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Feb 25, 2009 10:07 AM

First formal Obama White House dinner -- salad after main?

Looking at this photo of the menu from the White House National Governors Association dinner, it looks like the salad course follows the main course, as is common in Europe. At the risk of sounding like a hick, is this arrangement of courses standard for formal dinners in the U.S.? (looks yummy, btw).

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  1. In the Bush 41 White House, at all of the formal dinners (and he sure had a lot of them) the salad was always served after the main, before dessert.

    1. I think "in US" is a pretty broad term. Some restaurants serve the salad as a first course, some after the main.

      At Chez Julia, I always serve the salad after the main, and when I was catering, that was the way Feastivals' formal dinners were always served.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune

        I think this misrepresents the typical ordering in the US, which is salad first. It is a rarity that a menu features the salads as a "contorno," for instance, even among Italian restaurants going for authenticity..

      2. Yes, at Chez Roxlet, the salad is always after the main, except if it's some sort of special "composed" salad specifically designed to be a first course.

        1. How did you read that?

          I thought salad after the main is a European thing... But I don't know. I think it's a great way to cleanse your palate.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Apple

            I read for a living (I've been a proofreader/editor for over 20 years)! I agree it's not easy to read, but the first item is crab agnolottis with roasted sunchokes, the second is wagyu beef and scallops with red carrots, portobello mushrooms and creamed spinach (according to a video clip I saw, the White House chef makes creamed spinach without cream by pureeing some of the spinach and whipping it, then folding it into the rest of the spinach), and for the third, the words "salad and pistachios" are quite clear. It looks like the word preceding that might be citrus, and then according to the next line it has some kind of honey vinaigrette. For the dessert all that can be read is "cobbler" but according to the blog this was posted on, it was huckleberry.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Ah, here's the complete menu:

              Chesapeake Crab Agnolottis with Roasted Sunchokes
              Wine pairing: Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California)
              Wagyu Beef and Nantucket Scallops
              Glazed Red Carrots, Portobello Mushroom and Creamed Spinach
              Wine pairing: Archery Summit Pinot Noir "Estate" 2004 (Oregon)
              Winter Citrus Salad with Pistachios and Lemon Honey Vinaigrette
              Huckleberry Cobbler with Caramel Ice Cream
              Wine pairing: Black Star Farms "A Capella" Riesling Ice Wine 2007 (Michigan)

            2. re: Apple

              So explain to me the sense of the order here. Why is salad after the main course such a big deal, outside of the fact that most restaurants serve it the other way around.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                It's not. I was just curious about the structure of formal dinners -- since I never go to them!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Well, that is what I was asking. Why the distinction?

                  For example, in western cuisine, a soup would be served at the beginning whereas in China, the soup could be served anywhere. I went to a banquet in Fuzhou and they served three or four different soups and the soup is usually served at the end. I never understood that sequence and I was asking to find out about the order of serving the salads.

                2. re: Phaedrus

                  I believe the practice of serving a salad before the main started in restaurants catering to the new tourists traveling by train. They had a limited amount of time for feed everyone and so had a prepared salad ready will the rest of the meal was completed.

                  Please don't ask for citations! This factoid (real or not) is lodged in the vast beyond of my grey matter.

                3. re: Apple

                  I thought it was about cleansing the body, not the palate. Hmmm.

                4. Whatever it is, sign me up!

                  I like salad first, and I like it after the main. When it's served with a nice broiled goat cheese, I like it served four times right in a row, thanks.