Fine Dining 101
Anniversary? Business meeting? Birthday? Regardless of the occasion, when you are ready to forego fry-cooker cuisine and Formica tabletops, there is a handful of ways in which to optimize a fine dining experience.
As you would not expect to get a seat “front and center” by purchasing theatre tickets the night of the performance, you cannot expect to go to an upscale dining establishment and get the best seat in the house – or any seat for that matter – without first making a reservation. 1 week in advance is customary the majority of the time; however, there are exceptions to the rule.
Consider the time of year. During the holidays, restaurants recommend you book a reservation at least 1 month in advance. This is particularly true for large parties or groups that require banquet room accommodations. Another item to keep in mind is location. If the geographic locale of the restaurant is considered a popular vacation destination, you should be prepared to reserve a table at least 2-4 weeks prior to your arrival. Also, it is important to bear in mind that resorts often hold conventions and sports competitions. If a major event is going to take place in town, you can be certain local eateries will be flooded with reservation requests.
Certain establishments are acclaimed wine purveyors, as well. If you would like to reserve the wine cellar for a private party, you will wish to do so at least 1 month in advance. Wine bars and wine cellars are generally open only select days of the week and don’t usually serve a complete dinner, so if you plan to treat your guests to a five-course meal, you’ll want to coordinate a reservation in the dining room.
Also, with regard to reservations, if you would like a table with a view of the ocean, the booth closest to the antique stone fireplace, or an intimate corner on the balcony, ask specifically for these arrangements.
Generally speaking, fine dining establishments will accommodate special menu requests for individual dietary needs if they already possess the proper ingredients in the kitchen. But pay heed to the fact that restaurants often vary their menu season-to-season. You are going to look foolish if you announce to your dinner companion that the bistro in question “serves the most scrumptious lobster rangoons this side of the galaxy” only to find out that the rangoons are no longer available on this planet, or in that restaurant! Fresh fish and produce are seasonal items that differ depending on what region of the country you are in and what time of the year it is.
In addition, all other special requests should be made ahead of time. If you would like the pianist to play “As Time Goes By” to celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary, find out if this piece of music is in his repertoire. Likewise, if you are particularly inclined toward a unique bottle of wine or champagne, order it at the time the reservation is made. There was once a story about a young man who asked the restaurant to assist him in an extravagant marriage proposal. The chef baked a cake in the shape of a hand, and the engagement ring was displayed atop the icing of one of the fingers. An innovative chef can create just about anything, and most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate special requests; however, it is extremely important to have these details worked out well in advance.
So, now that you are ready to indulge in the bold taste of gourmet cuisine, the elegance of Limoges china on top of white tablecloths, and the romantic ambiance of crystal chandeliers, remember…
Plan Well – Dine Well!