The dining experience

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to get away for a night, and as part of our time away, eat at a very nice restaurant. The food was amazing, and my steak was cooked to a perfect medium temp. I almost never order a medium steak because most places simply get it wrong. My go-to is medium-well because at least then I know it’s not bloody. However, when I’m at a higher quality restaurant I’ll give it a shot, because with a fine dining experience, I expect fine dining quality and service.

I’m one of those people who really struggles with the whole tipping culture that we have in this country. There are tip jars all over the place, and for the most part it’s socially acceptable to skip most of them. Restaurants are not one of those places. It doesn’t matter what type of restaurant it is, if you have a server taking your order and bringing your food, a tip is expected. In most cases, I just wish establishments would raise the prices and give all their employees a boost.

The one type of restaurant where I don’t mind tipping is in fine dining. When I’m going to spend a large amount of money on a meal in a fine dining establishment, I’m expecting more than good tasting food. I’m expecting an experience. This doesn’t mean that I’m looking for someone to grovel before me or to be a whipping boy for my sarcastic comments. It means that I’m expecting a server who understands how to make my dining experience the best it can be and takes pride in their work.

One of the best ways that a server can show that they care is with recommendations. This weekend I knew I wanted a cocktail or two with dinner, but I couldn’t really decide on which one. I asked the server’s opinion and they gave me a suggestion that was out of this world. On other occasions I’ve had great conversations about the types of food that I like, and a knowledgeable server has been invaluable in selecting the right dish.

A great server in a fine dining restaurant also goes beyond the standard, “So how is the food tasting?” routine. This weekend the server went one step further and asked if the cook on the steak was done properly, which may seem like a small detail, but when you’re ordering an expensive steak, the entire experience can be ruined by an improper cook.

Our server this weekend was everything that I expect out of a fine dining professional, and so I had no problems giving a generous tip. I know some may read this blog and think that I’m an arrogant snob, but my point is simply that there is often more to eating out than just getting someone else to cook for you. It’s about how you feel, and the memories that you make with friends and family you are eating with. These memories can happen at any restaurant, but when I’m spending a lot of money for a dinner, it’s made even better with people who take pride in making the experience everything it can be.

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