Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Restaurant Guidelines
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Q. I'm a little nervous about my boyfriend taking me to an expensive restaurant because I am worried he won't know how to behave or what do. We're really looking forward to it but I want to sure it is not a disaster, especially since it is Valentine's night. What do we have to know so we don't make fools of ourselves? AG, Pawtucket, RI
A. When your bf makes a reservation at an upscale restaurant, he should ask about the dress code. Does he need to wear a jacket and tie? Do they take credit cards?
When you arrive let the waitstaff check your coats, as bulky winter parkas can be cumbersome draped over the back on a chair. Especially on Valentine's, tables are packed tightly leaving little space for puffy parkas. The staff would rather you check your coats. He should have two dollars in his pocket to tip the person who retrieves your coat when you leave. If the waiter doesn't pull out your chair for you to sit down, your bf should do the honors. He should not sit down until you are comfortably seated.
Showing the waitstaff you have good manners goes a long way toward experiencing good service. For instance, in this country, the woman goes first when following the maitre d' to your table. She also takes the lead toward the door when leaving the table. Some couples find it sexy when the woman tells her date what she would like to eat and he orders for both of them. Old-fashioned? Seductive, and very Valentine-like. In other words, the man is the one who talks to the waitstaff, even if she's paying.
Listen for the specials before the waiter takes your order. Specials are often exactly what they call them, special. Take advantage of a creative chef. If you don't know what something is or how an entrée is prepared, ask your waiter. It is better to know that the halibut entree you're hoping to order is stuffed with crab, if you're allergic to shellfish, so you can order something else.
If you are not ordering wine by the glass, and wish to share a bottle, ask to speak with sommelier. Give him a price. He will pair you up with the best wine he has at the price.
Don't excuse yourself to go to the restroom. There is nothing drearier than being stuck alone at a table in a busy restaurant while your fb is checking his messages in the restroom. It goes without saying that neither of you would use your cellphone in a restaurant, even to text. If you have to go, go, but place your napkin loosely folded to the left of your plate. Leaving it on your seat, you could come back to find it on the floor. Let the waitstaff retrieve and replace any napkin or utensil that slides to the floor.
The bread and butter plate: Use the butter plate to contain the bread crumbs otherwise you'll find yourself picking up crumbs one by one. Before the dessert course, a good waiter cleans off your crumbs with a 'waiter's crumb scraper.' Break the bread or roll into small pieces over the butter plate; leave those pieces on the butter plate to eat one at a time; spread butter on each piece while it is lying flat on the butter plate. (You shouldn't hold the roll in one hand in the air while buttering it with a knife in your other hand.)
Utensils: After you've ordered, the waiter takes away the utensils you won't be needing and replaces them with what you will be needing. For instance, a soup spoon or fish knife will be provided before those courses are served. Never wave your utensils. Often you see diners in animated conversation gesturing with their knives and forks while talking. You should never treat utensils like small flags at a parade.
Treat staff as you would wish to be treated: say please and thank you. When the bill arrives, check to see if the tip or gratuity has been included.
Many fine-dining restaurants are phasing out tipping. The new compensation model is that waiters share in the profits and customers give feedback on a one-to-five scale. Otherwise, that forty-dollar tip doesn't go to the waiter because it is shared by all staff members who receives tips.
If gratuity is not included, leave at least a 20% tip. By moving the decimal to the left one space (which is ten percent of the bill) and doubling that amount you add a 20% gratuity. Approximate. You can always tip more. Or less, if the service was perfectly dreadful.
Basically, you don't want to make a scene. Nor complain about the cooking or the service. Unless a dish is undercooked or isn't what you ordered, don't send it back. Don't call attention to yourself by resting any part of your body -- including elbows, arms and hands -- on the table. Don't pick your nose or lick your fingers. If there is something in your mouth you don't want to swallow, discreetly put your fork or spoon to your mouth and slide the irritant onto the spoon with your tongue. Leave it on the side of your plate.
If, however, you spot an extra glass of wine on the bill that you didn't order, speak up.
But don't freak out if a glass of water or wine spills onto the sparkling white table cloth. Making a big deal out of it only draws attention to your clumsiness. We've all done it. If need be, lay your folded napkin on top of the spill. An attentive waiter will thoughtfully replace your napkin.
Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at Didi's Manners. Your questions can be answered anonymously or personally.
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Get swept off your feet with our elegant three-course Valentine's Day Dinner at Bluehour
Prix-fixe menus are available for $65 per person. Reservations start at 5 PM. For more information, visit the Bluehour website. To make a reservation, call (503) 226-3394 or visit their website.
Enjoy spectacular river views with famous Portland landmarks, wonderful menus and live music with Valentine's Dinner Cruise from Portland Spirit.
The Portland Spirit offers special Valentine’s Day dinner cruises on Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14 for anyone and everyone looking for a unique way to spend this romantic weekend.
Ellen Travolta (yes, John's sister) and Jack Bannon will start in the perfectly titled play for the holiday, Love Letters.
Love Letters is told through the reading of letters chronicling a lifelong romance and friendship. The play centers on just two characters, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Travolta and Bannon will star in special benefit performances on February 12, 13 and 14 at the Brunish Theatre.
Offering from a regular family style menu, Mediterranean Exploration is a great place to fill up and drink up on Valentine's day.
Mediterranean Exploration offers delicious fresh pita and other breads made to order, charry grilled meats and kebabs, whole fishes fried with lemon in the Yemeni style, killer hummus, braised lamb.
Valentine's Ghost Tour
Like your romance with some spooks and scares? Then check out BeerQuestPDX's Haunted Valentine Ghost Tour.
Tour guests will walk through the Old Town District filled with historic buildings and cobblestone streets, meeting some of Portland's most famous ghosts. Guests will also sample seven local craft beers and taste chocolate from local chocolate makers.
RingSide Fish House
The Peterson family, 3rd generation owners of RingSide Hospitality Group, after more than 70 years serving steaks at Portland’s venerable RingSide Steakhouse, proudly opened RingSide Fish House to the public on Monday, July 18, 2011.
RingSide Fish House will be featuring a special menu highlighting some of their best items.
Adam and Jackie Sappington have masterfully created their unique interpretation of the country’s ever-evolving culinary heritage yielding a conversation-starting menu that highlights flavor profiles from Adam’s southern upbringing balanced out by classic Northwest styles.
Country Cat will be accepting reservations of all sizes and offering dinner specials for the holiday.
Head to Pix Patisserie on Valentine's Day for a chance to make your special day really sparkle.
On Valentine’s Day, a single chocolate gift box at Pix will not only have a delicious assortment of Pix chocolates, but a pair of one carat black and white diamond stud earrings as well! Shop early for best odds.
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