Updated: Mar 30, 2019
It’s been a several years ago, but one meal in particular stands out in my mind as a defining moment in many years of enjoying food and wine.
One of my friends was getting married, and the rest of the gang decided to take him out to a really fancy restaurant on the evening of his bachelor party (early in the evening before the hysteria started).
At the time, I was much younger and my experience in fine dining was pretty limited, as was my dining budget. It was back in the days when ordering an appetizer raised eyebrows, and comments like “I’m not touching that blooming onion so don’t expect me to chip in” were common.
People ordered water to drink.
In figuring who owed what on a check, we allocated tax proportionally.
So this meal was a big deal. Fancy restaurant, glowing recommendations, white tablecloths, 900 forks and spoons and all that I didn't know what to do with.
Now I don’t remember exactly what I ordered. That’s not what stands out to me at all when i recall the evening, and not what is important.
What I remember is that everything I picked - everything - the wine, my appetizer, entree, dessert - the waiter talked me out of and into something else.
I didn’t know any better, and I was nervous and uncomfortable in the situation.
I was afraid I was doing something wrong.
I was afraid of the wine list.
I was afraid of choosing the wrong side with my entree.
I was afraid of embarrassing myself, really.
At one point I wanted to contribute to the celebration and order a big bottle of expensive wine for the table. I picked one from the wine list.
And then the waiter talked me out of that bottle and into another one.
The waiter talked me out of the dressing I wanted for my salad and into another one.
I picked an appetizer and the waiter gave me a story on how it might not go with the entree I wanted. So I changed both.
And on it went.
I was too scared to stand up for myself because of fear of looking like a hick in public.
And he even had a condescending tone.
So when the check came at the end of the meal, my share was about $185, which is still a lot of money today but back then was really, really, really a LOT of stinking money.
I remember sitting there and looking at the check and deciding on the tip, and the only thing I could think of was “$185 and I didn’t get a single thing I wanted.”
I was afraid of embarrassing myself to a waiter, a waiter, working for tips, who by any social structure should have been sucking up to me.
It was a defining moment in my food and wine experience and a lesson learned.
I paid $185, and not only did I not enjoy the meal, the waiter just really made me feel bad about myself.
If a waiter or waitress wants to talk you out of a wine or side or entree or anything else, the question is this: if it’s so bad, why is it on the menu?
The best dining advice I can possibly pass on is this:
Order what you want.
It’s simple, easy advice, but it can be hard to practice. After all, when you are holding the wine list and everyone at the table is looking at you, the pressure is on.
It can be a little stressful when you are at restaurant that is a little fancier than your comfort zone. There’s a little fear. How should I butter my roll? Is that my bread plate? And what the hell is that third spoon for?
But I’ll say it again:
Order the wine you want.
Order the food you want.
And don’t let anyone, especially a waiter or waitress who is there to serve you, make you feel inferior or bad for doing so.
Order what you want.