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Archive -‘Dining Etiquette’


A moose did what??!  No, not a moose…”ahmoose boosh” is the pronunciation for this delectable miniature treat that is offered by the chef as a gift to the dining guests.  It can be served during the cocktail hour, just before the dinner begins, or even at the end of the meal in the form of a sweet display of culinary excellence.

Amuse-Bouche can be anything from a very simple display of a single item with a complementing garnish or it can be an elaborate showcase of talent featuring several items, colorful sauce drizzles, and topped with an elegant and interesting edible prop.

Here are a few tips on the etiquette of Amuse-Bouche:

  1. Amuse-Bouche is a French term that literally translates to “amuse mouth” and is figuratively translated as “entertaining the palate” or again, special miniature culinary specialty to express the chef’s talent and gratitude.
  2. Since the Amuse-Bouche is “complimentary”, it is never appropriate to ask for it.  Just because you have had it before, or somewhere else, doesn’t mean you should expect it.
  3. Amuse-Bouche may be eaten with a fork, spoon, your fingers, or a specialty miniature server spoon on which it may be presented.
  4. If a utensil is needed for the Amuse-Bouche, it will be provided.  If one is not provided, it will be considered a “finger food”.
  5. Some Amuse-Bouche may leave a saucy residue on your fingers despite being a finger food.  Simply use your napkin accordingly.
  6. You may also be offered a “finger bowl” after the Amuse-Bouche and that is a whole other post but for now,  simply dip your fingertips (one hand at a time) in the bowl and raise your napkin to the edge of the table, lowering your fingers to the napkin to dry them.

One of our local restaurants here in San Diego, more specifically, Rancho Santa Fe, is the fabulous Mille Fleurs where Chef Martin often sends out a lovely and delicious Amuse-Bouche.  If you can’t make it to Mille Fleurs, I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy a fine-dining experience complete with Amuse-Bouche, Finger Bowl, and a beautiful wine pairing to your courses.

Bon appetit!



sharing food
Well, let’s start with the fact that when at home, while I like the rules to be the same, the fact is, we are in a much more familiar and comfortable situation and for many, almost anything goes.  I would recommend still using the best of table manners when there is an interest in sharing – and that would be the same as when out to dinner.
Sharing has become quite the norm in many restaurants; people enjoy sampling a bite or so of a unique dish and many fine restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse  will actually encourage the guests to buy 2-3 “sides for sharing”.  However, when it comes to sharing one’s steak with one who may have lobster, etc. or some of one’s personal appetizer…it is important to be discreet and sanitary.
That means….if the common question arises “would you like to share a bite of each other’s entree?”, (rather than one simply asking for part of yours without offering to share their own); then it is imperative that one uses one’s own utensils to lift from the other person’s plate and place on their own plate.
“Cutting” can be challenging because one must use their own fork and knife to cut a piece of meat…and that is not necessarily sanitary; however, if you are sharing with a relative or spouse, often times this is overlooked as a “problem” but I wouldn’t recommend it between associates, friends, etc.
In the image of this post, it would be inappropriate to pass one’s sushi using one’s chopsticks from the end in which they eat. To share this food, use the opposite ends of the chopsticks (the ends that do not go in your mouth) to pass the food.
Better to just share sides and appetizers that can be lifted with one’s own utensils.

waiter serving from right









The question of wait staff serving the guest from the left or from the right seems to be a bit controversial in the dining etiquette industry.  As many of the schools and consultants teach “service from the left” and “clearing from the right”,  the Culinary Institute of America, the Federation of Dining Room Professionals, IBGS (International Business and Gourmet Standard of Hospitality) and top culinary schools such as Johnson and Wales all subscribe to “service and clearing from the right”.  

Much of this controversy may have its roots in a flawed translation from the early 1900’s “French Service”, as you will see explained further in this post.

In a recent conversation with Bernard Martinage, Co-Founder of the Federation of Dining Room Professionals, I was enlightened by his very thorough answer to my inquiry regarding this subject.  The following is directly from Mr. Martinage and I thank him for shedding light on “the bottom line”.  After all, the bottom line truly is the guest’s comfort, but it makes sense to me that in most cases, this will be accomplished by “service and clearing from the right”.

Bottom line is . . .


  • If you are a traditionalist in service: you put down a plate by the right and pick it up by the right.
  • If you are a modern waiter with good common sense: you put down a plate by the right and pick it up by the right.
  • If you want to go by the flawed translation of “French Service” which is routed in a training manual written by Hilton in the early 1900’s, then you put down a plate by the left and pick it up by the right, which requires:

Waiters to be perfectly ambidextrous, which consequence is as follow:


  1. It is unnatural for 90% of the population to use the right hand as a support hand and the left had for complex manipulations.
  2. Common waiters end up service by the left with the right hand, sticking their elbow in customer’s face.
  3. Customers never know which way you are coming from. 


Just think about this:


  • Why do we serve wine by the right?  Because the glass is on the right side.
  • Why is the glass on the right side? Because people drink with the right hand.
  • Why do people drink with the right hand? Because the right hand is the operating hand.
  • Why do we serve plate by the right?  Because EVERY SINGLE book you will find shows how to stack plates on the left hand using the right hand . . . just as a beverage tray . . . just as you hold a pad in your left hand and write with your right hand . . . just as you hold a bottle with the left hand and operate the corkscrew with the right hand . . . just as you hold your steering wheel with the right hand and operate your stick-shift with the right hand . . . .etc . 


You will notice, easily, when going to establishments that require their staff to put down plates by the left, than more than half the time the waiters do it using the right hand . . . because it is so impractical.


The question you must ask yourself is . . . Why do it one way versus the other?  And if the answer is not clear and logical . . . then it probably is flawed.


Slowly but surely, the US is adjusting service to reflect international standards, because they make sense, are fast and smooth, and effective.


If you go to a restaurant in Paris, Montreal, Tokyo, London, Singapore, Caracas or Geneva, you will find that everyone put plates down by the right and picks them up by the right.


Because, however, the US suffers from that misinterpretation mentioned earlier, and because we respect the culture of all origins even when not justified (as long as they don’t interfere with the guest’s comfort) we Prefer that people serve by the right and clear by the right, and we Tolerate that people serve by the left, as long as they do it with the left hand in a smooth, elegant and balanced manner.  We, however, Require, that when someone takes our practical examination, that the technique is performed by the standard the world goes by (including top restaurants in the US such as The Bernardin in Manhattan or Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.

So…there you have it.


This will be our third year hosting U.S. Marines in our home for Thanksgiving.  It is such an honor to be able to participate in this fabulous program offered through the ASYMCA (Armed Services YMCA) and I am excited again to start the preparations for their arrival. As our families live out of state, Thanksgiving for us is often spent with just the three of us – so we consider these boys our extended family.  Pictured here are two of our dearest connections from an earlier Thanksgiving, U.S. Marine Corporal Mat Wollman and U.S. Marine Nick Bernal.

The process is really inspirational.  You sign up with the ASYMCA (if there is one in your area) and after you complete an application that is mailed back to them – and upon approval – you are then sent a vehicle pass and number that allow you to enter the base gate (in our case – near San Clemente – about 2 hours round trip from our home) and into the “queue” as you await your car’s spot at the front of the line where two Marines will load into your car.  In years prior, we were allowed to have as  many as we could take – one year we had five; but the program has grown so rapidly and there are so many people wanting to host, that they have limited us to two.  My husband and son will leave by 7am as the Marines need to be picked up by 9am and they will spend the day from 10-4 with us; at which time, they will be transported back to San  Clemente to be returned by the deadline of 7pm.  

I am so proud of my husband and son, who spend four hours driving on Thanksgiving Day in order to give the Marines a special Thanksgiving while they are away from their family.  The program is geared specifically to new recruits who are usually between the ages of 18-21 and who have just completed basic training.  

So…about those preparations:  About this time (2 weeks out), I begin the sautéing of the “Holy Trinity” (celery, scallion, bell pepper) and the chicken livers for my “Louisiana Dirty Rice” and my “Homemade Bread Stuffing”.  This knocks out a decent bit of chopping, cutting, frying, cleaning and storing ahead of time.  I pop those in the freezer until the day before Thanksgiving when they will move to the “ice box” (as we called it when I was growing up) and on Thanksgiving morning, will combine with their dry/cooked, etc. ingredients to complete the finished dish.

Another pre-prep-step during this week will be the baking of the Pumpkin Pie, which can also be frozen.   I will save baking  the Almond Frangipane Tart with Cranberries and Pears until the day before.  Since I am in charge of the Cranberry Sauce for our local fireman that are on duty Thanksgiving Day, I will also whip up a big batch of homemade Zesty Orange & Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce (another freezable item) sometime during this week – at my leisure and divide it up for the firemen and our Marines.

On the day before, I will peel the potatoes (Yukons and Yams) and place them in cold water overnight and while hubby and son are driving, I will be boiling the Yukons and baking the Yams.  The Weber grill charcoal can will be fired up and the Roasted Honey Bourbon Glazed Turkey with Sage Butter will be tenderly roasting on the grill with a pan underneath to catch all those delicious juices for the “First You Make a Roux Turkey Gravy”.

Meanwhile, over on the BBQ Rotisserie Spit, my husband will be roasting a deliciously moist and beautiful Australian Leg of Lamb (which he does divinely every time!) to be served with an Egyptian Mint Sauce (mind you, NOT GREEN JELLY which would be an insult to such a piece of heaven.)  This sauce is a delicate blend  of Egyptian mint leaves and malt vinegar and it is THE BOMB!

Now…onto the table-dressing.  The week prior to Thanksgiving, I will make sure all my stemware is “crystal clear”, silverware is spot-free/clean, linens are ironed and formed into a pretty napkin fold, placemats and chargers are out and the centerpiece design is placed and ready to create my tablescape around that centerpiece.  A few small votive candles will dot the table – sometimes at each place, sometimes down the center; that’s something I figure out as I’m dressing the table. 

Next is printing a pretty fall-leaf Place Card for each place and while I won’t know the names of the two Marines we will host until they are on their way; my husband will call me once they are in the car so I can get that done before their arrival. 

Once the gang is all here, we will enjoy time in the Family Room getting to know “our boys” and like many families – football will be going on all day (other than when we sit down to eat – at which time we will be “Thanksgiving Unplugged”, thanks to my friend and colleague Diane Gottsman of The Protocol School of Texas) and Thomas Farley – aka “Mr. Manners”.  We’ll play board games like Buzz Word and Taboo and then head to the table for the feast of blessings and the blessings of feast.

I hope you have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving with family, friends, or with unknown persons to whom you have opened your home for a special day.

~ Jonnie Fox Flanagan



A Brief History of Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea was started in the mid-1800s by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford.  At that time in history, only two meals were common; a mid-morning breakfast and a somewhat late evening dinner.  The Duchess found herself with a “sinking feeling” in the late afternoon, with the unacceptably prolonged period of time between lunch and dinner. The Dutchess decided to have some friends over for assorted snacks and tea – and the idea of an “afternoon tea” gathering became very popular among the elite, as well as a favorite pastime for “ladies of leisure”.

The Duchess ordered a few delicacies and some tea to be brought to her boudoir.  The assortment was placed on her low bedside table, and this became known as “Low Tea”.  As time went on, the Duchess wished to enjoy these delights with friends in a more social setting – and so the parlor became the venue for “Afternoon Tea”.

“High Tea” – an often misused term for Afternoon Tea/Formal Tea/Royal Tea could not be more different from these specific tea formalities. “High Tea” has nothing to do with “high society”, “upper class”, or “royalty”. It was actually a more hearty “supper style” meal that included meat between the bread (introduced by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich and thus the High Tea Sandwich), and happened to include tea, that was served in the early evening to the “working men” coming home VERY hungry from a hard day’s work.  This meal, like “Low Tea”, is so named, due to the height of the table on which it was served – to accommodate the height of the men who typically stood at the table or sat on high stools to feast. This meal gradually became more important on the social calendars of Ladies and Gentlemen and was enjoyed prior to social events like attending the theater or playing cards. 

On a quick note, “Royal Tea” or “Champagne Tea” simply mean a delightful addition of the bubbly to the occasion. 


It sounds simple enough…but there is a skill to properly holding one’s knife and fork to yield peak performance of the utensils and to present one’s self with proper social grace.  In either the American or Continental style of dining, the following is the correct manner in which to hold the knife and fork:

  • Grasp the utensils’ handles in the palms of the hands.
  • Place  the index fingers on the back of the fork and knife.
  • Gently apply sufficient pressure on the top of the fork and knife where the tines/blade meet the handle.
  • Cut from the top down.
  • Do not apply too much pressure — food will fly off the plate.
  • Use proper “finished” and “resting” positions when not using the flatware.


I absolutely LOVE this blogsite from Classy and Fabulous.  You must check it out as they have SO MANY wonderful ideas.  Take a look at this beautiful place setting.  To properly set your table, remember a few simple tips:

  1. Drink/Right – Food/Left (Five letters in Drink and Right; Four letters in Food and Left)
  2. BMW – A simple way to remember that “bread, meal, water” are placed from left to right. (Bread and butter plate is to the upper left of the plate while beverages are to the upper right of the plate.
  3. Fork/Left – Knife & Spoon/Right – If you remember that “fork” has four letters just like “left” while “knife” and “spoon” has five letters just like “right”, you will remember to set your fork/s on the left and your knife/knives and spoons/on the right.


Napkins – Placement and Protocol:

A truly formal table has only one correct placement for a napkin, to the left side of the place setting. The napkin should be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right. There are no exceptions!  This rule applies for rectangular, triangular, and square shape folds.  Silverware should never be placed on the napkin. Note: Less formal affairs may allow a fancy folded napkin to be placed in the center of the place setting. (Although, you will find many wedding events and other special gala tablescapes routinely dressed with the napkin in the center of the plate).  Heck, if it’s good enough for the Queen (above photo)….

The proper protocol when excusing oneself from the table, whether during or after a dining experience, is to gently place one’s napkin to the left side of your place setting. This rule is not negotiable for the simple reason if one’s napkin were soiled it could damage the seat covering, damage that may be either costly to repair or irreplaceable. While the risk for soiling a cloth also exists, the cloth can be laundered with relative ease.

Upon completion of a dining experience, a napkin folded with a crease and placed to the left side of your place setting indicates to your host or hostess that you wish to be invited back.

The expression, “to make ends meet”, derives from the 1729 French Court. The dress code for men included decorative stiff ruffled collars. When dining, a napkin was tied around the neck to protect their collars, hence the expression.

Credit:  Parts of this post  have been excerped from: