Monday, March 31, 2014

The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining by Colleen Rush

Our March Kitchen Reader book is The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining: From Salad Forks to Sommeliers, How to Eat and Drink in Style Without Fear of Faux Pas by Colleen Rush. It is a book in the style of "for Dummies" books, with info boxes, side bars, and simple language. It's highly readable and amusing, and will likely teach you something. It touches on wine, menus, styles of restaurants, and etiquette. But let me sum up the whole book in just three points.

In any fine dining situation, whether you want to avoid missteps or enjoy the best meal of your year, all you need to do is:

1. Be polite with the staff.
2. Ask questions when you want to know something. Do so politely.
3. Express your gratitude for their service with your words and a tip.

And if you want to become a regular in an upscale restaurant and get the perks a regular gets, just add:
4. Dine on a weeknight.
5. Get to know the names of the staff who help you.
6. Tip even more.

Apart from these six items, the book will also remind you about the cutlery on a fancy table. (Start with the outer forks and knives.) There is a chapter about meat dishes, one about seasonal eating, advice about the cheese course, and the difference between taste and flavour.

The most useful part for me was an eleven-page primer about wine and food matching. I don't particularly want to embark on reading a big textbook or take a course about wine in order to feel more confident in restaurants. But I know very little about it, and really should learn more. This little book helped a lot. For example, the second cheapest bottle is usually the one with the biggest markup. However, the basic advice remains the same, just ask questions of the staff, and do so politely. And if you decide to drink in a fancy restaurant, just admit that it is going to cost a fair amount.

Do you have any fine dining tips to share?

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