Continental dining keeps the fork in the left hand for cutting and eating. This is different than the American, or "Zig-Zag", style, in which the right hand cuts the food with the knife, which is then placed along the top of the plate, blade facing inwards. Then the fork is passed to the right hand to bring the food up to the mouth.
[dropcap4]What is wrong with the place setting in this picture?[/dropcap4]
In France, our place setting of two forks (salad and main) and one knife is correct. A knife is not used to cut lettuce because pieces are broken into very small bites. In America, many restaurants serve big leaf lettuce that requires a knife just to cut the salad bite size enough to get the pieces in your mouth.
When the menu for a monthly meeting (i.e., Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, etc), dinner/lunch in someone's home, or black tie event (i.e., wedding, charity, etc) is planned, the table is usually set with all the knives, forks, and spoons required for the various courses. A safe rule is to start with the outside silverware and work in. If for some reason you do not feel comfortable, observe the host and follow his/her lead. In a restaurant, if you have no clue about how to use the utensil, ask the maitre d' for assistance.
We recently included this 8-course place setting in our biweekly email to subscribers. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, you may do so here.)
The basic premise is that when you have multiple courses in a meal, you start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in.
There were many comments about this setting, so we decided to take you course-by-course through the menu simply by looking at the place setting. Here goes!
Bread Plate: Your bread plate and butter knife on the left of your place setting is simply an accessory to the meal. It is not a course.
First course: Pâté Appetizer
The cocktail fork is hiding over on the right, resting in the soup spoon. It could have been served on the service plate along with the pâté. This cocktail fork can also rest above the place setting with the extra utensils.
Second Course: Soup
Now that the cocktail fork has been used and removed, the soup spoon stands next in line.
Third Course: Fish
Even though we work from the outside in, we still keep knives together and spoons together. This course can be three large prawns, placed on a 7” plate with a cocktail sauce positioned in the middle of the plate. The fish fork and fish knife is used to cut the larger end of the prawn. After several cuts, shrimp can be picked up, dipped in cocktail sauce, and eaten with your fingers.
Fourth Course: Finger Bowl
Because you actually touched the shrimp tails, a finger bowl is your next course. There are no utensils on the table for this course. The purpose of this course is to provide you with a clean napkin, just in case the napkin in your lap has cocktail sauce stains and looks pretty messy. The napkin rests on the left of the 10” plate with a small ramekin filled with warm water, and one floating rose petal.
Fifth Course: Sorbet
Sorbet is served after a fish course to cleanse the pallet to prepare for the meat course.
Next week, we will review the remaining courses and the beverages you are served during this meal.
If you have any questions about what we’ve covered so far, just ask us here.