waited tables and tended bar while I was in College, in a nice place that had a
decidedly “country club” atmosphere around it. While I may not have appreciated my boss
sending me to wine and food tasting classes at the time, I did learn some
valuable things about wine, the foods they go with, and the etiquette with
which to serve and drink various wines.
Of course, knowing a thing or two about the bottle I was serving made it
all the more entertaining (for me) when a customer would order the $7 bottle of
Riunite Lambrusco (available at grocery stores everywhere) and ask to sniff the cap! Yes, that happened
to me a number of times. The things people will do to try to impress a lady…
people who are serious wine connoisseurs still sniff the cork? Sure they do, but not as often as they used
to. Wineries are shedding the
traditional cork stoppers for synthetic corks and bottle caps more often these
days. Still, if you’ve ordered a bottle
for the table and the waiter presents you with the cork, just give it a quick
sniff and give him the nod to pour your sample.
There are precious few people on earth who can sniff a cork and actually
tell if those Cabernet grapes were harvested at the peak of the season from the
Beringer vineyards of California, or from the Champaign provinces of France;
and I’m sure you don’t want to try to convince your table that you’re one of
them so… if the cork doesn’t smell like bad vinegar, simply nod your approval.
your sample is poured, take the glass by the stem. Yes, I said, “stem.” A Brandy snifter has a wide bulbous bottom to
it so you can warm the brandy with your up-turned hand. A good restaurant will take great care to
bring your wine to the table at it’s optimum temperature for serving so
whatever you do, don’t grab your wine glass by the bulb! Besides, it’s tough to judge its color when
your fingerprints have smudged up the glass.
Swirl the wine around, put your nose as deeply into the glass as you can
and get a good sniff. Taste a bit, then
smile and allow the waiter to pour for everyone. Only then, is it appropriate to offer a
humble toast if the occasion calls.
restaurants will allow you to bring your own special bottle of wine or
champagne to dinner, but if you expect the waiter to serve it, you might very
well encounter a “corking fee.”
Even if you plan to cork and serve it yourself, you would certainly want
to call ahead before doing so. Different
states have different laws regarding alcohol and in some cases it can appear as
a rather rude thing to do. This is true
of food also. If you have a special
occasion cake (for example), most restaurants wouldn’t mind serving it as long
as you call ahead and make the proper arrangements.
eat at a nice place, I rarely pay too much attention to the menu until I’ve
heard the specials. There are almost
always daily chef prepared specials that feature a fresh local ingredient
(fish, perhaps, or an array of local harvest-time vegetables). Chefs are very proud of these dishes and you
should consider it a treat if they have one to your liking. Be careful though, if prices are an issue and
the waiter omits that information, it is not at all impolite to ask,
“Could you tell us the cost of those specials, please?” I’ve seen daily specials that are more than
double the price of the average meals on the menu. Also, it’s not very polite to order a
special, but to request a bunch of substitutions or specials. It’s ok to switch side ingredients on a menu
item (for example), but if a chef went to the trouble to match a sweet-corn
souffl?’ to some fresh Maryland Blue Crab because they compliment each other, you
won’t want to embarrass yourself by asking, “Can I get french-fries
instead of that corn thing? With some
tuned, Friday we’ll talk about Sushi, Service, and about Cleaning Your Plate!
you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc,
please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will
answer the best ones in his Ask
the Expert podcast show.