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Dec 20, 2004 12:55 PM

Correct order of courses on a menu

  • s

i am planning a christmas dinner
and i pretty much i have my menu set

i just cant work out the order
(its the crab salad/soup order that causes me most oncern)

1)canapes - mushroom soup - crab salad - meat course - salad/cheese - dessert - petit fours & coffee


2)canapes - crab salad - mushroom soup - meat course salad/cheese - dessert - petit fours & coffee

I am not certain if you are supposed to start light and get progrssively heavier


alternate light/heavier/lighter/heavy

my boyfriend is Fench which means it is predetermined that we will have the salad and cheese after main course and before dessert

anyone know of any websites explaining how to choose a menu order?
or anyone have any tips?


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  1. I don't know about the correct order, but if it were my menu, I would either choose between the soup & crab salad and not have the other, or have the soup and then a green salad after the meat course.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      It's not an either or, its an everything, a christmas extravaganza. with wine pairings for each course
      but each course will be very small, just a taster, so people dont get too full.
      that's the plan.

    2. I think that your first line-up is the better one -- first course, fish course, meat, salad/cheese, dessert. I love salad and cheese after the main course. My family always preferred to have a salad course and then a cheese course, but I like them together.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nancy

        I agree that the first line-up is better. I like the idea of a warm bowl of soup prior to the cold crab salad. I think the salad's flavors will also serve as a bit of a palate cleanser to herald in the meat main course. Sounds like a wonderful meal. Def. wouldn't cut anything out since the occasion calls for an extravagant, slowly-unfolding meal that allows you and your guests to linger at the table.

      2. Are the canapes warm or cold?

        I sometimes like to alternate warm/cold courses. For extra-specialness, warm plates for the warm, and chill plates for the cold; it *does* make a difference.

        1. I vote crab, then soup. I like to start light and go heavy. Plus, if you are doing a red with your soup you would have to switch back to white for the crab, wouldn't you?

          Sounds like a great dinner. Are you making your own petit fours?

          1. e
            Eldon Kreider

            If you are following a tradition that goes back to the 19th century, the order is canapes, soup, fish, meat, salad, cheese, dessert. In this tradition the canapes are served away from the table accompanied by aperitifs or cocktails. Soup might be accompanied by dry sherry, madeira, white wine or no wine. Then you follow a pattern of white wine with fish, red wine with meat, different (often fuller bodied) red wine with cheese and sweet wine or Champagne with dessert. This pattern pretty much died out by the 1970s except for a few fanatics who might well be Chowhounds today. I think bringing the old pattern back with a little pruning is a charming idea for a festive meal.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Eldon Kreider

              Perfect. yes, thank you.
              I think I might be a fanatic in the making.

              The only thing i would disagree with is the champagne with desserts. Dessert wine all the way as

              We'll have champagne with our salmon / tuna canapes, (which I'd already planned 'away from the table' followed by a slither of foie gras and sauternes, and then maybe sherry would be good with the soup which will have sherry in it anyway.

              1. re: Sixy Beast
                Eldon Kreider

                Demi sec or sec Champagne can be great with the right dessert. There was a fad, thankfully dead, of serving brut with dessert. Disgusting. In any case, I wouldn't serve two sparkling wines in the same meal unless the theme was sparkling wine. After typing the last sentence I realized that a dinner with multiple courses each matched with a sparking wine could be neat. However, I have never had a sparkling wine that was a good match with any cheese I know. I won't say that such a match doesn't exist, just that I haven't found it.

                You might consider a sercial or rainwater madeira for the soup. These are quite dry unlike a bual (also spelled boal) or malmsey, which are as sweet as cream sherry. The flavors are different from sherry. Dry madeira with turtle soup is a classic match.

                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                  why thank you for the tips Eldon
                  I'll research and check them out
                  I sure am looking forward to buying my wines at K&L on Wednesday!
                  It's a relief that everyone is chipping in towards the cost of the meal, so i don't have to worry about being too meagre or cheap with the selections.

                  1. re: Sixy Beast

                    I'd always hated wine with sweets until one year I brought Elio Perrone "Bigaro," a Moscato d'Asti type sparkler with about 15% Brachetto, giving it a nice red color and a little bit more of a fruity than floral aroma. It was brilliant with chocolate cake. It's a bit late to get the "Bigaro" from the Rare Wine Co. in Sonoma, unless you're willing to schlep up there or spring for express shipping, but I would think a good, high-acid Moscato d'Asti would also match well with cakey desserts like Petits Fours. At K&L I like the 2003 Saracco. The Bera is good on its own but perhaps not acid enough to pair with sweet dessert. I liked the Rivetti "La Spinetta," but I haven't tried the "Bricco Quaglia" that they're now carrying. I just picked up a bottle of the 2003 Boroli "Aureum," which I haven't tried yet, but the website claims it'd be good with a fruit torte.


              2. re: Eldon Kreider

                I agree, assuming that each course has it's own wine selection, especially considering the fish canapes.

                Wish I could be there!