It’s well known that fancy French meals are multi-course. Just what is each of the courses, and in what order are they supposed to be served? Here’s a breakdown of the mystique:
Bread is present throughout the meal as a matter of course. The French view it as a symbol of hospitality, and would never serve a meal without it. Water is scarce, though. Wine is the classic beverage of choice for meals, and is available readily. Don’t worry if you’re truly thirsty for water. Just request “flat” water if you want tap water. If you don’t specify the type, you will be served sparkling mineral water.
Hors d’oeuvres translate into “out of works,” the “works” being the main course. These are basic appetizers, meant to stimulate the appetite. They’re traditionally served first, sometimes with a small cocktail called an aperitif.
The Fish Course:
A fish course garnished with vegetables sometimes comes between the starter and the meat course. This will be followed by a small dish of lemon or lime sorbet to cleanse the palate and refresh the senses.
The Main Course:
An elaborate meat or poultry dish accompanied by a vegetable garnish will be served.
The Salad Course:
Traditionally, simple greens tossed with vinaigrette are served as a means of cleansing the palate and aiding digestion. Modern French cuisine has brought about some very elaborate salads and dressing flavors.
The Cheese Plate:
The French eat more cheese than anyone else in the world. After dinner they appreciate a selection of it served on a wooden board with assorted cut fruit. This signals the end of a casual, family-style meal.
The Sweet Dessert Course:
Special occasions call for a treat. French desserts are indulgent, rich, and so beautifully decorated. A small demitasse of freshly brewed café usually accents the sweets. What a fantastic way to end a formal meal!