Full course dinner

A full course dinner is a dinner consisting of multiple dishes, or courses. In its simplest form, it can consist of three or four courses, such as appetizers, fish course, entrée, main course and dessert.


Presentation is focused on the platter

In formal dining, a full course dinner can consist of 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, or 16 courses, and, in its extreme form, has been known to have twenty-one courses. In these more formalized dining events, the courses are carefully planned to complement each other gastronomically. The courses are smaller and spread out over a long evening, up to three, four or five hours, and follow conventions of menu planning that have been established over many years. Most courses (excluding some light courses such as sorbets) in the most formal full course dinners are usually paired with a different wine, beer, liqueur, or other spirit.

In service à la russe, courses are brought to the table in sequence and only empty plates are set in front of each guest. Courses are served on platters, and the guests make selections from a variety of dishes and fill their own plate. Food presentation is skillfully focused on the platters. A filled plate is never placed in front of a guest because that would imply limited portions. Guests are expected to choose whatever they like and eat as much as they want.

Presentation is focused on individual portions

In service à la française, food is served "family-style" with all courses on the table at the same time. The guests serve themselves so that all dishes are not served at their optimum temperatures. Alternatively, buffet style is a variation of the French service where all food is available at the correct temperature in a serving space other than the dining table. Guests commute to the buffet to be served or sometimes serve themselves and then carry their plates back to the table.

In American formal dining, each course is served sequentially. Guests are served plates already filled with food in individual portions. Sometimes, guests have an opportunity to choose between vegetarian or meat entrées, but not always. There is no opportunity to request something different, or to ask for more than a single serving. However, portions are usually large. Since there are no platters, food presentation is focused on individual portions, skillfully decorated to look like art, where each plate is a masterpiece.

Table setting

Silverware is set Parisian style (tines and bowl down).Courses (bread would be served throughout; the bread knife is on the knife rest next to the bread plate and there are individual butter dishes with lids):Served with aperitif of sherry (sherry glass): Caviar amuse bouche (mother of pearl caviar spoon) Escargot hors-d'oeuvre (escargot fork; escargot tongs served with plate) Shrimp Cocktail (cocktail fork) Served with white wine (white wine glass): Soup course (soup spoon) Fish course (fish knife and fork; crescent shaped bone dish next to the charger) Lobster course (lobster pick; lobster cracker served with plate)Served with red wine (red wine glass): Entrée course (entree fork and knife) Palate cleanser (ice cream fork above place setting) Relevé (main) course (meat knife and fork) Salad course served at the end of the meal European style (salad fork and knife; some liberty is taken here as a real salad fork has a thicker left tine)Finger bowl service (not shown)Served with digestif of dry champagne (champagne flute): Cheese and nut course (cheese knife and nut pick) Dessert course (dessert fork and spoon; served with coffee or tea service not shown)Also included are individual crystal salt cellars with spoons and sterling silver lidded crystal pepper shakers.Table cloth and dinner napkins are real Irish linen and the candlestick holders are real pewter.

Table settings can be elaborate. More formal settings sometimes include all silverware and glassware that will be needed for the entire meal, and lay out the silverware so that the outermost tools are used for the dishes appearing earliest on the menu. In this scheme, when diners are served the first course, they can depend on finding the correct implement at the outermost edge of the arrangement.

An alternative scheme arranges the place setting so that only the implements needed for the first one or two courses appear in the table setting. As the dinner progresses and new courses arrive, used implements are removed with the dishes, and new silverware is placed next to the plates. This scheme is commonly used when dinners are offered à la carte, so that the most appropriate implement is selected for a given course. For example, some diners may order clear, thin soups and others may order thick, creamy soups. As each of these soups has its own unique spoon, it would be considered improper and impractical to lay out a spoon that may not be needed.

Example meal

The first class passengers aboard the ill-fated ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic were served the following eleven course meal in the first class dining saloon on the night of April 14th, 1912:[1]

First Course — Hors d'oeuvre

Second Course — Soups

Third Course — Fish

Fourth Course — Entrées

Fifth Course — Removes

Sixth Course — Punch or Sorbet

Seventh Course — Roast

Eighth Course — Salad

Ninth Course — Cold Dish

Tenth Course — Sweets

Eleventh Course — Dessert

After Dinner

1 course meal

  1. Main course

2 course meal

  1. Appetizer (Soup/Salad)
  2. Main course

3 course meal

  1. Appetizer (Soup/Salad)
  2. Main course
  3. Dessert

4 course meal

  1. Starter
  2. Main course
  3. Dessert
  4. Coffee

5 course meal

  1. Soup
  2. Fish
  3. Main Course
  4. Dessert
  5. Cheese

6 course meal

  1. Hors d'oeuvres/appetizer
  2. Soup
  3. Fish
  4. Main Course
  5. Salad
  6. Dessert

See also


  1. Archbold, Rick; Dana McCauley (1997). Last dinner on the Titanic ([1st ed.]. ed.). [New York, NY]: Hyperion. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7868-6303-7.
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