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Etiquette Question

yanks26dmb Sep 6, 2011 08:25 PM

Two questions as I am somewhat of an inexperienced high-end (michelin starred) diner:

1. My girlfriend and I are going to an upscale French restaurant. We are doing the mutli-course tasting menu. My girlfriend doesn't drink alcohol. As such, I don't drink alcohol around her and obviously, we do not plan on doing the wine pairing or ordering any alcohol. Is this okay? Will we be looked down upon?

2. On the same trip, I am going out to dinner with a friend. He does drink alcohol and has a fairly extensive wine cellar. We too are doing a multi-course dinner at an upscale restaurant. He wants to bring a nice bottle for the entire dinner, rather than do the wine pairing. Is this bad etiquette?

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  1. PeterL Sep 6, 2011 08:56 PM

    1. No problem. The only reason you'll be looked down upon is because you'll be seated and the waiter will be standing.

    1. ipsedixit Sep 6, 2011 09:26 PM

      These aren't really etiquette questions, because no matter what is done in either scenario you're not really going to offend anyone.

      Does the restaurant prefer you do a wine pairing? Of course. A restaurant always prefers a higher bill.

      The second question is a bit trickier. If your friend brings a bottle that is already on the wine menu, then faux pas all the way. Or if the bottle is cheaper than anything on the menu even after the corkage, then faux pas all the way. But other than those two caveats, it's not going to be offensive in the pure sense of "etiquette". Odd, maybe. Offensive? Nope.

      1. v
        velochic Sep 7, 2011 04:05 AM

        Agree with others. For the second one, I would actually feel uncomfortable for the simple reason that in these upscale restaurants, the chef has paired the wines with each course and while you're eating his/her food, you're saying that you don't think they have the palate to properly pair it with a wine. Also, a single bottle is not going to go with all the food. If the point is to experience the offerings of a talented chef, let them serve it the way they intend you to taste it... including the wine selection.

        I will ask, since you said this is going to be on a "trip"... have you checked the BYO laws of the state you're going to be in? Where I live, it's illegal to bring a bottle if the establishment already has a license to serve. Not sure if your friend lives there already and knows the law or if you are traveling together to a new state where the laws might be different from where you live.

        3 Replies
        1. re: velochic
          BeanTownGolfer Sep 7, 2011 04:04 PM

          In most restaurants with a sommelier, the sommelier is doing the wine pairing to the food. The chef isn't worried about making a dish to pair with a specific wine. He's making the food he wants and its the sommelier's job to fine the best wine for that dish. That's why the have a wine professional on staff.

          Ipsedixit has the right look at it for #2. If the bottle you're brining in isn't "special" (read: you can find it at a local wine shop, it's a mid range price at a shop) then they'll probably see it as avoiding their wine list because of prices but as long as they have a BYO option, you can do it. If the bottle is special and they have it on the menuu (even if it isn't special but on the menu) then you're treading in some uncharted waters.

          It would probably be best to really investigate their wine list before brining in your own bottle. Call and ask for an emailed copy if it's not online.

          1. re: BeanTownGolfer
            velochic Sep 8, 2011 02:43 AM

            "In most restaurants with a sommelier, the sommelier is doing the wine pairing to the food. The chef isn't worried about making a dish to pair with a specific wine. He's making the food he wants and its the sommelier's job to fine the best wine for that dish. That's why the have a wine professional on staff."

            Yes, of course. I apologize for not splitting that hair.

            1. re: BeanTownGolfer
              limster Sep 12, 2011 06:46 AM

              There are restaurants really serious about wine where the kitchen will come up with dishes to complement a good bottle of wine. Some chef enjoy cooking around a bottle of wine and have the expertise to do so. Obviously advance notice would be needed, not only for the kitchen but also for decanting the wine hours ahead of time as necessary.

          2. babette feasts Sep 7, 2011 05:17 AM

            You can ask about non alcoholic pairings, some places do them. For a price of course.

            For the second dinner, you may wish to start with bubbles by the glass or a half bottle of white from the list (if your friend has red). You can always buy more wine!

            I have given up on wine pairings, think they are usually a rip off and rarely spectacular. I prefer to have a few glasses or half bottles for variety.

            1. t
              thimes Sep 7, 2011 06:20 AM

              1. you're totally fine. You don't have to have the wine pairing. No looking down, no issue

              2. If the restaurant allows him to bring his own then of course not an issue either. Bringing a bottle they have on the menu is a little "bad form" but only because the restaurant wants the profit. But nothing you should concern yourself with or worry about personally.

              1. j
                jaykayen Sep 7, 2011 10:33 PM

                1. No problem. You're the customer, and should be treated with respect.

                2. I never do wine pairings anymore, they are usually not worth the money. You can call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if it is ok to bring one of your own bottles.

                1. babette feasts Sep 8, 2011 03:43 AM

                  I don't think anyone had mentioned corkage fees. You may wish to inquire how much bringing that bottle will cost you. $15 to $30 is normal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: babette feasts
                    HoosierFoodie Sep 8, 2011 06:46 AM

                    Always check on corkage....always. Depending on you much your and your friend drink a bottle could easily fit in with some of the courses but likely not all. For instance, a nice Champagne will match with a lot of early, lighter courses. A nice bottle of Burgundy would likely go with a lot of the later, heavier protein courses.

                    No problem at all with a tasting menu without alcohol.

                  2. h
                    Harters Sep 12, 2011 04:54 AM

                    1. It's never a problem not to drink alcohol in French restaurants (or anywhere else in my experience)

                    2. You or the friend needs to check that bringing your own bottle would be acceptable to the restaurant. For many, it will not be.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Harters
                      Delucacheesemonger Sep 12, 2011 06:50 AM

                      Perfect answers !

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