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A modern hostess limits the courses to six

Offer your guests a choice of soups.  

Serve a chilled dish of sorbet immediately before the main course. 
It is not counted as a separate course
but can be a refreshing addition. 

 

Soup to Nuts

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You have heard the term "Soup to Nuts".  This idiom suggests that something is elaborate and formal.  It comes from the courses in a formal dinner which started with soup and ended with the nut course.  This is a bit of stretch as in a truly elaborate formal dinner soup would have been the third course.  The courses were exhaustive and could number up to 20 for a single meal.  Obviously this was designed to impress as not only did the host provide a huge quantity of food it would require elaborate serving pieces and utensils plus virtual armies of kitchen staff and servers.
 
Fortunately, we have gotten away from this exaggerated display of wealth and power. Today's formal dinner is a delightful experience where the hostess can create an elegant but relaxed atmosphere where her guests can enjoy the company of others.   We recommend that you limit your number of courses to six.  Here is a suggested list and description.  You can pick and choose but remember that you need to provide a balanced menu so that your guests are satisfied but not overwhelmed with rich foods.  
 
MENU
 
FIRST COURSE
Appetizer
(or "starters" as the British call it)
This can be a shell fish such as a shrimp cocktail
or fruit cup.
 
SECOND COURSE
Soup
  Lady Virginia likes to offer her guests a choice of a clear soup or a cream soup.  In hot weather a cold soup such as Vichyssoise or Gazpacho is a welcome change. [ Note:  In a formal meal, the courses are brought in from the kitchen and everyone gets the same thing.  Thus, by deviating and offering a choice for soup, the guest can have a bit more control.  The gentlemen will generally select a heavy, cream soup and the ladies will opt for the lighter clear soup. It will make this course more of a production however, because the server will need to supply the guest with the proper bowl and utensil for the type of soup. It also requires a steady hand to ladle the soup and serve it.]
 
THIRD COURSE
Fish
 
FOURTH COURSE
Roast
 
FIFTH COURSE
Game
 
SIXTH COURSE
Salad
As we have said before, this is the proper order for serving the salad. 
It should be a light, crisp refreshing salad with a light dressing.
 
SEVENTH COURSE
Dessert
 
EIGHTH COURSE
Fresh Fruit Crackers and Cheese
with after dinner coffee (demi-tasse)
 
NINTH COURSE
Nuts and Raisins

 A simple but complete formal menu could include: 
  1. Appetizer,
  2. Soup,
  3. Roast or fish with vegetables and starch,
  4. Garden salad,
  5. Dessert and coffee.
  6. To add a European touch you could offer fresh fruit and cheese for dessert served with cookies, chocolate truffles, sponge cake or pound cake.     
Refer to the other sections under the Bonus button
to find the proper table settings and placement of items for each course.
 
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