Most kids get an introduction to eating out at places where plastic booths, crayons and jungle gyms are part of the experience. So when it’s time to go to white-tablecloth restaurants, they can be ill-equipped.
That’s why the Wrigley Mansion Club in Phoenix is offering educational evenings for youngsters to prepare them for the world of fine dining. The next lesson will be May 17. Cost is $15 per child for a five-course meal.
Parents attend as well, and order off the regular menu. The annual $10 club dues are waived because it’s a special event.
The events are appropriate for children ages 9 and older. Dinner lasts about two hours, and the chef, Suzanne Perrotto, visits the tables to explain the food — which includes a soup, salad, palate cleanser, main course and dessert.
Customers asked for this kind of primer because they want to eat at upscale restaurants with their children instead of going to chains — or they want to prepare kids for special events such as prom, said Celeste Nichols, Wrigley Mansion’s director of operations.
Claudia Cumsky of Paradise Valley attended the first event on April 19 with her husband, Neil, her 16-year-old son, Alexander, and her 9-year-old daughter, Olivia.
"It gives kids confidence to go into a restaurant and know the proper etiquette, and not be intimidated," Cumsky said. The family’s bill was about $80 — and they also got the chance to check out the mansion and see a bit of history.
"It certainly has an element of fun to it," said Nichols. "We’re making sure it’s truly indicative of what happens in a fine dining restaurant." Quiz the kids
Q: What should you do with the towel that looks like a flower?
A: In upscale restaurants, cloth napkins are often placed on the table or in the water glass in a decorative manner. The wait staff will remove it from the table and place it in your lap.
Q: One small dish of butter with a tiny knife is placed on the table for everyone to share. How do you use it?
A: Use the serving utensil to cut off a piece and put it on your bread plate, then use your butter knife to apply it to your bread.
Q: How do you know which fork or spoon to use?
A: Start at the far outside utensil and work your way in as different courses come. The wait staff will remove used utensils after each course.
Q: If your soup is cold, should you send it back?
A: Not necessarily. Cold soups such as vichyssoise are a staple of fine dining, particularly in the summer.
Q: Why do they serve ice cream between the appetizer and entree?
A: It’s sorbet, and it cleanses the palate.