Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fine Dining Like Royalty

In former years, patrons could be treated like royalty in a fine dining establishment where white table clothed booths and tables filled an opulent room framed by tuxedoed waiters poised patiently ever attentive for the hint of a look or a nod from a patron.  Busboys and waiters alike would slip around silently, and a missing fork or dropped spoon would  reappear out of nowhere. Someone would scrape any breadcrumbs that had managed to appear between a changes in course. Glasses were refilled and wine poured. Waiter would retire unobtrusively five or more feet back where they could observe if they were again needed. A woman’s menu had no prices because that would be too impolite. It was somewhat ritualistic that a patron would wait for the waiter to place your napkin in your lap. An expected visit with polite chatter with the Maitre ‘D would happen at least twice maybe more times at every table. A good Maitre ‘D remembered your face and said “nice to see you again.”  A great  Maitre ‘D not only knew if you had been to the restaurant before but looked your name up from your reservation or from when you were initially seated. He would greet you with affection by name. If you were drinking wine, the sommelier would visit to see if they could be of service. They knew every dish in the kitchen and knew what the chef recommended as wine with that plate and they could tailor the selection to a price range you suggested.

Courses where delivered from charts and every dish, of every course, was covered with a silver domed server. Salads were served with an ice cold fork on a cold plate. If you ordered oil and vinegar or a Caesar salad, often, the dressing was made at your table the way you like it. The table was set with real silverware and the correct forks, knives or spoons were either already present or changed according to what you ordered. Butter on the table was decoratively molded and on an iced butter boat. Everyone had four types of glassware. If you ordered a fine bottle of wine at dinner, you maybe offered Havana cigars from their fancy humidor. A purposed cart and dessert waiter while supervised by the Maitre ‘D. would attend a special dessert prepared at the table

I am fortunate to say that my wife, Vicki and I attended quite a few of these memorable restaurants. Today’s trend in less ostentatious, less fancy, fewer staff, toward more affordable. If you can get that old style experience, know that it is an increasingly rare event that should be savored. It is certainly great to be royalty, even if it is only once.

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