We love Denny’s and fast food, but on certain occasions you need to dress up and go to Peter Luger and have a full course meal. For those of us who are always on the go, the concept of a full course meal is downright alien. If you’re one of those, then this is your introduction.
Full course meals are served in the afternoons or evenings. Sequences may vary but the following is quite common in Western restaurants.
- The meal commences with the entree or appetizer. It is served in small portions usually without meat. Finger foods are common appetizers.
- The next course varies, but it’s always light, i.e fish or vegetable based.
- The main course follows and is the biggest.
- A vegetable or salad course follows. The two words are used interchangeably here. In some restaurants the vegetables are just salad garnishes, and the salad may be served prior to the main course.
- A cheese course may follow. It is usually paired with wine. In some countries the cheese is served as an appetizer. In many European countries and the US, the course is served between dessert and the main course.
- Dessert is served last. It may be accompanied by wine or fruit.
Full course meals are only served in formal restaurants. The number of courses vary, with five being the usual and the minimum. However there are larger full course meals that consist of up to 16, 17 or even 21 courses.
The more numerous courses are spread out over 5 hours and made of smaller portions. A regular 5 course meal is usually completed in 2 hours. The bigger the multi-course meal, the more beverages are provided, with multiple drinks often used. The most popular are liquor, beer and wine.
If the style is service à la russe, the courses are delivered to the table one after the other. Your plate is empty and you fill it up from the selections offered on the platters. You choose whatever you want from the choices and eat as much as you want.
If the presentation is service à la française, all the courses are set on the table and you pick and choose the dishes. A variation of this is the buffet where the guest goes to the buffet table, makes a selection and returns to the dinner table.
Composition of a Full Course Meal
The following is a basic guide for the various full course meal compositions.
- 1 course – consists of just the main course
- 2 courses – the appetizer / entree and the main course. The appetizer is usually salad for dinner and soup for lunch. In some cases the 2 course meal consists of the main course and dessert.
- 3 courses – often consists of an appetizer, the main course and desserts
- 4 courses – usually made up of a soup appetizer, main dish, dessert and drink. Another variant consists of a hot appetizer, salad, the main course and dessert.
- 5 courses – a 5 course meal consists of soup, fish, the main course, dessert and cheese. It could also consist of a cold appetizer, soup, a hot appetizer, the main course and dessert.
- 6 courses – a six course meal consists of an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres, soup, fish, salad, the main course and dessert. Alternatively the meal could be made up Amuse Buche’, soup, an appetizer, salad, the main course and dessert.
Tips and Suggestions
- Take your time as there is a lot of food here obviously. This also applies to the drinks as you don’t want to end up drunk before the main course.
- Partake as much as you can. Try all the options even if you’re not familiar with them.
- Don’t take more than you can eat. Remember you’ve got to pace yourself.
- Engage in conversation. This isn’t a race as even a 5 course meal takes about 2 hours to finish. Stop between bites and savor the taste while chatting with the other son the table.
- For that 17 course meal, it’s all right to get up from your seat and stretch out. as mentioned earlier, these can take up to 5 hours so no need to rush.
- You don’t need to eat everything if you don’t want to. Just pick and choose.
- Don’t call out the staff. They know when to serve the next course so just be patient and enjoy your meal.
- Enjoy the moment. Not everyone can have a full course meal so make the most of it.
And that is how a full course menu works. It really isn’t complicated and it is actually a pleasure. Don’t feel pressure that you’re not doing it right and just enjoy yourself.