miss lunch.

Let me count the ways...

RESERVATIONS ARE NECESSARY. Maybe not at Burger King, maybe not in a touristy restaurant in a touristy destination. But if you are really hungry, if you really want to try that restaurant that everybody's talking about, or …