Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Seven Course Dining

Once again, the number of pieces of silverware will indicate the number of courses you can expect, and the general rule is to start from the outside. You may expect the formal dinner to consist of seven courses, in this order: soup, fish, sorbet (or other palate cleanser), a meat or fowl dish, salad (often served with cheese), dessert, and coffee.

Courses are served from the left, removed from the right. Wine is poured from the right. (It helps to know from which direction they will be coming at you.) Try to finish each course at about the same time as others around you. When you are finished with a course, hoist out the “I am finished” pennant.

Here’s how: Visualize a clock face on your plate. Place both the knife and fork in about the 10:20 position with the points at 10 and the handles at 20. The prongs of the fork should be down, and the blade of the knife should face you. If you have been eating the course with the fork only, place it prongs up in the same position as the knife when finished. Placing flatware in the finished position facilitates the server clearing from the right. He or she can secure the handles with the thumb, thus reducing the risk of dropping them in the diner’s lap.

Hoist out the “I am resting” pennant when you want to pause during a course and don’t want the server to snatch your plate away. In this case, the knife and fork are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife and the prongs pointing down. The knife should be in the 10:20 position, as on the face of a clock; the fork prongs should be at two o’clock, and the handle at eight o’clock, forming an inverted V. It is also correct to form the inverted V without crossing fork over knife. Servers in fine restaurants are usually trained to recognize the I-am-finished and the I-am-resting signals. Now let’s look at how to deal with each course.

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