Tag Archives: etiquette

The Delicate Etiquette of the Last drop of Wine

Wine Etiquette

Some customs just make the whole art of entertaining that much more fun!

When I was very young, my parents were pretty serious about teaching customs and manners to me and my siblings. We learned how to be polite and show respect by using salutations like “Mr. xxx” and “Mrs. xxx” when addressing our elders. I was taught to say “please” and “thank you.”  When I was in Junior and Senior High School some of my friends’ parents would tell me to use their first names when addressing them – I couldn’t – it just seemed wrong.

Unfortunately, many customs and manners have long since drifted away. And maybe it’s okay that some of them have gone the way of other old things. But to be honest, I miss some of them. Around my neighborhood, people still open doors for each other and say, “Good morning” even if they don’t know someone. But get on the freeway, and it’s a whole other world – such language – some of it not even verbal.  I have to admit that when I’m behind the wheel I can have a whole conversation with the driver in front of me – and they don’t even know it!

But, there are some customs I will always follow.  When I’m setting my table for guests, I put utensils, plates, and glasses in their proper places and I use cloth napkins and napkin rings. Why do I do that?  I want to show my guests that I put a lot of thought in preparing my home to receive them. It’s my way of welcoming them and making them feel that they are truly special. Manners and etiquette are all part of sophisticated living: paying attention to the details.  When you go that “extra mile” in preparation, it makes the evening feel that much more complete.

Knowing and following traditions and manners wherever you are can be a lot of fun. A friend of mine who lives in Osaka, Japan took me out to a Japanese restaurant a while back in Los Angeles. We had wine (not sake), but she said that “Japanese rules” still applied. I asked what she meant by that and she answered that we could not pour wine for ourselves. “We pour for each other,” she said, “it shows respect for our friends and the friendship we share.”  Well, you don’t have to be Japanese to understand that concept. Right?

Here’s another one. In western culture, a sign of respect and kindness to your friends and guests is to always serve them first.  And, when serving wine, women should be served first, and the “server” always last.  Never empty the bottle into your own glass – that’s just bad manners – unless, of course, you’re by yourself! If you’re in Italy, it’s considered bad luck to serve the last drop of wine in a bottle to a single woman.  No kidding.  Friends there told me that it’s a very common belief that you never give the last drop to a single woman or she’ll never marry!

If you’re traveling outside the U.S., take a minute to look up what the drinking traditions are for wherever you’re traveling.  Because, in some cultures (Korea, Russia, etc.), if you sit down to an evening of drinking – you are in for a very long, very intoxicating night.  But, if you’re in France, getting drunk is not the focus of the evening but rather it’s something to be savored slowly, for the wine to be appreciated, gently.  Wait until everyone has been served and then raise your glass and toast to everyone’s health by saying “Santé.”

Wherever you find yourself, whether in your own home and you’re entertaining or you’re traveling, take that extra minute to follow some traditions and manners – it will make the experience that much more grand.  I promise.

Etiquette for Tipping

tipping etiquette

Yes, there is such thing as proper manners for tipping!

A friend told me a story about going out to a nice restaurant with a small group of eight people who were traveling together in Hawaii. It was one of those boutique restaurants that literally dot Lahaina on the island of Maui. There was lots of ambiance, great food, and – according to my friend – really excellent service.

My friend said that they had such a great time largely due to their server who had terrific suggestions from a menu that was filled with dishes that were a little unfamiliar. After a wonderful dinner they got their bill, paid it, and left.

Out in the parking lot, my friend suddenly realized that they forgot to include a tip. A few of her friends struck an, “Oh well” attitude and were ready just to leave. But my friend – being the kind of person she is – demanded that everyone contribute for a “nice” tip which everyone agreed the server certainly earned. She collected from everyone, went back inside and handed it to the server herself.

She looked at me and said, “How on Earth could I let that sit on my conscious?”

Not everyone is as militant about tips as we are. We all know people who would have been perfectly fine with “getting away” with not tipping the server.

Our attitude about tipping might be because my friend and I both have long professional experiences as restaurateurs. I owned restaurants for 20+ years and can tell you – with absolute certainty – that your server depends on his/her tips. The very nature of the restaurant business is a cooperative one. The server is the frontline ambassador in any restaurant, doing whatever is necessary to ensure that you have a great time.  Moreover, servers’ actual paychecks are very tiny (most of which goes to taxes) and they use their tips to pay their bills. It’s a big chunk of what they take home.

Some states have laws where tips are calculated as part of the server’s minimum wage.  California, where I live, isn’t one of them.  But, no matter which state you’re in, tipping etiquette stays the same. Think only of how the server has helped make your meal entertaining and enjoyable. That being said, the amount of tip you offer should definitely depend on the service received.

The only thing that’s missing for you to figure out is what’s the proper amount to tip. On that note, it’ll be easier to pare this down to a few simple points.

If you’re at a coffee/fast food spot (what we in the business call “quick service”) where you stand in line and take your own beverage/food to a table or out the door – tip about a $1 for the counter person.

If you’re at a bar, some slightly different rules apply. The bartender depends on their tips just as much as a server does.  It is acceptable to leave two dollars per drink as a tip. If the bartender has been particularly great or you had him/her jumping around making complicated cocktails, then it is good to add a bit extra. The bartender always remembers a customer who tips well!

If you’re at a sit-down restaurant and the service was as good as you hoped, the tip should be about 20%. If the service wasn’t so great, you can take the tip down to 15% or even lower.  But remember, if you do have a service issue – let the manager know. It’s probably the only way they will know and trust me; the feedback (assuming the complaint is warranted) will be appreciated.

Tips are very easy to calculate. Just look for the total amount – before tax (don’t calculate your tip on the tax) – and move the decimal point to the left once. So, if the bill is “$120”, now you have “12.0.” That’s 10%. Double that for 20%, and you have $24.00 for a tip! Some people think that you don’t need to tip on the wine/alcohol you’ve consumed at your table – you do.  The server has taken your orders, brought your beverages and poured the wine – that’s called service.

One last note. You know that “birthday” dessert the server brought over? You should still tip on it as if you were paying for the special dessert. After all, your server still served the dish!

Fran’s Party Etiquette Rules – For Hosts (Part III)

toasting with champagne

Fran’s 7 Golden Rules for Hosting a Party

How about a few rules for hosts? Okay, so the word “rules” might be a little heavy-handed. More like guidelines. This is a part of a series – I started with guest rules, then worked my way through a list of ideas of host gifts (very important). Now I’m on to my list of “rules” for hosting a party.

The whole goal is to avoid those things that can absolutely affect your party in a big way.  Something will always happen, it can’t be avoided completely, but if you do try it will turn out better than if you didn’t.  If you remember the big “rules,” then you can party on fearlessly!

  1. Always make sure your house is set BEFORE your guests are due to arrive. Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than watching the host scrambling to finish those last few items.
  2. Set a tray with glasses of sparkling/champagne/signature cocktail at the door so that when your guests arrive you can greet them with a welcoming glass of something. Nothing sets the mood for the party like this.
  3. Just because a guest brings a bottle of something – you are not obligated to open it. This goes for food items too.  Simply tell the guest that you’ve carefully planned the menu so you will save their special “——” for another time, or that you would love to share it with them on another occasion so it will be a special event for you and them.
  4. I live in Southern California and you’d be amazed what some people do when they go to parties. This has happened to me and it even happened to a friend at their wedding.  Your invited guest decides it perfectly fine to bring an “extra.”  Be gracious to that “extra.” I am positive your friend told them it would be completely OK to come.  It’s not the “extra’s” fault they’re there.  Be welcoming to the “extra” and then take it up with your friend at a later time.
  5. Make sure you have fully stocked the powder room/bathroom that the guests will use – you know toilet paper, Kleenex, soap, hand towels, and do NOT forget the plunger. There may be that moment that something has happened in there that needs immediate attention – you don’t want your guest to have to come looking for you!
  6. I’m a big advocate of using candles for atmosphere – the more the merrier – but never use scented candles. You don’t know who’s got allergies (like me!) and believe me your guests will come “scented” enough.
  7. Make sure your playlist matches your invitation. Your invitation tells everyone what your party will be like.  If you send a formal invitation don’t be playing head banging music when your guests arrive.  And, if you find that your guests are having to talk over the music – turn it down a notch.

Of course, the most important rule of all (maybe #8, which kinda goes back to #1) is to chill out, smile, and have a blast. Nothing sets the mood of the party better than a happy host.

 

Fran’s Party Etiquette Rules – The Host Gift (Part II)

guest gift

More guest rules – these will make you the Party Star!

I accept almost all invitations to parties that come my way. And I go to a lot of them – that’s just the way I roll. Over the years, I have witnessed some massive faux pas at parties – more than I care to remember – mistakes that both hosts and guests make. Some are bigger than others but nearly all are remembered.

I went through my top 6 Guest “rules” in my first post. This time, I want to give you a list of ideas that could make you the Party Star! Now, that’s a nice way to be remembered, don’t you think?

In the previous post, my NUMBER ONE rule, if you’re the Guest: don’t show up to a party empty handed.  In my book, it’s just rude. The host has gone to a whole lot of effort to throw this thing – show some appreciation.

Having said this, there are even a few things that you might want to reconsider.

  • Don’t bring flowers – I know it’s your “go to” but don’t do it.  The host has to stop everything, try to find an appropriate vase, cut the stems, arrange your lovely bouquet and find a place to put them in their carefully arranged party décor.  Just don’t.
  • Don’t bring wine/alcohol – Also probably one of your “go to” hostess gifts but don’t do that either.  UNLESS you know what your host/hostess likes to drink – maybe it’s a dry, full-bodied Napa Cabernet, or a 25-year-old single barrel scotch.  But, if you don’t know for a fact what it is that your host likes – don’t bring it.  I don’t drink Merlot (I don’t like my wine jammy or chewy) but that hasn’t stopped some very well meaning friends from bringing that bottle because they thought it might be a good one.  I have dozens in a closet that I will never drink. By the way, never re-gift.  Don’t do it.

Those are some big DON’Ts, but I have a few easy DO’s that’ll make perfect host/hostess gifts – stuff that will surprise and please.

  • Bring scented soap for the power room. As a hostess, I always make sure there is some, but sometimes I don’t remember to get a new one. Bring a cute dish with a small scented soap as a gift – it will be appreciated.
  • A half-pound of some great coffee. Coffee is always welcome for the host that loves their cup of “joe”.  They come in very cool bags/cans/containers now and that’s a fun gift to receive.  But, always bring GROUND coffee.  You don’t know if your host has a coffee grinder and even though those whole beans look cool if you bring them and your host can’t use them, they’re not so cool.  Always ground coffee.
  • Some fun wooden spoons! Especially if the host is a person who like to cook, but even one who isn’t. Either way, there never seems to be enough of them. Find ones that have colorful handles or are printed with words (eat, gather, etc.).
  • A jar of “Starter Sauces.” Some stores (I find mine at William Sonoma) have a great selection of starter sauces.  You can get them for all kinds of proteins and they have the instructions for usage on the jar label.  It’s very convenient and easy to use for the host/hostess.  And the best part?  They’re delicious!  William Sonoma has all kinds of things like this, dipping oils (for bread) in cool tall bottles, dry spice rubs for all kinds of things – some great stuff for the host/hostess whether they are a cook or not.
  • If they love to travel – find cool luggage tags. I found some fun ones at a fun stationary store.  Everyone needs them and if they are unique (read colorful) they are the perfect way for your black luggage to stand out on the carousel while you are searching for your bags.
  • During the holidays, bring mulling spices.  I find mine at my local William Sonoma. If you bring those and an infuser ball (like something you use for loose tea) and some basic apple cider, your host has the perfect ingredients to make their house smell wonderful at a moment’s notice.