Put your best foot forward

In country restaurants, diners dress much more casually than they would in an equivalent dining room in Paris. In warm months, most men don't wear jackets.

Don't reflexively put your napkin on your lap the moment you're seated. That's considered rude, as though you're famished. Instead, wait until you see your food arriving.

In France, few diners order à la carte. Look over the multi-course menus instead — there's often more than one. It will cost considerably less than ordering à la carte.

An entrée is not a main course but an appetizer. The idea is that it's the entry (entrée) into the meal. Main courses are referred to as plats, or plats principaux.

The only kinds of wine the French drink before dinner are Champagne (and other sparkling wines), sweet (moelleux) white or red wines, such as Jurançon, Barsac or Banyuls, and aperitifs, such as Lillet.

Tell the sommelier you'd like to try local wines — that often generates excitement, leading to enthusiastic wine service.

Recognize newfangled menu terms. Snacké means cooked on a griddle. Boosté means boosted with. Condimenté means accompanied by a condiment.

If you're served Granny Smith apple, Parmesan cheese, basil, ginger, bean sprouts, sesame oil, crushed peanuts or Wonder Bread, you're expected to be impressed — these are chic ingredients. Vieille tomate doesn't mean an old tomato; it means heirloom. These are a big deal in France — they're just coming on the scene.

When ordering from a cheese cart or tray, select just three cheeses.

Coffee comes after dessert, not with.