The order of the dinner service is soup, fish, flesh, fowl. These may be supplemented to any extent with entremets and entrees. Mets are the principal dishes. Entremets, the dishes served between the mets. Entries, dishes which are served between any of the courses.
I. Course. Canapes of caviare, small bits of anchovy toast, or in their season muskmelons, are sometimes served as the first course, but ordinarily oysters or clams on the half shell is the first dish presented. The smallest-sized shell-fish are preferable to the large ones. One half dozen are served on each plate and placed symmetrically on or around a bed of cracked ice; a quarter of a lemon cut lengthwise is placed in the center. Cayenne pepper and grated horse-radish are passed with this course, also very thin slices of brown bread buttered and folded together, then cut into small squares or triangular-shaped pieces. The plates holding the shell-fish may be placed on the table before dinner is announced; but as there is no place to conveniently lay the folded napkin except on the plate, it is as well not to serve the mollusks until the guests are seated.
II. Course: Soup. It is better to serve a clear soup when the dinner is to be of many courses, as heavy soups are too hearty. The choice of two kinds of soup may be offered. Grated Parmesan cheese may be passed with clear soups, dice of fried bread with cream soups, and toasted cracker biscuits with any kind of soup. One ladleful of soup is sufficient for each person, and a second portion is not offered. An anecdote is told of a punctilious person who, being asked if he would be helped again to soup, answered, "Thanks, not to-day".
Hors d'ceuvres, which are radishes, celery, olives, etc., are passed after the soup. Salted almonds are taken at any time through the dinner.
III. Course: Fish. Fish, if boiled or fried, is served upon a napkin. If baked no napkin is used, and a little sauce is spread on the dish. Boiled potatoes are served with boiled fish, and are more attractive when cut with a potato-scoop into small balls. Cucumbers dressed with oil and vinegar are also served with fish.
IV. Course: Entrees. Entrees can be served between any of the courses, or they may be omitted altogether; but a variety of attractive dishes come under this head, and usually one is served after the fish.
V. Course: Vegetables. A vegetable, such as asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, is served at this time, although the French reserve the vegetable until after the joint. Only one vegetable besides potato is permitted with a meat course, and if more are wanted they are served as a separate course.
VI. Course. The joint with one green vegetable and potato.
If preferred, a cheese omelet or souffle may be used instead of punch for this course.
VIII. Course: Game and Salad, or Poultry and Salad. Game is usually not passed, but the portions are laid on the individual plates by the butler. This is done in order to serve it as hot as possible. A small cold plate is sometimes given for the salad; crescent-shaped plates are made for this use. With ducks, celery and small squares of fried hominy are served. When game or poultry is not used, cheese may be served with the salad, or cheese-straws instead of cheese. When salad is served with game or poultry, cheese and crackers may be served immediately afterward as a separate course, or they may be passed after the dessert.
IX. Course. Sweet puddings, souffles, Bavarian cream, etc.
XII. Course. Coffee, liqueurs.
Of the courses given above, the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh, and a choice of either the ninth or tenth, may all, or any one of them, be omitted.
Black coffee in small cups is passed on a tray, with cream and sugar, in the drawing- and smoking-rooms after the guests have left the table.
Apollinaris or other sparkling water is passed later, and is usually welcomed.