This section is from the book "The Epicurean", by Charles Ranhofer. Also available from Amazon: The Epicurean, a Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art.
Should there be no ladies present, cigarettes can be handed round at the same time. Remove the two white wine and sherry glasses, and replace them by those used for Burgundy, also remove the cold side dishes. Ten to fifteen minutes must now be allowed between the courses.
The roast may be displayed on the table before carving, this being frequently requested by epicures; should there be several roasts, carve them all at the same time and pass them round according to desire, adding a little watercress for poultry, and should there be canvas-back duck, let currant jelly and fried hominy be served with also a mayonnaise of celery.
Serve the Burgundy from bottles laid flat in baskets (Fig. 767) holding the basket in the right hand and a white napkin in the left.
Serve the cold dishes after the roast, these to be either goose livers (foies-gras) with truffles or boned turkey. The foies-gras must have a spoon to remove it with, and the boned turkey be cut into thin slices, and offer both to the guest at the same time, accompanied by green salads.
Serve Johannisberg or Yin de Paille.
Now remove everything from the table with the exception of the dessert, and to avoid using a brush lift up the extra napkins in front of each person, folding them in two so that the table is neat and clean without being obliged to use a brush or scraper. Lay the dessert plates on the table, and continue the service for the hot dessert.
Make a distinct service for the hot entremets, then serve the cheese.
Serve a tine Laffitte Bordeaux.
Make another service for the cold entremets and ices.
Instead of serving the cheese after the hot entremets it may be done now, which is in fact its proper place; pass around the fresh fruits, stewed, candied and dried fruits, bonbon cases, bonbons, mottoes, ices, strawberries and raspberries with cream when in season, passing cakes around at the same time.
Serve Madeira wine, Muscatel and Frontignan, also plates of salted almonds.
It is now time for the hostess to bow, push back her chair and prepare to rise, this being a signal for the ladies to retire; after they have returned to the drawing-room, coffee is passed pound on a salver containing spoons, hot water, sugar and cream. A few moments later another waiter comes forward with an empty tray to remove the cups the ladies hand him.
The gentlemen partake of their coffee in the dining-room; at the same time serve them Kirseh, brandy, chartreuse, cigars and cigarettes. The doors are closed and the ladies and waiters have retired so as to allow the gentlemen more freedom to talk among themselves, still it will be necessary to enter the drawing room and dining-room occasionally in order to see whether anything be needed so as to avoid being called as much as possible.
After half an hour or so, the gentlemen will rejoin the ladies in the drawing-room and then tea is served. The tea service is accomplished by passing around on trays, tea, sugar, hot water, cream, cups, spoons and slices of lemon. A few moments later another waiter removes the empty cups on a tray.
After the tea the service is considered to be ended.
There are two different services in use: The French and the Russian.
Although recognizing the priority of both of these services, it will be well to mention the difference existing between them and the English and the American service; first, they differ in the classification of the bills of fare and certain changes in the table service, these alone are sufficient to be interesting.
The old style of French service threatens to disappear entirely and is rarely used, except on very rare occasions.
The three services placed on the table, one after the other, had certainly the advantage of displaying the culinary labor as well as the most variegated and rare products by exhibiting them in all their profuseness. But the great inconvenience is the preparation of dishes beforehand in the kitchen in order to have each service ready at once and to keep them hot in heaters before beginning to serve the dinner.
The dishes for the first course are placed on the table in chafing dishes provided with covers, to be lifted off when the guests are seated, and left on the table till ready to be carved.
Of course this inconvenience is somewhat remedied by keeping the heaters and chafing dishes at a given heat, and there must be placed near the table, either behind a screen in the diningroom or else in an adjoining pantry, a bain-marie with all the necessary sauces required for the dinner, and as soon as the meats are carved, each one is to be covered with its respective sauce before being handed around.
But notwithstanding all possible care and attention the entrees are apt to lose much of their finer qualities by the very act of being cooked and dressed beforehand, then kept hot in these heaters or chafing dishes.
Still this could scarcely have been the sole cause for abandoning the old system, for it continued in usage for several centuries. We are, however, obliged to recognize that first-class families have ceased to make a display of the great luxuriousness indulged in, in the past; to-day they are more restrained, the help less numerous and the chief cook frequently alone with one kitchen assistant, having no longer an extra man for pastry, confectionery and ices. The chef himself must see to the preparation of the pastry, ices and desserts. There is now scarcely to be found any house where for twelve persons they employ a chef, an assistant and a pastry cook and the remainder of the help corresponding to this great amount of luxury.
The bills of fare are simpler; instead of dressing and arranging the service on the table itself, many houses have a mixed service; this is made by presenting the dishes on the table, then removing them to be carved.
The general desire of the day is to dine quicker; taste changes with the fashion. The old French service is fast disappearing, and as it becomes more simple it gradually evolves into a mixed Russian and French service.