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3 star etiquette and what to expect for us virgins


cabrales
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Many (many) years ago I dined at a 2-star establishment in the countryside outside of Dijon, in the Burgundy region. (It may have been only one-star, but I don't think it exists anymore.) It was very beautiful and elegant, although the servers were women, and their dress was not formal.

I was younger then, and it was one of my early fine-dining experiences.

For the beginning of the meal, I ordered a half-bottle of a local "Aligote". The brought a full bottle, and a fancy looking bottle it was at that, and I was afraid of what the price might be, so I called over the sommelier and told him (in something resembling French) that we had only ordered a half bottle.

Dismayed (or so I thought), he said "We don't have this in half bottles. So you can drink to here" and then he picked up the bottle and drew a line with his pen about halfway down the label. No sooner did he set the bottle down, then he picked it up again, studied it very carefully, and re-drew the line about a quarter of a inch higher, and said "to here". Then after he started to walk away, he turned back, picked up the bottle again, studied it some more by holding it up to the light, and drew a third line about an eighth of an inch lower than the original one, and set it down and smiled at us, and we realized that he had been joking all along.

Fine dining and gracious hospitality cannot exist without a sense of humor, of course. I was too young to realize that then.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Our most recent 3-star dinner was in the French countryside, rather in Alsace. L’Auberge de L'Ill in Illhaeusern. Dress was formal. My husband was glad I made him wear a tie. I could have dressed a bit better myself.

The cheese course arrived on a wheeled two-level trolley. It held at least 40 cheeses. There were only about 40 people dining that evening. The cheeses ranged from untouched to demolished by the time we got to them, and we were among the first to finish. So I would find it hard to believe that all those cheeses were new at the start of the evening. And why should they be?

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I posted on another thread recently that I have lived in Europe for two years and had never seen anyone photograph their food in a restaurant. Well, I have now - the other evening in Zurich. People on both sides of us were posing and clicking and flashing away. It was distracting and thus irritating. One group was also quite loud - my fellow Americans, of course. At one point they actually yelled across to us to ask what we were eating. They seemed totally oblivious to the fact that they were annoying everyone around them.

But Americans are almost always readily apparent here - and I am speaking for myself too, I’m afraid. Talking and gesturing in what would be a normal way in the US here often comes across as demanding and aggressive behavior; it attracts attention (distracts) and thus invades the personal space of those nearby. I have been practicing toning down my own behavior, and I like it. It is pleasant.

Anyway, when we got home we looked in Frommer’s, and sure enough, the place was listed. I consider this a new use for travel guides.

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One thing to remember is that they aren't going to serve what's been started and not finished on the cart for the next meal, so you'd might as well -- this is especially true at lunch where you're likely to be the only cover for the table for the afternoon.
The cheese course arrived on a wheeled two-level trolley. It held at least 40 cheeses.  There were only about 40 people dining that evening. The cheeses ranged from untouched to demolished by the time we got to them, and we were among the first to finish. So I would find it hard to believe that all those cheeses were new at the start of the evening. And why should they be?

Arguably the most splendiforous cheese display(s) in Paris is, or at least was, at Montparnasse 25 where the cheese man had his hands full wheeling in, out and around the trolleys piled high with soft cheeses, firm cheeses and Mountain cheeses. They were most assuredly constantly being cut into. While offputting to some, he not only suggested a balence of various types (if asked of course) but also was very specific on their order of march.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Last Sat. night Pat and I had the good fortune to have been dining at Troisgros and 2 points I observed. 1st, pictures were being taken by the staff of a few patrons, much more obtrusively than my discrete, flashless shots of the art served on our plates. I always feel a little tacky doing so, but few things bring back the wonderful experiences like looking back through my photos across the years. 2nd, the dress code is becoming more relaxed. One older French gentleman, me and another distinquished looking American were the only ones wearing ties. This is not to say that the other diners, mostly French, were shabbily attired at all, they were wearing expensive looking sport coats over open collared shirts...no T-shirt/jeans were spotted. The last time we were here was in 1994(I know thanks to my photos :wink:) and every man in the room was wearing suits and ties. I am not making a judgement, just stating observations.

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Here's a cheese course puzzler for you. This is a true story which only happened two weeks ago.

The place was a 2 star Michelin restaurant in London. The participants were a friends of ours who were entertaining two young relatives (both University graduates in their mid-20's) who were used to dining in top class restaurants.

When the cheese trolley arrived with a large selection of cheese it was manned by a waiter who was French & was acting a bit superior. The young male relative was a bit piqued by the waiter's attitude and proceeded to select 10 different cheeses. Way over the top most of us including our friends would agree.

When the bill came the restaurant had charged double for the young man's cheese course.

The puzzler is this: Who was the more tacky and out of line?

- The young man?

- The restaurant?

You tell me.

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Here's a cheese course puzzler for you. This is a true story which only happened two weeks ago.

The place was a 2 star Michelin restaurant in London. The participants were a friends of ours who were entertaining two young relatives (both University graduates in their mid-20's) who were used to dining in top class restaurants.

When the cheese trolley arrived with a large selection of cheese it was manned by a waiter who was French & was acting a bit superior. The young male relative was a bit piqued by the waiter's attitude and proceeded to select 10 different cheeses. Way over the top most of us including our friends would agree.

When the bill came the restaurant had charged double for the young man's cheese course.

The puzzler is this: Who was the more tacky and out of line?

- The young man?

- The restaurant?

You tell me.

The Restaurant, definitely

....unless the Cheese course was specified as " $......., choice of '4', out of a list of many "

Peter
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Okay, here's another question? Breakfast (25€ per person) in your room at a three star restaurant/hotel includes cheese. Lots and lots and lots of cheese. Several small goats, maybe 1/4 pound each of several aged cheeses. More cheese than you (or at least I) would eat in a week, and remember that this is after an extraordinary dinner the night before. :huh: .

How tacky is it to take (in ziplocs) what you can't consume? It might begin to look good around 4pm on the train. They couldn't possibly introduce any remaining pieces back into the kitchen, could they?

Thoughts?

eGullet member #80.

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Hey everyone!

Just some quick questions about 3 star etiquette and what to expect at a top restaurant for the people who haven't been before.

Do waiters speak english/japanese/moon language etc and do we need to ask for an English speaking waiter/waitress?

What should we tip and is it compulsory?

Cheese trolley and Dessert trolley etiquette?

How loud can we talk?

What can we and can't we ask for e.g can we ask for something not on the menu, where is the toilet, that guy is smoking can you get him to put it out etc?

Dress code?

Anything else in general we could know?

I shouldn't worry about rules and niceties.

It's quite simple really.

Treat staff and felllow diners with decency and respect and you'll get on just fine.

See. Not that hard.

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Okay, here's another question?  Breakfast (25€ per person) in your room at a three star restaurant/hotel includes cheese.  Lots and lots and lots of cheese.  Several small goats, maybe 1/4 pound each of several aged cheeses.  More cheese than you (or at least I) would eat in a week, and remember that this is after an extraordinary dinner the night before. :huh:

How tacky is it to take (in ziplocs) what you can't consume?  It might begin to look good around 4pm on the train.  They couldn't possibly introduce any remaining pieces back into the kitchen, could they?

Thoughts?

In the privacy of your own room Hell yeah...the poodles may be following you all day though :rolleyes:

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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I was looking at the web site of a not-terribly-expensive restaurant in France the other day and noted that its on-line menu was available both with and without prices, presumably so that the hosts could print out a price-less copy for their guests. No, I don't remember what the restaurant was.

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While there are two choices, menu or a la carte, I frequently see situations where people compose their own tasting menu from the a la carte side. Obviously this can get quite costly; however, are people often ordering 1/2 portions, or splitting 1 course between two people. Are *** such as Troisgros or Lameloise willing to do this, or is there resistance? Thanks.

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Do all 3 stars give separate menus to the male and female diner (one with no prices and one with the prices)?

Er, if they're any good they'll give the one with the prices to the host and the other to the guest, regardless of gender!!

Caroline

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While there are two choices, menu or a la carte, I frequently see situations where people compose their own tasting menu from the a la carte side. Obviously this can get quite costly;

yes

however, are people often ordering 1/2 portions,

not normally done

or splitting 1 course between two people.

yes

Are *** such as Troisgros or Lameloise willing to do this,

yes

or is there resistance?

some dishes - in my experience very few - can't be split

Thanks.

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While there are two choices, menu or a la carte, I frequently see situations where people compose their own tasting menu from the a la carte side. Obviously this can get quite costly;

yes

however, are people often ordering 1/2 portions,

not normally done

or splitting 1 course between two people.

yes

Are *** such as Troisgros or Lameloise willing to do this,

yes

or is there resistance?

some dishes - in my experience very few - can't be split

Thanks.

Algy,

Thank you for your help....what is the way to ask in French eg, "Chaque entre entre deux personnes"?

Thanks again,

Mark

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We haven't been to Guy Savoy for a few years, but they always used to offer - unasked - to serve half portions of apps and desserts so that everybody could taste extra dishes. And yes, the price was half too.

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