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Salad After the Entree

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Does anyone know in which European countries the practice of serving the salad after the entree is common? Do some of the fancy restaurants in the US do this?


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  1. Italy, for one, although, as a tourist, unless you specify otherwise, they'll likely bring it to you before.

    1. It's the norm on the Continent, and makes sense because the normally acidic nature of salad dressing (either wine/vinegar-based or fruit-juice based) helps cleanse the palate from the main course.

      I imagine any US restaurant would be happy to honor a request to serve a salad after the main course if you specify it at the time of ordering.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S.

        Thanks Karl. So, the UK and Ireland don't follow this practice?

      2. I don't know about the rest of Europe, but this is definitely done in France. Some people think there are some health benefits to having an unsaturated fat (olive oil on the salad) after the meal, and that this is a healthier way of eating. The French just do this because it is their way, and appeals to their palates. I happen to enjoy eating salad afterwards, myself. A typical French meal (in a household that has a servant or a very ambitious cook) goes in this order:

        aperitifs, probably not at the table. After the you sit down:

        Fish course, with appropriate wine
        Meat or poultry course, with a different wine
        Cheese course
        Coffee, and possibly chocolates, sometimes away from table.

        Even fancier households and restaurants have additional courses. I've seen a shellfish course in between soup and fish. I've also seen a separate vegetable course, in addition to any accompaniment vegetables, after the meat or poultry course. I'm sure there are additional courses at the very fanciest events. There is often a sorbet/ice course after the meat course, too. But I've never seen a "proper" French restaurant or home meal that had salad before the main course.

        Also, don't call it an entree in French -- that means a first course, not like a main course as it does in America. I've heard that some French have adopted the American/English meaning, but I just avoid the word to lessen any confusion.

        A nice, light, but strong-flavored salad is a good palate cleanser after a heavy meat course. Also, that slight vinegary flavor you have in your mouth gets you all ready for the cheese course.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Mrs. Smith

          "Also, don't call it an entree in French -- that means a first course"

          Oops, I knew that, at least in theory. In practice it's an entirely different matter. ;-)

          I really wish other countries wouldn't adapt to American tastes and customs. I know they do this in fear of losing tourist dollars, but IMHO those who insist on having things like they are "back home" should just stay home. (If you wish to respond to this rant, please do it on the Not About Food board so the moderators aren't forced to yell at me.)

          1. re: Mrs. Smith

            Agree with you, Mrs. Smith. In France I was always served salad after the main course - in restaurants and in friends' homes. I like salad after a meal but can't get used to eating various cheeses and bread after the salad. I find cheese too heavy after a meal but then again French portions are not as huge as in the U.S.

          2. My experience in Spain is that they serve the salad first.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ironmom

              Hmmm ... after reading the observation posted below, I'm wondering if that's their custom or if they knew you were an American tourist?

              Guess I need to find a way to research this.

              1. re: ironmom

                My experience back in 1990 in SPain is that this varied depending on whether you got the tourist course meal, or not.

                1. re: Karl S.

                  I didn't order any tourist meals. I always ordered typical Spanish dishes (platos típicos) from the la carte menu. In Galicia, where I was, the tourists were all European. The restaurants had salads listed in the appetizer section, separate from the main courses. My experience with regular food (home and everyday restaurants) there is that the standard Spanish menu involves bread, an appetizer, which may be a salad, a main course, and dessert. Plus wine and coffee.

                  I didn't order any set menus at all. Perhaps when you order a pricy multi-course menu (in the sort of restaurant that serves that), they do not serve it Spanish style, as such a menu is not typically Spanish.

                  Maybe it's a regional thing, I was only in Galicia.

                  1. re: ironmom

                    That formula -- bread, app which may be salad, main course, dessert, etc. -- is typical of less formal French restos as well.

                2. re: ironmom

                  Mine too. And it had nothing to do with tourists. This was some time ago; maybe they've Frenchified since then.

                  1. re: aromatherapy

                    Maybe it has to do with going to * restaurants, which I did not do. There was one I tried to seek out, but didn't find, maybe it had moved?

                    The only 4* restaurant listed in the city guide I picked up (mind you, this is in Spanish) was in the grand hotel in town. Before checking it out, I asked the people in my group with experience, and they weren't sure it was worth trying. And these were people who are easily impressed. I had a drink on the terrace to scope it out and ordered an appetizer. The drink was great, if overpriced. The food sucked, no other way to describe it. I can't imagine what criteria the rating was based on.

                3. Many of the fine restaurants in England and Scotland serve salads after the main course. Some of the "new English" places do not.

                  1. Les Grubbes have been eating our salades after our mains for decades. Virtually no US restaurants serve meals in this order, but will do so grudgingly by degrees (interrupts the normal flow of the kitchen, you know). In addition, you must be prepared to go 2 out of 3 falls with the buspersons to keep your bread & butter on the table until the salads arrive. We think it’s worth it.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Grub
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      I like to have salad after the main course at home sometimes. Works perfectly after something like a risotto or rich pasta (we're Americans, we have it for the main course, y'know) because it's a good foil for the richness and because risotto must be attended to and then serves immediately, whereas if you've prepped the parts beforehand, it takes only a moment to assemble and serve a green salad.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        We always have salad after the main course (unless it IS the main course). I mix my dressing right in the bowl -- rub it with crushed garlic, splash of balsamic or RWV, dab of moutarde, S&P, whisk in a little oil. Then I pile the greens on top and put the bowl on the table & toss just before serving.

                        1. re: GG Mora
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          My recent favorite, no-work, salad dressing (for a green salad with some sliced oranges thrown in, plus other stuff if we feel like it) is equal part fresh-squeezed OJ, aged sherry vinegar and EVOO. Plus salt and pepper, of course.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            In Spain, they always serve salads dry at the table, with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar for you to dress it with.

                            I serve it myself that way now. Very fresh and clean tasting.

                            My daughter brought by her boyfriend and his brother for a meal over the holidays. I dressed the greens like that in a bowl, sprinkle salt, grind pepper, sprinkle vinegar, pour oil, and toss. They had no idea what I had done, and her boyfriend was gushing over my "salad dressing"!

                            1. re: ironmom
                              Caitlin McGrath

                              Yup, the salt, pepper, oil and vinegar over the greens in the salad bowl is standard for me, is what I grew up with, is what my parents grew up with...I don't really like it in a restaurant though, because there's no way to properly toss a bunch of greens with oil and vinegar on a plate, and it's just not good (to me) if it's not well tossed.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                I found that the key is to be VERY STINGY with the vinegar. Sprinkle in drops, don't pour. Oil is easier to drizzle evenly over the greens. That way you don't have to worry about vinegary sections, even though you can only push the greens around on your plate with a fork. Try it next time you're in Spain with a plate of dry greens and no dressing for for your salad.

                                I also like it because I can keep oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in my locker at work, whereas dressing would need to be refrigerated and replenished.

                                It suits me very well, as I never cared for the crappy commercially available sweet-and-sour/starch-and-gum/rehydrated-herbs-and-spices bottled dressings, anyway.

                                Homemade dressing is good at first, but I can't use up a recipe in a week, and a week later, it's not so good.

                                1. re: ironmom

                                  I think the Italian proverb about dressing salads is to be prudent with salt (Americans almost invariably forget to salt their greens first, which missing the original point of SAL(A)T), stingy with vinegar and generous with oil -- Americans are usually too generous with the vinegar and too stingy with the oil.

                                  1. re: ironmom

                                    Two thoughts:

                                    In Spain, the wine vinegar is quite different from what you get in the States. The closest thing I have found here is sherry vinegar.

                                    Second, you might want to try mixing oil and vinegar dressing or a vinaigrette the way it is done in France. Place salt, pepper and vinegar in the bottom of the salad bowl, then drizzle in the oil while whisking with your fork. It becomes an emulsion that way. (For a vinaigrette, you add mustard, herbs and egg to the "starter.") After the dressing is the right consistency, you then toss the greens in the bowl.

                                    1. re: Kirk

                                      The vinegar they served us wasn't any kind of fancy vinegar, like sherry vinegar. It was probably factory vinegar, as the ordinary table oil was probably not extra virgin, as it was quite light in color. But we used so little, it wasn't apparent.

                                      You're shooting for a most perfect salad, and making a show, to boot. I'm just trying to dress my greens.

                                      1. re: ironmom

                                        You're absolutely right about the vinegar...it's cheap stuff, as is the oil. When I lived in Spain vinegar was about $1 a litre, and it was usually white wine vinegar that was served in restaurants and cafes. I suggested sherry vinegar, because the white wine vinegar I have found here doesn't cut it. However, I just found that tienda.com sells white wine vinegar for $4.95 a half litre.

                                        The bottom of the bowl mixing trick isn't meant to be a showstopper in my house. It's simply the easiest way I have found to get the vinegar and oil to mix together until they make it into my mouth.

                      2. In early December, my wife and I visited Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia for their "Grand Illumination" and kick-off for their Christmas season. We attended a colonial "groaning board" at the Williamsburg Lodge. The meal was served in several generous courses. Long after the main course and several courses closer to dessert, we were served a salad. Since it was "family style," we were seated at a large table with people from all over the country, and there was unanimous confusion as to why our colonial ancestors would have waited so late in the meal for the salad. We nibbled, but were already so full, and we knew dessert was right around the corner. I can't find the menu, or I would include it here. Interestingly, I do not remember our other colonial meals, at various Williamsburg colonial taverns later in the week, "surprising" us with a late-course salad.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Ric

                          It's hard to imagine that Colonists in the Washington area would have had any fresh greens available at Christmas time.

                          1. re: ironmom

                            Weird, huh? Colonial Williamsburg is so authentic otherwise.

                            1. re: GG Mora

                              This thread took a left turn, so I'll go with it. The only connection to food might be that Williamsburg Christmas decorations sometime include fruit. We saw one "classic" door while we were there decorated with lemons. They are using less fruit than many years ago so that the materials don't have to be replaced as often.
                              RE: authenticity, the outside Christmas decorations at Williamsburg seem to be products of "Colonial Revival" ideas that were popular when Colonial Williamsburg was being restored- circa mid-1930's. A decorations contest sprang forth in the Historic area. Authenticity concerns caused the banning of ribbon and bows, fake fruit, and any material not available to 18th century residents of Williamsburg. Materials available in the Tidewater area included poinsettias, pepper berries, eucalyptus, pomegranates, seed pods, pine cones, magnolia leaves (lots),boxwood, and oyster shells, and more perishables like apples, pears, and lemons.
                              In the past few years, conservation concerns led to elimination of running cedar and mountain laurel.

                              Also, as far as historic autheticity goes, decorating the church for Christmas Day was known in Colonial days and is mentioned in an old English rhyme: "Holly and ivy, box and bay,
                              Put in the church on Christmas Day."
                              Art prints from the Colonial Period show many artistic arrangements of fruit suitable for the Christmas table, mantels and entry halls at Christmas time. Hanging simple sprigs of holly from window panes (on the inside) is also confirmed by art prints. The famous Williamsburg Apple Cone (interior table decoration) is copied from a print from the 18th century.
                              We bought a simple boxwood door wreath at Patrick Henry's home in Brookneal, Virginia, hung it on our Florida door and it held up pretty well.

                              Sooooo...interior decorations were a part of 18th century life at Christmastime in Williamsburg. The exteriors likely not. All the Williamsburg staff candidly discuss this so that the tourist who is really curious about "authenticity" doesn't get the wrong idea. And apparently, lots and lots of varied natural materials were and are available for decorating in Virginia in early December. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Williamsburg at ANY time of the year!
                              OK- let's get back to talking CHOW!

                              Link: http://www.history.org/foundation/jou...

                        2. Among most households in Europe, the decision as to when the salad is served is based on the type of entree. As someone else mention, a salad works better after a heavy entree of meat or heavy pasta to ease the palate into cheese and dessert. However, if the main course is suttle, such as fish, most would prefer the salad as a build up toward the entree. The type of salad is also important.

                          1. The classic French menu progression calls for a "salade digestif" to be served after the main courses, before the cheese and dessert courses.

                            Many classical French restaurants still follow this practice.

                            The salad served should be a SIMPLE salad of a neutral lettuce green (red-leaf, green-leaf, boston, bibb, or even iceberg) with a simple vinaigrette dressing.