"Follow your passion," right? Wrong, says Cal Newport. The muse for his excellent and thoughtful book, So Good They Can't
Fine Dining Basics
While there are plenty of gents who enjoy fine dining, there are some who are simply less experienced with white tablecloth eating beyond a standard steakhouse. There are a few unspoken rules to keep in mind that will help you enjoy your time a bit more and impress your date, if you gently help her navigate, not just through a great date, but through these traditions.
This is not too complicated. When you look down to see multiple knives, forks, and spoons, you are always going to start from the outside ones first. Keep in mind you may not need all of them, or that other pieces may be brought to you based on your courses. If you don't order a soup, the soup spoon will be removed. If you order a protein that is going to need solid slicing work, you'll be brought the appropriate knife. There is an entire etiquette to the placement of your cutlery while you're eating, i.e. indicating whether you are done or unhappy, or want the next course, but we'll save that for another post.
I know you might be scrunching your eyebrows - what do you mean, there's a rule about the napkin? The establishment may have a signature way of folding their napkins and they will do that every single time you get up. If you do get up, don't place the napkin on the table, but rather on your seat. The best establishments will pick up your napkin and fold it properly in the style of the restaurant. As for whether you place your own napkin on your lap, this varies. Pay attention to others who are further along in their meal than you - if you see that the waitstaff generally removes the napkin and gently places it in your lap, you should not make to grab it and do it yourself. It's part of the ritual.
Whether you are on a date with one or in a group, it's best to match courses. There are times when someone might be feeling under the weather and might only want one course, and in circumstances like this, you shouldn't hesitate to order more, but if no one else orders an appetizer, and you do, it looks unseemly. Don't be that guy, no matter how hungry you are. Order a hearty main dish if that will help you, and/or grab that dessert or cheese course later.
In our instagram-driven era, it seems like everyone wants to take photos of their food. Attitudes on this are evolving as restaurateurs more and more see a chance at free promotion via someone's thoughtful photography. If you are going to take a photograph, be discreet, be quick, and don't let your photography of the dish distract you (or other diners) too much from enjoying the dish right when it arrives.
There are people, and you know them, who would salt their ice cream if they could. A dish comes out, and these people reach for the salt shaker and make it rain on that poor dish. In a fine dining establishment, the line cooks and executive chefs work hard to make sure that a dish comes out to you appropriately seasoned. Taste it first, and if you feel it needs salt (or pepper), delicately add it. Salting your food before you even taste it shows that you are a person who doesn't really care how the food tastes, just so long as it conforms to your preferred flavor profile. Slow down, be patient, and leave the salt alone. You'll be surprised at what you discover, and your heart and kidneys will thank you too.
It goes without saying that a fine dining establishment deserves some of your best clothing. A suit and tie would fit right in and indicate to the staff that you know where you are. If you want, you can lose the tie - but don't lose a jacket - even in summer. A gent remembers to always look his best, whether at work, worship, or play.
Pro Tip: You can always call ahead to make sure that your payment details are taken ahead of time so that you can conclude your meal without worrying about the bill, outside of the tip if you are in a country like the United States where tipping is expected. It just makes the meal that much more enjoyable by not allowing the bill to invade that bubble of enjoyment.
What's your favorite part of eating at a fine dining restaurant? Share in the comments below to receive a 35% off coupon for a hand or foot repair that you can share with a friend who has never tried The Gents Place.
About Ben Davis
A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.
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