The Dining Companion Rules

In my line of work, I often get asked what hap­pens when I go to review a restau­rant. While there are some tricks of the trade that I keep to myself, I wouldn’t be any­where with­out a list of faith­ful din­ing com­pan­ions. It’s a ranked ros­ter of 6–7 indi­vid­u­als whom I can call on to join me for any meals or restaurant/club/show open­ings that I may be invited to or that I have to observe.

Gen­er­ally, they’re a good group that I’ve curated much like in Reser­voir Dogs where Joe Cabot picks Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Pink, etc. for a dia­mond store heist based on their tal­ents and dis­po­si­tions (i may or may not also assign each din­ing com­pan­ion their own alias in my stories).

So while in gen­eral they’re all decent, rel­a­tively adven­tur­ous eaters — based on their idio­syn­crasies tastes and palates I know who’s best to take to a gas­tropub or a Chi­nese bar­be­cue food truck, or whom I can bring to a 1-Michelin star restau­rant, but not a 3-Michelin star restau­rant, etc. If one has done espe­cially well at a high end steak house, I might con­sider that they may be ready to move into finer din­ing at a French restau­rant. Some pass the tests, some don’t.

I recently had to cut some­one from the list for fla­grant break­ing of rule #5 — you get to can­cel on me once. Not twice. If I get can­celed on at the last minute, it’s often dif­fi­cult to find a replace­ment on short notice, and chang­ing the reser­va­tion may not be pos­si­ble if I have to turn a story around quickly. Once I can under­stand. Twice — you know bet­ter, and so should I, apparently.

So while the fol­low­ing may look like a long, demand­ing list of rules, it’s really not. Just be on time, mind your man­ners and every­thing will be ok. If you’re that good, I might even even­tu­ally let you order for your­self once or twice. 😉

My Sis­ter, aka Din­ing Com­pan­ion #1 By Default, recently sent out her own list of rules that she has gleaned over the years to a new inductee. I’ve included her ver­sion, as well any per­ceived ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the trans­gres­sion, in ital­ics below my rule where appropriate.

Don’t load up on bread. If you say you can’t eat your $80 entree because you can’t say no to the bread som­me­lier, you’re cut off.
Don’t load up on bread, unless you hap­pen to be at Robu­chon. Two words: bread cart.

Your bread plate is the on the left. Stop using mine because I don’t eat the GD bread.

If the restau­rant has the word “steak” or “seafood” in its name, please don’t order the chicken.
If the name of the restau­rant has the word “steak” or “seafood” in it, don’t get the chicken.

Warm octo­pus and potato salad from Bar­tolotta Ris­torante di Mare who flies seafood in from the Mediter­ranean daily. It would be an affront to this octo­pus to want to eat chicken instead.

Steaks may not be ordered medium-well or well-done. Medium is accept­able.
Steaks can­not be ordered well done or medium-well. Medium is accept­able.

Tetsu — where Masa does steak well, but never well done!

You get to can­cel on me once. Not twice.

If I decide to do the wine pair­ings, please do them with me. You don’t need to fin­ish them all, and you may ask for light pours, but if it’s a place that I feel that the pair­ings are an inte­gral part to the meal expe­ri­ence, I would like for us to both expe­ri­ence them.
Don’t order diet coke in any restau­rant where the chef has more than 3 Miche­lin stars.

Let the servers take your sil­ver­ware. Please don’t put your fork drip­ping with sauce on the white table­cloth. The servers will reset your uten­sils, I promise.

Adden­dum to pre­vi­ous: please do all you can (as I will do my best as well) to avoid an appear­ance by the nap­kin of shame on the table. There’s noth­ing classier than hav­ing a server look down his nose at us as he places a fresh white nap­kin over the giant red wine stain.

Unless we’re get­ting tast­ing por­tions, please don’t eat every­thing on the plate. Eat­ing with me gen­er­ally means I have to get a num­ber of appe­tiz­ers and entrees so I can sam­ple every­thing, and unless some­thing is really fan­tas­tic, I don’t take more than a few bites because I know there’s always more food com­ing. In other words: pace your­self. The mighty have fallen this way.

If it’s served on the bone, it’s ok to pick it up and eat with your hands.

NO being Weak Sauce when you’re eat­ing and drink­ing with me. I’ve likely asked you to this par­tic­u­lar restau­rant because it fits with your likes and dis­likes, so if by the off chance I decide to order some­thing a lit­tle out of the ordi­nary, please don’t make it a point to say “I don’t have to eat that, do I?” No, you don’t, but know that you’re piss­ing me off and mak­ing your way to the bot­tom of the list.
Try every­thing once. You don’t have to like it. You just have to try it, unless you’re aller­gic then I rec­om­mend tak­ing some Benadryl before you go.

Bone mar­row from Jean Georges Steak. Some­one once turned down bone mar­row with­out even try­ing it. Do you think this per­son is still on the list?

Even if you are a picky eater that I like enough to take to din­ners with me: If the chef has sent some­thing out for us to try, please just try it. One undra­matic bite where you swal­low it and don’t make a face. Chances are if the chef has sent it out with­out us ask­ing for it, it’s prob­a­bly some­thing that shouldn’t be missed.
When the head/executive/celebrity chef is hand­ing you some­thing directly or offer­ing to spoon feed you, do NOT turn it down. Grace will give you the stink eye and will guar­an­tee removal off said list.

Amuse bouche cour­tesy of the chef at JGS. Not will­ing to try them? I will not be amused.

When I ask “May I have a bite?” The answer is always “yes,” pos­si­bly fol­lowed by us switch­ing plates. Don’t worry, we’ll switch back.

When I take a first bite of some­thing and audi­bly go “Mmm­m­m­m­mmm!” and excit­edly point at it, that means I like it.

Get­ting funny fuzzy drunk is ok. Get­ting bel­liger­ently drunk is not.

Be nice to the server. ALWAYS.

Do not hold a snifter glass like a pimp.

Still think you’d make a good Din­ing Com­pan­ion? I am cur­rently tak­ing appli­ca­tions for a new Mr. Blonde.

Reser­voir Dogs photo cour­tesy of Geek Tyrant

Robu­chon bread cart photo cour­tesy of The Divine Dish

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