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.
Americans are dining out more than ever. According to a recent article in Forbes, Americans are eating meals out roughly twice a week. For many, dining in restaurants is like going to the race track: You arrive with high expectations, study the options and, above all, hope that luck is on your side.
Here are a few tips on how to make your next dining experience a pleasant one:
Call in advance to make a special request if you or one of your party has dietary limitations or to request a particular table. Also call ahead if you plan to bring small children.
Try to arrive within 15 minutes of your reservation; late diners can throw off the tempo of a dining room. Also, always call if you have to cancel.
Politely ask the server or captain for another table if you do not like the one given to you.
Do not be shy about sending an unsatisfactory dish (or wine) back. Most restaurants will offer to make the dish again or suggest something else.
Take any complaints directly to the owner or manager, but do not lose your cool; confrontation can make others defensive. Or write a reasoned letter.
Be courteous. Treat the service people with respect, and they will respond in kind. Try to make eye contact with a server if you need attention. Tip a helpful maître d’ or captain.
The standard tip in an expensive restaurant is 15% to 20% of the pretax bill. In an upscale establishment, plan on tipping 20% on the food total. Do not punish the service people for poor food by leaving a smaller tip. The bulk of their income is derived from tips.
Keep these in mind to ensure a positive dining out experience!