The following is a common sequence for multi-course meals:
1. The meal begins with an entrée: a small serving that usually does not include red meat. It is sometimes referred to as a soup course as soups, bisques and consommés are popular entreés. In Italian custom, antipasto is served, usually finger-food which does not contain pasta or any starch. In the United States the term appetizer is usually used in place of entrée as entrée is used to refer to the main course.
2. This may be followed by a variety of dishes, including a possible fish course or other relevés (lighter courses), each with some kind of vegetable. The number and size of these intermittent courses is entirely dependent on local custom.
3. Following these is the main course or central part of the meal. This is the most important course and is usually a larger portion than all others. The main course is called an entrée in the United States.
4. Next comes the salad course: although "salad" may often refer to a cooked vegetable, rather than the greens most people associate with the word. According to The Joy of Cooking, greens serve "garnish duty only" in a salad course. Note that in the United States, Great Britain and parts of Europe, the salad course (usually a green salad) is served at some point before the main course.
5. The meal will often culminate with a dessert, either hot or cold, sometimes followed with a final serving of hot or cold fruit and accompanied by a suitable dessert wine.
6. The meal may carry on with a cheese selection, accompanied by an appropriate selection of wine. In many countries cheeses will be served before the meal as an appetizer, and in the United States often between the main course and dessert. Nuts are also a popular after-meal selection (thus the common saying "from soup to nuts," meaning from beginning to end).
Sorbet or other palate cleansers might be served between courses.
Before the meal, a host might serve a selection of appetizers or hors d'œuvre with appropriate wine or cocktails, and after the meal, a host might serve snacks, sweets such as chocolate, coffee, and after-dinner drinks (cognac, brandy, liqueur, or similar). These are not considered courses in and of themselves.
A meal may also begin with an amuse-bouche. An amuse-bouche, also called an amuse-gueule, is a tiny bite-sized morsel served before the hors d'œuvre or first course of a meal. These, often accompanied by a proper complementing wine, are served as an excitement of taste buds to both prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef's approach to cooking.
An entremet is a small dish that may be served between courses, or as a dessert.
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Definition of a Multi-Course Meal:
"Most Western-world multicourse meals follow a standard sequence, influenced by traditional French haute cuisine. Each course is supposed to be designed with a particular size and genre that befits its place in the sequence. There are variations depending on location and custom.