Fork Off: Shared Plates Etiquette #hackdining

Shared Plates Etiquette

“I’m from a large family of sharers. When one of my sisters married a non-sharer, she morphed into one herself. It was traumatic. It’s been 30 years, and we all still talk about it… Ironically, the fact that her husband was raised Catholic seemed less controversial to my Jewish family….”

Sharing meals with others can be a social rite that borders on primal. We naturally congregate around food — celebrating special occasions, conducting business (power lunches, anyone?), or simply gathering around the table with family to recap the day. Eating together — whether it’s two of you or 10 – is how we are wired.

Sharing actual food, however, is a whole other matter. A quick survey of diners reveals a near-polarized split between those who love communal eating and those who guard their plates for dear life. The former expect to collaborate on ordering and graze from as many dishes as the table can handle. The latter see it as a hygienically suspect invasion of personal space

One extreme view came from a self-proclaimed foodie, who volunteered, “I love sharing food. I once dumped a guy because he wouldn’t share.” When pressed about her rather extreme reaction to being denied a bite of her date’s entrée, she just shrugged and replied, “It’s a deal breaker…a true indicator of personality.”

When such birds of a feather flock together, how do they dine together? To find out, I pressed a crew of friends who explained their very clear-cut system for shared plates etiquette: “We have a group of five friends that go out for dinner two or three times a month. Each of us orders a different app and a main. When the dishes arrive, we take a few bites and pass the plates to the left. We all get to taste everything while leaving enough so that it makes its way back (with some left) to the original diner.”

While some people take it as their god given right to jab anything on their neighbors’ plates, the feeling is not always mutual. Here are some shared plates etiquette tips for navigating this potentially fraught terrain in good taste:

Exercise caution, and, when possible, choose your venue accordingly. If you are a sharer, don’t assume everyone else at the table will be as well. Ask before making plans that involve lots of plate passing. It’s generally safer to plan communal dinners with people you know well and who don’t mind your chopsticks invading their terrain. Don’t take your future mother-in-law for Ethiopian or Korean barbeque before you’re confident she won’t balk when you start pawing her dinner.

Be sensitive to those who don’t care to consume in the same manner as you. Don’t just leap in fork first and start picking away at your neighbor’s plate. Ask — and be sure to read body language. If, when asked to share, they pucker and deposit a forensics lab specimen-sized sliver of their chicken on your bread plate, chances are you are dining with a non-sharer. Don’t persist unless tormenting them is your objective.Continue Reading

Table for One: The Art of Dining Alone #hackdining

Our recent revelations about solo dining continue to captivate media and diners alike. To continue the conversation, we’ve asked contributor Nevin Martell, a frequent solo diner to share his insights and tips for a terrific dining experience for those who do so with a bit of trepidation. Here are his insights on the art of dining alone. 

“Table for one, sir?”

I get this question a lot. As a food writer, I dine out constantly to try new places and revisit familiar favorites. Though I love breaking bread with family, friends, and colleagues, it’s oftentimes not often possible to line up our schedules with my ever-present deadlines. And so I’ll find myself alone at the host stand.

While many restaurants, especially those recently highlighted on OpenTable’s Top 25 Restaurants for Solo Diners list, are thrilled to welcome solo diners, not every host makes it easy. Perhaps you sense they’re giving you a look of pity as they pick up a lone menu and lead you off to a table tucked away in a dark corner, which they think is what you want since they incorrectly assume you’re ashamed by your singleton status.

Despite any minor speed bumps that can come with solo supping, I enjoy it. The solitary time allows me to slow down for a little while, concentrate on the food, and maybe catch up on some email or make progress on my reading. It sounds oxymoronic, but it’s nice to get away from people in a room full of people. It’s the same reason why I go to bustling coffee shops packed with chattering hordes to get away from distractions when I’m writing.

However, for a long time, I didn’t like sitting across from an empty chair. I would spend most of the meal looking around nervously to see if people were staring at me, eat as quickly as possible, and oftentimes invent stories for the servers as to why I was dining alone. “My friend had to unexpectedly work late. He’s a surgeon. He’s probably saving someone’s life right now.”

It took me years to realize it, but there is an art to eating alone. Here are six ways you can maximize your experience as a solo diner.

Don’t let people make you feel like you’re a social outcast.

You’re choosing to dine by yourself, so be proud of it. Own it. Think of the meal as some quality me time. If the host asks you the most judgmental of questions – “So, it’ll just be you?” – smile widely and respond, “I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with.”

Sit where you want, not where they want you to sit.

All too often, single diners are relegated to an end seat at the bar by the service station or the most undesirable table in the restaurant. If you see the host is leading you to one of these desolate hellholes, politely ask for another seat. This is the perfect time to enjoy the view, so ask for somewhere you can admire your surroundings or do some serious people watching.Continue Reading

How to Support Share Our Strength Now + End Childhood Hunger in America #NoKidHungry

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At OpenTable we say, “The table is just the start…” and we mean it. Gathering with friends, family, or even strangers to share a meal is an experience that brings people and communities together every day. We’re also acutely aware that there are millions of people across the country (and the globe) for whom the next meal is not guaranteed – and certainly not as simple as booking a reservation. But you can help. Read on to learn how to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign now.

A week ago, on Monday, October 26, 2015, national call-in day for Share Our Strength — OpenTable’s corporate philanthropy partner in the US — took place. This year, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill is up for renewal in Congress, giving us the chance to end summer hunger for millions of kids in America. Time is of the essence, and so with No Kid Hungry supporters across the nation, we called our legislators’ offices to share our voice in support of the CNR.

Call-in day has passed, but there is still time to act, and that time is now. A simple phone call is all it takes. So share your strength and help make No Kid Hungry a reality. Click here for a short script and to be directly connected to your senator.

Continue Reading

Dine Out for Heroes: Farmer Dave Beardi on How Your Support Can Help Change the Life of an Injured Veteran

This month, from November 9-13th, you’re invited to Dine Out for Heroes at a participating restaurant in New York City. In support of The Bob Woodruff Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families thrive long after they return home, restaurants that were moved to participate gave a contribution to the foundation.

To illustrate how every dollar raised can help an injured veteran on the road to recovery and leading a fulfilling life, we chatted with farmer and U.S. Army veteran David Beardi of BRD’s Forever Farm in Dayton, New York. Beardi was injured in his service to our nation. During his recovery, he connected with a fellow vet and farmer named John Post. Beardi says, “He had a small farm and he used to just pick me up and take me there. And I found it was transformative working with the animals. It really changed my life dramatically. If you would have told me that working with animals was therapeutic, previously, I would have been a little skeptical. But it was just transformative.”

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That healing work ignited a passion for farming, and soon, Beardi and his family purchased a defunct dairy farm previously owned by an Amish family. It was, in Beardi’s own words, “a massive undertaking.” The farm was in serious disrepair and in need of many improvements, including bringing in plumbing and electricity, all of which Beardi tackled.

But, even the hardest working farmer can use a helping hand – or a tractor – and the Bob Woodruff Foundation stepped up. Through Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund, Beardi was awarded a Bob Woodruff Farming Fellowship. This allowed him to buy a tractor and install much-needed electric fencing for his cattle. “Michael O’Gorman is a terrific human being. I can’t say enough about him. I don’t think we would have achieved the growth we’ve had without this. It was pretty critical for us to get going. And I use that tractor every single day,” he notes.

Today, BRD’s Forever Farm produces naturally and humanely raised meats, including Angus beef and heritage pork, which are highly sought after by western New York locavores. On the 116-acre property, Beardi, his wife Becky, and their children have a herd of 50 cows and 100 pasture-raised pigs that graze on pastures of alfalfa and red and white clover. The animals enjoy the lush property and are treated with the utmost care and respect. “We’ve created a very low-stress environment for the animals, from how they live to how we handle them. We take great pride in how we care for them,” says Beardi. “People come to the farm all the time. It really is a pretty fantastic place.”Continue Reading