Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Daggers Allowed on Your Plate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Daggers Allowed on Your Plate

Article excerpt

I WAS SITTING IN THE splendor of Baltimore's Citronelle restaurant savoring forkfuls of roasted duck with bordelaise-cinnamon sauce and taking sips of a knock-your-cuff-links-off red wine, Autard '89 Chateauneuf Du Pape, when - suddenly - a crumb appeared on the corner of my mouth.

The crumb was bad form. It had to be disposed of - properly.

I picked up my napkin and brought it to the corner of my mouth. I did not blot or wipe with the napkin. I dabbed. The crumb was history.

I knew that my dinner companion, etiquette expert Mary Mitchell, approved of my dabbing. She was, of course, far too polite to say anything about my napkin maneuvers.

A few hours earlier, Mitchell had demonstrated that very napkin move to a gathering of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association at their meeting in the Latham Hotel. I had a dinner date with Mitchell. But before we dined, I sat in on her speech to the hoteliers and took notes on how I should behave.

Mitchell operates Uncommon Courtesies, a Philadelphia-based firm specializing in spreading the social graces. A tall, striking woman of 44, Mitchell has taught manners to adults and children, including a fine-dining class to an eighth-grade class in a rough neighborhood of north Philadelphia.

The other night, dressed in a black dress and pearls, she told about 60 well-dressed ladies and gentlemen that bad manners were bad for business.

"A client will never tell you that your breath is bad, your grammar is bad or your table manners are bad," she said.

"But you will not get the contract, and you won't know why. Maybe the client will say something like, it `was a bad fit.' "

The deal could have fallen through, she told the group, because the potential client was upset that you slumped at the table or talked with your mouth full.

Mitchell used color slides and silverware to demonstrate some of her basic points of good behavior, such as how to hold a knife and how to dab with the napkin. She also passed out a 15-question, true-false dining awareness quiz.

Question: Dinner conversation can include talk about dissecting a frog.

Answer: False. …

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