Create a Working System

The best part of being a food critic is – of course – the cuisine. You get to try the best of the best, and sometimes even the worst. But most of the time, I can savor some pretty fine fare. I go in with an open mind and plenty of cash. I like to order as many dishes as I can handle, a practice that can add up to a pretty penny. The idea is to be unknown so you get to experience the ambience and service in its most routine fashion. I usually order the special and several side dishes that will give me a more balanced view of the chef’s handiwork.

The worst part of being a food critic is dealing with the filing. I collect a lot of receipts and they form the bulk of my job expenses for taxes. I have had to create a working system all my own to deal with the plethora of paper tidbits, relics of past evenings dining out. Come tax time, I am ready to roll as everything is in order. Let me tell you, if you work for yourself and need to produce proof of your tax deductions, you need something old-fashioned and tangible like an accordion paper file. There is no way you can scan all the stuff of your working life to archive in your computer. While you do have to keep your records for 7 years, dozens of annual files junk up your storage system; and when audit time comes, no way do you want to print hundreds of sheets of expensive copy paper to show the IRS man (or woman) the “evidence.”

Just do it the old fashioned way like I do. It is fast and easy and you can stuff everything in a cardboard banker’s box with a lid. Every 7 years, you do a purge and reuse the box—how economical! Then you need to spend an hour or two disposing of outdated paperwork using your home shredder from Shredder Lab. These little guys are a small version of what you see in offices, and they do a superb job with tax documents. The refuse is stowed in plastic bags tied with string for the trip to the trash bin. Shredding takes up a lot less space and therefore you will probably only have to make one trip.

So the equipment and supplies for your working system is simple: assemble-it-yourself storage boxes, a marking pen for labeling, an accordion folder in a size that suits the volume of documents you need to save, the above-mentioned home shredder, and a few plastic bags. It can all be stored in one cupboard in the garage. You can get fancy with better quality boxes such as those made of hard plastic or fireproof metal. But overall, I stick with the basics and prefer to spend my money on another trip to my favorite local restaurant.

Things Chefs Know

I want to start with a true confession. Ever since I was little, I have loved not just well-cooked food, but eating out at a good restaurant – ever since the first time my father took me to the Jewish delicatessen around the corner and I had my first Reuben sandwich. Now you know why I am hooked on food. Since then, I have enjoyed writing for several small local newspapers and alternative weekly publications as a food critic. Now I get to share with you. A blog for potential has always been a dream of mine. It is almost as good as having your own show on the Food Network. Ha!

Today’s topic is ambient smoke – the kind that lingers in a restaurant interior or patio and ruins the patrons’ encounter with the food. The amazing flavor that rises from a freshly-prepared dish clashes with stale toxins in the air. Fie on cigarette smokers – or for that matter any other kind including pipes and cigars. I bring up this subject because recently I interviewed a few top chefs in my area for cooking tips for my column. I was shocked that some of them smoke. Foodies are usually health nuts. I guess not. What is this world coming to? (But at least they don’t do it in the kitchen.) It seems that the taste in their mouths would mar their ability to assess the state of a dish in preparation. Smoking affects one’s sense not only of taste, but of smell. Both are key to the evaluation process while cooking fine food.

They have tricks for clearing their palettes and getting rid of the smell of cigarettes on their clothing, which they got from this web site. First of all, they gobble mints like they are candy – which they are. They spray with products like Binaca. I get it. Then they spray themselves outside with Febreze to remove telltale signs of their nasty habit. They put on a clean chef’s jacket every day. It is not that they smoke in them (that would be ridiculous and just plain stupid), but the garment picks up the scent on their clothing. Off to the cleaners they go for their regular detailing.

I was skeptical despite the common-sense approach, but they assured me that smoking does not interfere with their skills. Otherwise, I assume that they would quit; but I know that it takes a lot to make an avid, long-term smoker stop. Since I don’t indulge myself, I don’t understand the attraction. A person into food needs to preserve his or her precious sense of taste and smell. It is so much a part of the pleasure. Other aspects that drive me forward in my career are searching for exciting and unusual recipes. The chefs I interviewed in toto provided me with enough fodder for a year’s worth of columns. Thus, I can forgive them for their offensive practice of smoking cigarettes on the job.

This Writer Isn’t Used to Standing

I write restaurant reviews, looking for the hot new trends. It is a sedentary job and I am not used to standing. As a food writer, I sit and eat or I sit and type. They say sitting is bad for you and it is important to take frequent breaks. I was on my feet all day today and my feet are killing me. I went on a marathon so to speak of visiting potential fodder for my column. I spent all day and night out at difference food places, with some only having standing room at the bar. It was certainly lively and fun, but I am not paying the price. I like to see successful venues as it is a good sign for the industry as a whole. While there are so many retail spaces empty in my area, the restaurants are pretty stable and now and then a new one pops up. I am first in line to try it and pen a review.

After a major day and night at my craft, I was experiencing some significant foot pain. I had been a foot massager years ago as a birthday gift and it was still sitting in its pristine box. Now was the time to give it a try. I was so pleased that I wanted to write a review on Facebook, not my usually subject for sure. While these come battery operated, I had to plug this model in which was no problem. I live in a modern dwelling with plenty of outlets. Ha! The device has several settings and you try them all to find the optimal one. Given the degree of soreness, I chose “high.” The basic design consisted of a rubber motorized pad that you hold against any area of the foot. You can insert various other attachments such as a pad with rubber spikes (not the stiff, hard kind). It would be ideal if someone would operate the massager for you so you don’t have to get in a pretzel position to reach all parts of your feet.

It did take some maneuvering, so it the absence of a masseuse, I did just fine. I got a lot of relief and repeated the procedure eight hours later. By the next day, I was back to normal, just like new. I didn’t box the appliance just yet. I would love to give it another run soon. It is that nice. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks, then reading some foot massager reviews will help you find the best value models that fit within your budget and still give great performance, and avoid the overpriced lemons.

Now that I have a solution, I don’t mind the idea of a long time on my feet when necessity calls and I am reviewing a busy locale. Even if you sit at the computer, the massage still feels wonderful.

I’m Being Courted!

When people hear that I am a food critic, their eyes open wide. “I bet you go to some pretty nice restaurants,” they stammer. I nod in agreement. “Tell me about your favorite food.” I get this request incessantly. I go into my usually patter about gourmet food, home cooking, exotic delicacies, and trends. They seem interested so I go on and on. I like talking about it. I never get tired of the subject.

I also get the question, “how do you become a food critic? Is there special training?” Do they think I went to culinary school? Of course not. You must have a passion for it and be willing to learn. You have to try a lot of dishes to know what is creative and original and what is old hat. You have to spend the time for years and years. If you are a chef, so much the better, but this is a different hat to wear. A chef likes to not only make fine fare but to create new recipes. He or she discovers new ingredients and combines them in unique ways. Then the critic steps in to judge it.

A food critic must have a trained palate and sensitive taste. It is essential to detect the components of a dish. He or she must read about foreign food and travel to taste it in its own environment. This is the only way to recognize new spices and techniques when you encounter them at home. You also travel far and wide in your own country to determine the best regional dishes that reflect long-standing traditions. Many smaller restaurants specialize in grandma’s recipes and they are irreplaceable.

This is the life of a critic in a nutshell. I have been practicing the trade for some time. I have worked for different news outlets and enjoy opportunities that arise. For example, recently, a new online food magazine offered me a column. I love being courted. They gave me the best business backpack I’ve ever seen, filled with swag appropriate to the industry including travel utensils, a cook book, a package of napkins, and some coupons. The backpack was very cool and clearly displayed the site’s logo. It was a clever way to recruit and it may work. I will check out the quality of the posts and see if this is a place I want to be. I will find out about the typical readers and if there is a question and answer exchange. I like to communicate with my followers.

The site seems to check out and I expect it to be successful. The demographics are just right and include men and women of various ages and occupations. The site will feature a job market which I think it is a great idea. It will specialize in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. If someone wants to be a freelance critic like me, I can write more about it. Otherwise I will talk about my favorite spots and highlight the best dishes.

The Décor or the Dining?

You will soon see that I love food and anything related to its production or consumption. I truly believe I have thousands of fellow travelers in this regard. Let’s share ideas and restaurant reviews. You can’t have too many places to eat when your stomach is crying out. I cherish a lavish menu where I can savor many dishes without running out of choices. I am open to just about any type of cuisine from American to ethnic. I also cook a bit myself and have been known to share recipes. My favorite pastime is being a food critic as it takes me to many exotic places. If you like out-of-the ordinary fare, listen up. You have to be adventurous and open to the unknown. There isn’t much to say about the same old stuff. A burger is a burger is a burger. It must be different to get my attention. Give me something new and I am there. Meanwhile, I also pay attention to a restaurant’s vibe and clientele.

For example, I recently visited a Polynesian restaurant that served the most amazing roast pig. The tables were sparse, each decorated with gorgeous flowers that I imagine are native to the islands. But what really caught my eye was the décor. The walls were paneled with intricate woodwork that surely was all hand done. There was no machine cookie cutter craftsmanship apparent, it was a truly bespoke piece, worthy of Woodwork Nation (https://www.woodworknation.com). I loved the rich tawny color and how it created a glow inside the space. I wish that the food had been as good. So, this creates a dilemma. Do you recommend a restaurant just for its ambiance? Surely not. A place can be a dive and if it has a great menu, it will be on my list of favorites. Now what about this place? It was gorgeous. An island motif was so original and there were accoutrements everywhere that spoke of faraway places. Would I go back just to sit in all this visual luxury? I am at a crossroads. I give the restaurant an A for service, an A for décor and a lowly B for food. Ah, the life of a food critic is tough.

You must be honest when writing reviews or your readers will not trust you. You have every right to mention the woodworking or any other aspect of the décor, but for a truly balanced critique, the food should take center stage. You can’t whitewash mediocrity and get away with it. I feel bad sometimes when I must expose problems, a low health rating, or inferior dishes. I owe it to the public to put everything on line. When I do, I don’t go back lest I get ostracized. As a result, I play incognito and don’t reveal my intentions. Lately, I have been thinking about revisiting the Polynesian restaurant in case it has improved. Nothing would make me happier than letting the word get out. Then maybe the wood working won’t have to carry the day for this spot.

My Post-Dinner Out Routine

My fervent passion for food keeps me out at night in local restaurants of note. I report on them, so other diners will see me taking notes as I eat. Such is the life of a food critic. Sometimes you get noticed and stared at, but most of the time I am alone and keep to myself. Ah! The wonderful meals I have enjoyed fill my memory with savory thoughts. But there is a downside to all this pleasure. You can overeat and drink and suffer indigestion now and then. This poses a problem for your sleep habits as they can be interrupted. I have to establish a regular routine in order to stay alert during the daytime.

People suffer insomnia for various reasons. Feeling ill is one of the worst. I am going to tell you about my regimen and suggestions for a long night’s rest. When I get home from dining out, I have a cup of herbal tea such as chamomile or other type. This puts me to sleep. Others like milk which is proven to be effective at bed time. If you are really not nodding off, you can take the non-prescription medication called melatonin. You can’t take it forever but it is good in a pinch.

Also before bed, I douse the lights and turn off the cell phone and TV, and don’t check Facebook. These distractions get in the way of a good sleep. It can take an hour or two to recover. Sometimes I stretch a bit and try to find a comfortable position in bed. I try not to have too many blankets although just the right amount of warmth is a good remedy for insomnia. If you have indigestion, a Tums tablet is a gentle aid for the intestinal tract. If you are keyed up from a bad day or talking excitedly with friends late at night in person or on the phone, you need to calm yourself down and turn off your mind. Thoughts rushing through your head deter sleep for sure. It is hard to stop all the clatter, but you must turn to soothing thoughts that don’t rev up your brain.

Good health depends upon seven to nine hours of deep sleep. It also depends on nutrition and exercise so one’s life routine will impact the ability to get the right amount of rest. It has to be everyday so as to establish a pattern. Then you can skip a night here and there and still stay productive during the day. I know I can’t write my food reviews if I am over tired from lack of sleep. You can, of course, over exercise and this will curb your rest period. Keep a log of your sleep habits and try my suggestions to see if it changes the results. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling refreshed when that nasty alarm goes off. I don’t jump out of bed, but I don’t linger either. I hope you find what works for you.

Sports Theming Done Well

Just because I have been a food critic, doesn’t mean I am fussy about the food I eat. I like to try all kinds of restaurants and am more than willing to experiment with cuisine. There is so much innovation these days, what with all the shows on the Food network and the many cookbooks that appear almost daily. The Internet is full of recipes and creative ideas as well.

What I do care about, however, is ambience. Even a dive can have charm. I like to see an effort made to decorate a place with some style. It doesn’t mean that every restaurant must look like a French bistro, but it does have to have its own particular look and feel. Take a sports-themed diner I recently visited. Each section had some of the best basketballs from different leagues. There were several signed basketballs in each one. If you are lucky and it is not a busy night, you can select your favorite team and spend the night reading about its better days and special feats. I am a basketball fan as a matter of fact, so this restaurant really appealed to me. I have a pretty good memory for past history and the décor really brought some old days home. Looking at the class-encased basketballs from top players made me want to palm one or two joust for the fun of it.

The restaurant also included signed photos, numbered team shirts, and other relics of the sport. Basketball has certainly had its glory days for sure. Some teams like the Lakers are in decline, but there was a time when they were the best. We all miss Kobe of course. New teams and players always emerge and you change your allegiance with ease.

I munched on a hamburger as I gazed around the room and my eyes glazed over. Suddenly I was in deep reverie, seated in a packed stadium during playoffs. The crowd was roaring around me. As the game was ending and there was only a two point lead, we stood on our feet to cheer loudly for our team. This is the kind of exciting, memorable experience that eating in a sports-themed restaurant brings back. My waiter saw my awe at the surroundings and offered to open the glass case so I could have a closer look at all the autographs. I didn’t turn him down.

Eating out can be a real treat depending upon where you go. Choose wisely, as I did that night, and you will have a great time. If you get a good menu, well-prepared food, ambience and décor, you have hit the right spot. Sports are a passion but I am game for a Polynesian island theme, a mountain cabin bar with wood-lined walls, a seafood extravaganza with a giant aquarium, or a Middle Eastern café where you sit on the floor. What do you like? There is much to choose from and you can be selective.

What Are Michelin Stars?

You may have heard the term before, but it still might be a mystery to you. When looking up information about a fine dining restaurant or watching a cooking show featuring a world-renowned chef, a reference is made to “Michelin Stars”. You may ask yourself “Why would the name of a prestigious organization that is related to fine dining also the same as the tire company?” You might be surprise to learn that the name comes from the actual tire company from France. This inauspicious beginning led to one of the most respected restaurant review publication in the history of the modern world.

History

In 1900, the tire manufacturer began publishing a guidebook for French motorists. This was meant to encourage more car owners to drive more often, thus needing to change their tires more frequently (guess which tire company this guidebook suggested). In 1926, the newest editions of the guidebook started giving out star ratings for any restaurant that was reviewed in their travels. These reviewers were especially notable in that all of them were anonymous patrons of the establishment being reviewed – a tradition which has continued to this day. At first, only one star was used to indicate a high-quality establishment. Later one, in 1931, the rating system was expanded from one-star ratings to one, two and three-star ratings. Then, in 1936, a set of criteria was created for each star rating. Now, a restaurant can be rated from 0 (meaning the restaurant isn’t of high quality) to 3, with establishments not even worthy of a visit not listed in the guidebook at all.

Criteria

The star rating is less an opinion on the food as an indicator of how much trouble you should go through to find yourself at an establishment. “One star” indicates that a restaurant is worth a visit while en route to your eventual destination. “Two stars” means that a restaurant is so good that it’s worth making a detour while on the road away from your original route to visit that establishment. But “Three Stars” is an indication that a restaurant is so good, you should make a special journey just to visit that restaurant all on its own.

You might be wondering why there’re only 3 stars to this rating system when you’ve heard people make references to 5 or 6-star chefs or hotels. This is due to other reputable guidebooks using a higher rating system – such as the Diamond rating of the American Automobile Association guidebook or Forbes Travel Guide. Other times, a chef referred to as a “5 Michelin Star Chef” is actually called this to describe how many total starts all of their establishments has earned in total. Also, hotels are rated on a different star scale from another country’s publication. For example, the European Hotel Stars Union has a six-star rating – not Michelin.

How to Read a Fine Dining Menu

It never fails. You’ve finally gotten that reservation to the ultimate fine dining restaurant you’re trying to impress someone with. You go through all the trouble of dressing for the occasion, deciding if you want to have drinks afterwards and you and your date arrive 5 minutes early. You sit at the table as your server brings you the menu, and suddenly the world melts around your table. The menu is so incomprehensible to you that it might as well be written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The fact is fine dining establishments often have references that most menus don’t. You may be used to “Apps”, “Salads”, “Entrees” and “Desserts”, but you probably don’t have a clue what “prix-fixe” means. In order to help you decipher what’s being communicated to you at such an establishment, we’ve compiled a little guideline to help you read and order from a fine dining restaurant’s menu so you won’t make a fool of yourself.

Don’t Experiment with Restaurant Concepts You Don’t Understand

Ordering at a Brazilian churrascaria is massively different than ordering from a restaurant that specializes in Korean BBQ. If you don’t understand what you’re getting into, then the chances are extremely high that you’ll have no idea what you’re doing when you get the menu. If you’re not familiar with any concept, such as tapas, a good Google search couldn’t hurt at all.

Whole Number Pricing

No, that number is not how many people it serves. Most fine dining establishments have whole number prices next to each meal listing instead of something like “$13.99”. You might be put off by not being manipulated into think that 24.99 is less than $25 dollars, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Also, be wary of dishes that have supplemental fees such as luxury ingredients such as truffle oil or foie gras. Then again, you knew you were planning on going somewhere nice. Quit complaining.

Ala Carte vs. Prix Fixe

Most restaurants have items separated by course with prices by each individual listing. This is a la carte. But what if you want to get a better sample of a restaurants offering. This often results in seeing something listed as “prix fixe”. This means you can order three or more items from a course selection at a fixed price – three apps of a smaller than normal portion, for example. This is best when dining with friends or when you want to try something out during lunchtime when the better chefs aren’t on site yet.

Amuse-Bouche

You might have decided that your table is going “prix-fixe” but what if someone sees an entree that they’re really curious about? Then you might look for an “amuse-bouche” option – a bite-size sample of an entree at a minute price. There’s even a “Pre-Dessert” option that works in the same way. This gives you the best opportunity to truly try out everything a restaurant has to offer

Which Cuts of Meat are the Highest Quality?

If you’ve ever been to a nice restaurant, you might be wondering why are some protein entrees much more expensive than others. This is because many cuts of meat from animal protein are considered of such a higher quality than other cuts that it warrants the extra expense. Thus, you most definitely would pay more money for a Rib Eye steak than just a cut of chuck. But knowing which cuts are the best from both beef and pork can greatly help you figure out what is the best cut of meat to order while not exceeding your budget. Thus, here are the best cuts of meat from beef, chicken and pork in order of increasing quality and how most are prepared or butchered.

Beef

When it comes to beef, there’s only one cut that matters as pertains to quality – steak. Other less quality or tougher parts of the cow may be used for ground beef, ribs, whole roasts (like prime rib) or stew meat. However, when it comes to paying high dollar, you have to know which steak will end up costing you the most.

Rib Eye 

Also known as Spencer steak or market steak, a rib eye refers to the cut of beef from the upper rib cage – usually a prime rib cut sliced into individual steaks. It’s usually has a single rib on one side of the outer edge as well as center eye section of finer grain beef separated by the marble of that particular cut. It’s usually very flavorful with a high fat content that only adds to the juiciness of that cut of meat.

T-Bone

This is named for the shape of bone that outlines the top edge and runs through the center of this cut. T-Bone steaks – also known as a Porterhouse – come from the unfilleted short loin of the cow. The reason it’s of a higher quality than Rib Eye even with this bone is due to what each side of this steak is individually used for – with one side often being cut away for New York Strip steak while the other is used for tenderloin. Thus, you get both a buttery cut of loin at the same time as you get a leaner, juicier strip steak.

New York Strip

Also referred to as top sirloin or Manhattan steak, this is the leaner cut from a T-bone steak cut. It tends to be a finer grain of steak while only having significant marbling on one side. Thus, it’s a leaner cut of beef that still has the ability to be succulent and delicious.

Tenderloin

Also referred to as sirloin, Filet Mignon or Chateaubriand, the tenderloin is the other side of a T-Bone. It is a very fine grain of beef that is the most tender cut that composes of a small end (Filet Mignon) and the larger one (Chateaubriand) that often is cooked to buttery yet mild perfection

Chicken

The main cut of chicken that tends to cost more is the breast. This is often due to the labor intensive butchering methods involved in making this cut of poultry. Though not as expensive as beef steak or pork loin, this is tricky to cook without drying it out, so a well-cooked chicken breast is often priced accordingly.

Pork Loin

This refers to the cut of pork that is near the lower rib area on the top of the animal before you get to the end. Cuts of pork from this region include baby back ribs, center loin, and pork tenderloin. This cut of pork tends to be more tender with a high fat content without any extra saltiness. Any pork cut worth the extra money is always from the loin area.

 

How to Spot Quality Food Review Sources

You’ve just decided that you want to try out a new, or well-established, restaurant because you’ve heard so many good things about it. But most of the people who told you were friends or family who also told you that a place you ended up hating was worth your time. This is why many turn to either local or national food review publications or websites. The most famous of these, nationally, is easily Zagat’s. But maybe the place you’re curious about is so new that Zagat’s hasn’t had a chance to do a review yet. Outside of Michelin Stars, there are very few indicators a restaurant will publicly divulge outside of their marketing that will give you a clue as to whether or not you should give them a try. To help you out, here are three tips that can help separate a reliable restaurant review source from one that might be so helpful.

  1. Understand what your Priorities are and Seek out Sources with similar ones

You could always check out places like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Chowhound online. The only problem is that most people, who write reviews here, especially on Yelp, are just normal people who might not have the same priorities as you. You may love the food at a BBQ place you’re researching, but there might be too many Yelp reviewers who gave the place two stars simply because they didn’t like the decor or the “cheesy” music playing in the background (really, who doesn’t like ZZ Top? Honestly.) Also, you might be looking for vegetarian fare and trusting some random stranger might not pan out for you.

This is why you need to make sure any source you use as a food review reference has the same priorities as you do. For example, a local vegetarian lifestyle publication is sure to know where in town you can find the best vegan fare at affordable prices. If you want to know what the best places with good drink specials are in a vacation spot, then TripAdvisor is more your style in this circumstance.

  1. Look to Local Media Sources

When in doubt, the local newspaper or alternative weekly always has a paid food critic on staff. This is usually someone who has been doing this job for a while and is knowledgeable in not only the latest trends but of other locations that execute a particular concept much more effectively.

Try to avoid younger publications or less well-established one as these may just hire whichever English major has watched enough episodes of “Chopped” to sound knowledgeable about cuisine. You want someone who has written multiple reviews on Korean BBQ, Ethiopian fare and Tex-Mex taquerias who know a good example of such from a bad one.

  1. Don’t Assume Zagat’s is Always right.

While Zagat’s does have the best reputation in terms of comprehensiveness and a higher profile, they might not always be right. You have to remember that most reviewers for Zagat’s tend to also be locals, so a “25” in a rural area might only rate an “11” in New York City or Chicago. The more established a local source is in their review staff, the higher the chances their review will be a better assessment of any dining establishment than Zagat’s is.

Questions to Ask a Sommelier So You Won’t Feel Foolish

When it comes to fine dining, nothing beats a glorious meal paired with a nice wine. But most people only know three types of wine – Red, White and (my personal favorite) “that pink one you had on New Years’ Eve Last January”. It does help to know the difference between a Merlot, a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and a blush.

But that doesn’t mean that you’ll understand that wine list you’re handed at the fancier establishments. But the sommelier who hands that list to you isn’t just there to be snooty (well, not all of them). They’re trained to help you find exactly what would make your meal even better. So, here are five questions you can ask your sommelier that’ll keep you from looking like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  1. I just had __________; do you have anything like that?

A good reference point is excellent at helping the sommelier figure out just what you might like. This can be either a specific brand you once had or (if you can’t remember the name) just the region and the type of wine it was. If you say you once enjoyed a California Chardonnay, you should be pointed in the right direction.

  1. I‘ve been curious about _______, what do you suggest?

Here, once again, know a region and a wine type is essential for helping the sommelier make a good suggestion. But letting them know that you’re going to be trying this type for the first time also lets them know that they should probably suggest something accessible and a good introduction so you won’t be put off by something you’re palette is not quite used to and won’t enjoy as a result.

  1. What would you suggest under _________?

You are probably on a budget, but you don’t want to make anyone think you’ll drink any cheap Spanish anti-freeze. Asking the question this way lets the sommelier demonstrate their knowledge while still letting you stay within your budget. They would sympathize anyway, trust me. No one knows a good deal on good wine better than a sommelier.

  1. What are you excited about?

This is much better than “What do you suggest?” That question is way too broad and doesn’t give the sommelier any clues as to what you might be interested in. Phrasing the question that way not only lets them give a more helpful suggestion, making it personal get them invested in wanting to suggest something you’re more likely to enjoy. Since they’re privy to some of the best wines from around the world, the chances of you enjoying their personal suggest when asked this way is very high.

  1. We’re planning on having ___________, what goes really well with that?

It’s extremely helpful to set parameters for any sommelier’s suggestion. Asking the question this way give them an idea what would pair best with whatever you’re eating and helps you from not having a wine that might overpower delicate flavors of your meal or fail to complement these flavors.