The term ‘Fine Dining’ brings to mind all kinds of images, from crisp white tablecloths to waiters in tuxedos. Fine dining, just as the name suggests, is a sit down restaurant which offers patrons the finest in food and wine, service, and atmosphere. One could expect a more formal atmosphere here with much more attention to detail.
To take it to the ultimate, some typical services provided in a fine dining restaurant include escorting patrons to the table, holding the chair for women, escorting patrons to the restrooms if needed, crumbing the table between courses, and replacing linen napkins if a patron leaves the table. New wine is never poured in the same glass, and silverware is replaced entirely between courses. [acknowledgement – thebalancesmb.com, defining the concept best].
Fine dining was inspired by Haute-cuisine or ‘Grande’ cuisine which refers to the cuisine of ‘high-level’ establishments, gourmet restaurants and luxury hotels. It is characterized by meticulous preparation and careful presentation of food, at a high price level. It usually reflects cooking that is done in a very skillful and complicated way. Fine dining has retained elements of this. [Wikipedia]
In addition to who was eating Haute-cuisine and what exactly it consisted of, the term can also be defined by who was making it and how they were doing so, including serving dishes in small and numerous courses which represent ‘gourmet’ dishes today. Professionally trained chefs were quintessential to the birth of haute-cuisine in France with its extravagant presentations and complex techniques. Today this is what still distinguishes fine dining.
As for wine list offerings, especially at larger establishments, these lists are deep in vintage and price points, offering everything from a lower priced wine, with others in much higher-priced categories, with a few additional rare vintage choices too. Many restaurants at this level will have a Sommelier, offering diners information about the wines and how they pair with the food.
Nouvelle-cuisine was a movement towards conceptualism and minimalism and was a direct juxtaposition to earlier haute- cuisine styles of cooking, which were much more extravagant. While menus were increasingly short, dishes used more inventive pairings and relied on inspiration from regional dishes. These lighter dishes and more modest presentations are today also the order of the day in fine dining establishments. [Wikipedia]
The above is as opposed to casual eateries, cafes or family-style restaurants that serve moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere. Casual dining comprises such places like a, coffee house, tearoom, luncheonette, hamburger stand, fast-food joint, fast-food place, (all French), creamery, dining car, dining coach, dining saloon, diner, lunch bar, snack bar, sushi bar, rotisserie, cafeteria, barbecue and spaghetti house.
Given the above, SAWi is particularly alert to fine dining as it has evolved today into an eclectic blend of cuisines and dining concepts. While that could potentially still represent a broad range of eateries, including a chophouse, bistro or, brassiere, diner and grill-room and the like, it should clearly show an element of smartness and elegance in the restaurant outlay and the style of food and wine offering, as backed up by stellar service (thus all found in the smaller details). This then forms the basis for SAWi in its decision for inviting entries for its fine wine list awards.
And as a last thought: What has happened to some typical services provided in a fine dining restaurant including escorting patrons to the table, holding the chair for women, escorting patrons to the restrooms if needed, crumbing the table between courses, and replacing linen napkins if a patron leaves the table? New wine is never poured in the same glass, and silverware is replaced entirely between courses. [thebalancesmb.com].