The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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Page 44 of 100

44 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 { in service } RECENTLY I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO DINE WITH A respected winemaker at an exciting new restaurant. Just nabbing the reserva- tion was a privilege, or so we thought. Indeed the establishment had many things going for it: a celebrated chef, marvelous décor and a huge number of people vying for one of the coveted tables. We were excited to be there, and to do what most diners aim to do in an eminent restaurant: relax and converse while sharing the pleasures of fine food and wine. The evening got off to a great start, the restaurant was buzz - ing with positive energy. We ordered glasses of bubbly. When they arrived we began a dialogue with the sommelier about which white wine to start with. The sommelier was knowledgeable and full of enthusiasm. We ordered a bottle that we were eager to try and as well as appetizers and our main courses. Things went south from there, at least in terms of the service timing. We had asked the som - melier to bring the white wine right away, although we were still sipping bubbly. We wanted to get it open and into glasses—a deci- sion that I suspect every competent sommelier would agree with. But we waited and waited. To our chagrin, the first courses arrived before the white was served. The sommelier apologized and hurried to open the wine; it was too cold and still tight as we took our first bites of no-longer hot food. The golden rule of wine service is that the wine is served before the food. I see this standard as a gesture of respect for the food and for the chefs who prepare it. In a restaurant, once food is served it is generally distracting to engage in the ceremony of wine service. Food gets cold as one waits for the wine to be served. Naturally there are exceptions; for example, when a large party orders mul - tiple bottles or when a guest orders a glass of wine mid-meal. In the interest of not having the same issue happen with our red wine, we made a decision on a bottle and asked for that wine to be served. After the appetizers were cleared, the sommelier served the red wine. As the bottle was being opened, the main courses arrived. To my horror, the sommelier did not leave our table after the red was poured; rather, the sommelier continued to talk and talk—recounting stories about the producer. I picked up my fork; I looked at my plate. I was shocked that no one had trained this som - melier to excuse themselves from the table after the food arrived. We were no longer engaging the sommelier. We wanted to eat and drink and it felt awkward to have the sommelier looming over our table while the food was there. Timing can have a big impact on the dining experience. I believe that servers and sommeliers should be trained not only in standards and sequences of service, but also in knowing when to spend time at a table and when to give guests space to. . . well, actually dine with their companions. ARMAN ZHENIKEYEV/FUSE VIATHINKSTOCK It's True: Timing Is Everything by Christie Dufault

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