Wine On The Menu
Menus Through The Ages
Wines Fit For Kings
In the French Fashion
Sequence Of Serving

The European medieval banquet would have been impossible to match with wine in today's terms:
not only were many of the dishes well spiced (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and saffron), they were also presented in what appears a very haphazard way, with many dishes placed on the table at each course for diners to help themselves. The first course of a four-course Parisian menu of 1393 comprised: pastries filled with cod liver or beef marrow; "brewet" (pieces of meat in cinnamon sauce); beef marrow fritters; eels in a thick spicy puree; loach (a carp-like fish) in a cold sauce flavoured with sage and spices; roast or boiled meat; saltwater fish. Wine perhaps watered was a beverage, not an object of interest. Spiced wines were served after the meal.

The chefs of the Italian Renaissance were the first to tone down their use of spices and bring a sense of order to the menu. Although menus -of this period tended to be arranged more carefully (first cold foods, then roasts, then stews, then desserts), there was still a vast choice of different dishes on the table at each course and we have little record of the wines that were served. We can only imagine that the wines, like the foods, were chosen for social prestige at great feasts.

Similar menus, with ornately decorated dishes arranged together on the table, held sway for another 200 years, a style of dining known as service. a la francaise. During the 19th century this gave way to the more familiar service a la russe,. The merits of both were discussed by the French gourmet and host Baron Leon Brisse, writing in 1868: "The French dinner is divided into three courses. The first comprises soup, small side dishes, fish and entrees; the second, roasts, vegetables and sweets; the third, dessert; each course being all placed on the table at the same time. The Russian fashion is to place all cold dishes on the table. The hot dishes are handed one by one to the guests. In the French fashion your dishes often get cold before you can eat them, and in the Russian the guests are deprived of seeing elegant dishes prettily placed on the table.

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