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Champagne is not intended to be opened just for special toasts and important occasions. The bubbly refresher complements any meal from brunch to a midnight snack. Good champagne can make any occasion memorable.

There's no special talent needed to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine without injuring your guests. Here are a few pointers -

Make Sure The Champagne Is Cold

Start off by chilling the bottle. The best serving temperature is around 45į Fahrenheit that would be about 7į Celsius. A good method for making sure you get the right temperature is to fill your ice bucket or any deep container if you don't have a special one for wines, and let the bottle sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Remember that Champagne that is too warm will foam and spill when you uncork the bottle. You'll lose some of the bubbles and make a mess.

Remove Foil & Loosen Wire Cage

Take the foil off the top of the bottle so that the wire cage is totally free of foil. There are two schools of thought on dealing with the wire cage. Some prefer to loosen it and others go all the way and remove it. The only danger to removing the wire protector entirely is that some bottles have enough pressure built up to have the cork pop when the cage is taken off. Leaving the wire cage in place will keep the cork in place until you're ready to remove it.

Use A Towel

With the bottle upright, drape a towel over the top of the bottle. With the towel there, even if the cork does pop out, it will be caught in the towel. It also catches any champagne that spills - if the uncorking ceremony is not perfect.

Turn The Champagne Bottle

Lay the thin part of the towel draped bottle in your hand and get a good grip on the cork. Slowly turn the bottle while you hold onto the cork, don't yank the cork when you feel it loosen. Gently turn the bottle until you hear a little "pop". The noise comes from the carbon dioxide escaping. A loud pop means that you've let out too much carbon dioxide - usually along with a good bit of the champagne. The soft pop you'll hear means that you've preserved the bubbles in your champagne.

Pour The Champagne

This isn't beer! The secret to pouring champagne is to pour just about an ounce or two fingers worth, of it into the glass. You'll want to use a tall champagne flute or tulip-shaped glass to get the best results. Wait for the initial foaming bubbles to subside, and then pour again until about two-thirds of the glass is full. This method will avoid the mess of the foam spilling over the sides of the glass. Keep the bottle in the ice bucket whenever you aren't pouring.

Enjoy The Champagne

Don't hold the glass by the bowl, use the stem. Refrain from moving your hand up to support the bottom of the bowl where it meets the stem. This warms the champagne quickly. You can serve champagne with oysters and crackers or fruit. Light cheeses are a perfect match.
Dining Out? 

Dining at a restaurant necessitates a certain amount of decorum on behalf of its patrons. In an economy that is becoming increasingly consumerist, the axiom Ďthe customer is always rightí has led many restaurant patrons to adopt this as their own incontrovertible right.

Getting oneís manners back into shape would truly make for a pleasant dining experience and it doesnít require as much effort as you might think. According to Emily Post, the premier authority in manners and etiquette, ďManners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.Ē

Here are some useful tips in Restaurant Etiquette.

1. Timing is critical
Restaurant reservations are like any other appointment. If you make a reservation, stick to it. Call ahead if youíre going to be more than 15 minutes late, and cancel as far in advance as possible if your plans change so that someone else can get a table. It is fine to make multiple reservations for a single evening as long as you cancel the unwanted bookings, again as far in advance as possible.

2. Dress Code
How does one decide what is the appropriate attire for an evening at a given restaurant. Furthermore, how does one determine as to what essentially constitutes casual attire? As fine dining restaurants move away from the old jacket-required policy, it raises the question of just what exactly is appropriate to wear when dining out. Casual attire to one person may mean jeans and a sweatshirt; to another, khakis and penny loafers. If youíre headed to a restaurant for the first time and are unsure about how to dress, call and ask the host outright what the dress code is. When in doubt, itís safer to wear something more conservative.

3. Substitutions and Sending dishes back
Itís always a bummer when everyone in your party is served and your meal is not properly cooked. Do you suffer in silence and pick around the plate without sending it back? If you send it back, youíll have to wait while everyone else eats and then the timing of the whole meal is off. If your order is unsatisfactory, thereís no need to be aggressive with the wait staff, but it is appropriate to say something so the chef and waiter have an opportunity to rectify the situation.

4. Cell Phones
Telephones shouldnít be answered during family meals at home, and itís no different in a restaurant. Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse.

5. Wine Sense
You do not have to be a wine connoisseur to know when a bottle is corked - it happens more than occasionally, and the distinct smell of wet, moldy cardboard is hard to forget. If you think the wine smells or tastes off, you should be confident in telling the waiter or wine director. After all, youíre paying for it, and you should not subject yourself to drinking a corked bottle. Donít feel bad about the restaurant losing money. In many cases, an off bottle gets returned to the distributor. What happens when you order a bottle of wine and simply donít like it? If you confidently ordered the bottle on your own, without consultation from a sommelier or wine steward, it is generally not appropriate to send it back Ė especially if it is an expensive bottle. However, if you requested assistance from the staff and donít like what they suggested, it is within your prerogative to express displeasure with the wine and send it back.

6. Children at Restaurants
Itís never too early to start teaching good restaurant manners to children. Poorly behaved children can ruin the dining experience for other patrons, so if you bring your kids to dine out, make sure they are behaving properly.

7. What about Doggy bags?
Thereís nothing wrong with taking your leftovers home in a doggy bag, especially since portions are usually more than any human should eat in a single sitting.

8. Tipping
As bad as some of us claim to be at math, we all become human calculators when it comes to figuring the standard 15-20% of a check. Tips are a customerís way to provide feedback about the service in a restaurant, and should be used to reflect quality. If service is inattentive, forgetful, rude or careless, leave a smaller tip to indicate your displeasure. Only in extreme cases should a tip never be given. By the same token, if you feel your server would go to any length to make you happy, a 20-25% (or greater) tip is advisable.

9. Communication
The more you communicate to the waiter, the better he or she will be able to serve you. If you are displeased with the dining experience in any way, it is up to you to calmly and politely articulate that to the waiter or manager so they can have an opportunity to fix the problem. If you donít say anything and just wait until the end of the meal to leave a sub-standard tip, the waiter wonít know what went wrong.

Tea parties are meant to be casual gatherings where you can relax and socialize with your friends. Well, here are some tea party etiquette tips you can use:

1. Since it is a tea party, itís okay to eat with fingers. However, if an item is particularly messy (has a runny filling like a pastry), then use a fork.

2. If all the courses are laid out on the table, eat them in this order: first the scones or muffins; then the tiny sandwiches, and last the sweets. Think of it like a meal where you can start with bread, then have the main course, but save the dessert for last.

3. For scones or muffins, break off a bite-size piece, then put it into your mouth.

4. Take bites of the tiny sandwiches. Never stuff the whole thing in their mouth, even though itís small.

5. If using sugar, be careful to not dip the sugar tong or sugar spoon into the tea.

6. If the tea is hot, do not blow on the tea. Leave your teacup on the table to cool.

7. Do not stick your little finger out when drinking tea. Just hold the teacup normally.

8. If there are tea bags, then make sure to place or use a small dish on which the used tea bag can be placed.
Raising A Toast
Some people find toasting intimidating, especially in front of a crowd, but there are some secrets that can make it easier whether it be at a New Year's Eve party, wedding, or birthday celebration.

Toasting Techniques:
  • To get the group's attention, never bang on a glass; simply stand, holding your glass in the air. (Toasts should be offered standing, unless at a private, small affair or in a public restaurant.)
  • The person being toasted remains seated.
  • Don't hold your glass in the air during your toast. Set it down after you get their attention, make your toast, then raise your glass and ask the others to raise theirs for your formal, final words. You can also ask the group to stand for the final words.
  • Guests respond by taking a sip of their drink, not draining the glass. For those not drinking alcohol, toasting with water or a soft drink is acceptable. The person being toasted does not drink.
  • The guest of honor often returns the toast, thanking the host for their kind words and then proposing a toast of their own to the host.


    It's all in the delivery

    First and foremost, don't start off the toast by apologizing for any problems you think you may have in delivering it. Making your listeners aware that you are nervous will make them uncomfortable too. In order to feel more comfortable get familiar with the place and the people you will speak to. Of course you want to be eloquent, so speak slowly, clearly and loud enough if a microphone is not available.

    Finally, if the toast is to honor a certain person, a fun story about him or her is appropriate, but refrain from referring to an "inside joke" which only a few people would understand.

    Humor is good, humiliation is not

    It is ok to open up the history books and tell some fun anecdotes during a toast but avoid anything that will potentially embarrass you or others.

    Keep the toast clean especially if there are children in the room. Make sure to end on a bright note.

    For the toasted

    If you are the one receiving the toast stay seated. If you stand it seems as if you are congratulating yourself. The person being toasted never drinks to him/herself nor even touches their glass during the toast. However, the person being toasted should always stand up and respond to the toast when it is finished.

    The rules change a bit if the toast is not directed at a particular person but is meant for everyone in the room. In that case, everyone can join in.

    Champagne or wine are traditional for making toasts, but non-alcoholic beverages such as water, juice and soda are acceptable substitutes. So go on and raise a toast to good toasting times!

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