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.
If you have ever dined in a fine restaurant, you know it comes with advantages. Impeccable service and gourmet multi-course meals usually come to mind. Some upscale restaurants also offer the service of a sommelier, and it’s a service well worth taking advantage of. Every good meal deserves an excellent wine to go with it. Sommeliers are available to make wine recommendations and help you choose the perfect one. If you ordered a steak, and your dinner partner ordered salmon, ask your sommelier to suggest a wine that will compliment both dishes. Or if you are particularly partial to Pinot Grigio, you have an instant resource for finding an obscure label that will impress everyone at your table. When making your request to a sommelier, be sure and discuss:
As with all wait staff members who serve you during your meal, you should tip the sommelier separately. A cash tip of 10% or more, given directly to him, is appropriate. Have you ever dined with the assistance of a sommelier? What was your experience? Tell us about it here.