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10 Things To Know Before Your Next Dinner Date

by Lisa Laird

Recently, I went out to dinner with a new guy I met at a workshop.  I must admit,  I felt a bit intimidated because he seemed so cosmopolitan and well-traveled.  We went to a French restaurant, and when the waiter put the menu in my hand, I felt even more intimidated, because I couldn’t understand some of the languages on the menu, and he seemed to be well-versed.

However, when I observed his reticence to ask the waiter to change our “bad” table because he didn’t wish to make a fuss, I felt better and less chagrined about my menu ignorance.  This thought came to me because if I had been out with girlfriends, I would have easily asked to have my table changed, but I allowed him to be in charge in respect for the male ego.

The next day, however, I got busy and educated myself on all of the etiquette details of things I should know about dining out, and I share them now with you, just in case you may be in the dark as well. When you see these words on the menu, here’s what they mean:

  • A la carte (“ala CART”):  all items are sold individually.
  • Au poivre (“Aw PWAV”) with pepper, such as steak au poivre, crusted in pepper and cooked.  This actually reduces the hotness…but not entirely!
  • Au jus (“aw-JOO”) served with natural juices.
  • Blanquette (“blahn-KET”) stew cooked in wine and finished with cream.
  • Bonne femme (“bohn FAHM”):  served with butter.
  • Flambe (“flahm-BAY”):  is a dish doused with brandy or liqueur and set afire, usually at tableside.
  • Paillard (“Pa-YARD”):  a boned, joined double breast of a fowl, usually chicken.
  • Prix fixe (“pree fix”):  a meal sold at a single price, which includes selections of a limited range of items.  Often this is a convenience for pre-theater meals or diners in a hurry.
  • Table d’hote (“tayb-date”):  a public dining area in a hotel.
When You Get a Lousy Table…

Not all restaurant tables are created equal.  Those near the bathroom, kitchen, piano, or busing stations are less desirable than those in quiet corners, or near the window, or with a view.  If you are dissatisfied with your table as you are led to it, kindly ask for a more suitable one.  Be prepared to wait if you change because others are in line.  Tipping the maitre d’ also helps you get a better table.

Ordering the Meal

The gentlemen should give the waiter the order for him and his companion.  In other words, she tells him and he tells the waiter.

Ordering Wine

On a date, the ordering of everything including the drinks should come from the guy.  He should be in charge at all times at the table.  The wine steward, or sommelier, can help you choose a wine that suits the meal. Generally speaking, you should match the color of the wine to the color of the food:  red for meats, white for fish.  When in doubt, order what you want.  Above all else, the wine you like is the wine that’s right.

When the Meal is Served

No one should begin eating until everyone seated has been served.

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