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Dining Utensil etiquette

  • As a rule of thumb, when you face a full battalion of knives, forks, and spoons, work from the outside in. In other words, use the flatware the furthest from the plate first. Exception: The salad fork is usually closest to the plate.

  • Used utensils must never touch the surface of the table or the tablecloth because they might make the cloth dirty. Even the clean handles of your fork and knife should not touch the table.

  • At the end of a course, place your used utensil on a flat dish. Do not leave a fork or spoon in a bowl or cup (that’s why there’s usually a flat dish under the soup bowl!) where it might flip and assault your host.

  • Between bites, your utensils should rest on the edge of our plate. Your knife rests on the back of your plate; your fork sits on the side of your plate. When you are finished, place your knife and fork so they lie horizontally across the center of the plate. The blade of your knife should face toward you.

Napkin rules

  • As soon as you are seated, put your napkin in your lap. Sometimes, at very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for you.

  • Treat your napkin very gently during the meal. Do not crumple it or wad it into a knot. If you use your napkin (and you should), gently dab at your lips. Etiquette books say (we’re not making this up), your napkin should not get dirty in the dining process. It is meant to catch food from falling into your lap (which, of course, it won’t) and it should gently dust the crumbs from your lips.

  • When you are finished, place your napkin next to your plate. Do not refold it. Do not leave it on the chair.

Handling those awkward moments...

You bite into an olive and discover a pit. Your last bite of fish had a bone in it. You didn’t realize just how fatty the meat was. Now, you’re not sure you can swallow what’s in your mouth.

No noise and no faces allowed—but you don’t have to swallow the inedible. If you need to remove something from your mouth, shift into reverse. Carefully, and with your hand close to your mouth, drop the olive pit into the palm of your hand and put the pit on your plate. Remove the fish bone using two fingers like a pair of tweezers. Set the bone on the edge of your plate. If you think the sight of your chewed meat is going to make your fellow diners gag, bring your napkin to your lips and remove the meat.

Manners are a must at a fine dining restaurant. Be sure to practice chivalry when women are present, this means getting up when they excuse themselves, or pulling out their chairs when they return to the table.

Wine: Unless you’re a very experienced wine connoisseur, chances are the wine list at a fine dining restaurant can be a little daunting. If you’re not sure what wine to choose, ask your server for suggestions.

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