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-   -   Fancy Dinners (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=827070)

Stinky Pete 05-25-2017 07:08 PM

Fancy Dinners
 
While reading a biography it mentioned that Julia Grant (wife of President Grant) would host 29 course dinners. How does that work? Is each portion super tiny? I'm guessing good manners requires you take tiny bites of your food. Does every guest require 29 separate plates? It must take hours to eat in that manner.

Or maybe a 29 course dinner isn't what I imagine it to be.

The logistics of preparing such a meal boggles my mind.

Shagnasty 05-25-2017 07:14 PM

Some super fancy restaurants offer meals with a seemingly absurd amount of courses. They may not be exactly 29 courses but that isn't out of the ballpark. Yes, the portions are tiny, they generally cost in the hundreds of dollars or more per person range and they are served individually with a table clearing between each one. It is an extravagant social/culinary event that generally takes multiple hours. Almost any adult can eat about 29 courses if they are small enough and spread out over enough time. Many of them are only a few bites.

Here are some contemporary examples. They are generally called "tasting menus" these days.

https://www.eater.com/2013/1/28/6489...nus-in-america

IvoryTowerDenizen 05-25-2017 07:22 PM

Fancy Dinners
 
We've been enjoying tasting menus like you describe for over 20 years. In fact we celebrated our son's college graduation last week at a tasting menu. I adore them, because I love small bites of a huge variety of foods. They're expensive and indulgent, and worth it as a special treat.

We were there almost three hours. The plates came at a pace, with built in pauses to relax and just drink the wine. We had about 16 courses, some bigger than others. By the end I was too full to eat anymore.

IvoryTowerDenizen 05-25-2017 07:23 PM

Fancy Dinners
 
Nm

UDS 05-25-2017 07:58 PM

We're accustomed to courses being served sequentially, with each course being consumed and cleared before the next is presented. This is known technically as service à la russe, and it's the dominant mode in high-end restaurants and for home dining.

But this wasn't so in the nineteenth century. There was the alternative mode of service à la française in which several courses, or all courses, are presented simultaneously.

So, for example, several different fish dishes might be placed on the table simultaneously; each is considered a separate course; guests help themselves and/or their neighbours to the courses they want; there is no expectation that a diner will eat every course. Then the fish courses are cleared and replaced with the meat courses. And so forth.

So, "29 courses" means, in our terms, 29 principal dishes.

samclem 05-25-2017 09:41 PM

While there was nothing incorrect in starting this thread in General Questions, I think it may be better suited to Café Society. Moved.

samclem, moderator.

burpo the wonder mutt 05-25-2017 10:00 PM

But what about the mashed taters and gravy? Remember "Close Encounters"? Something like that. But with gravy.

psychobunny 05-25-2017 10:39 PM

Some of the courses are only 1-2 bites.
example
example 2

FoieGrasIsEvil 05-25-2017 10:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen (Post 20232760)
We've been enjoying tasting menus like you describe for over 20 years. In fact we celebrated our son's college graduation last week at a tasting menu. I adore them, because I love small bites of a huge variety of foods. They're expensive and indulgent, and worth it as a special treat.

We were there almost three hours. The plates came at a pace, with built in pauses to relax and just drink the wine. We had about 16 courses, some bigger than others. By the end I was too full to eat anymore.

I am with you, it's the best way to eat out at a great restaurant with a skilled chef and sommelier if you can afford it.

Sadly, these days, I AM ZEE CHEF!

Leo Bloom 05-26-2017 07:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by psychobunny (Post 20233016)
Some of the courses are only 1-2 bites.
example
example 2

Obligatory xkcd.

buddha_david 05-26-2017 04:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by UDS (Post 20232792)
But this wasn't so in the nineteenth century. There was the alternative mode of service à la française in which several courses, or all courses, are presented simultaneously.

So, for example, several different fish dishes might be placed on the table simultaneously; each is considered a separate course; guests help themselves and/or their neighbours to the courses they want; there is no expectation that a diner will eat every course. Then the fish courses are cleared and replaced with the meat courses. And so forth.

So, "29 courses" means, in our terms, 29 principal dishes.

So it's kind of like a modern-day Chinese restaurant, where each person in a party of twelve orders an individual dish which are then shared with everyone?

RealityChuck 05-26-2017 05:24 PM

19th century formal dinners did have separate dishes for each course. Twenty-nine is overkill, but this example from Queen Victoria shows six courses and a buffet. The courses would be served one at a time, with the options listed for each course.

Here's a detailed description of an Edwardian ten-course meal.

Americans, always willing to do it bigger and better, probably added more courses.

Exapno Mapcase 05-26-2017 05:37 PM

I found a contemporary newspaper description of the meal.

Quote:

In the beginning of the feast, fruit, flowers, and sweetmeats grace the tables, while bread and butter only give a Spartan simplicity to the "first course," which is composed of a French vegetables oul, and according to the description by those who have tasted it, no soup, foreign or domestic, has ever been known to equal it.

The ambrosial soup is followed by a French croquet of meat...The third "course" of the dinner is composed of a fillet of beef, flanked on each side by potatoes the size of a walnut, with plenty of mushrooms to keep them company. The next course is...made up entirely of luscious leg of partridges, and baptized by a French name entirely beyond my comprehension.

It will readily be seen that a full description of the twenty-nine courses would be altogether too much for the healthy columns of a newspaper to bear, so we pass to the dessert...[which] is inaugurated by...a rice pudding [that] would make our grandmothers clap their hands with joy. After the rice pudding, canned peaches, pears, and quinces are served. Then follow confectionery, nuts, ice-cream, coffee, and chocolate...

Ukulele Ike 05-26-2017 06:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stinky Pete (Post 20232743)
While reading a biography it mentioned that Julia Grant (wife of President Grant) would host 29 course dinners....The logistics of preparing such a meal boggles my mind.

I could be wrong, but I think Mrs. Grant hired some cooks to do it.

TubaDiva 06-08-2017 11:09 PM

Is Marchi's in the East 30s in NYC still open? Not 29 courses but a lot of them ... you eat and drink wine and eat and drink wine and eat ... a lovely place for an evening out. And I mean an evening out; this takes you a while.

No sign outside. They don't advertise.

There's no menu. But here's how it goes:

http://www.marchirestaurant.com/the-courses

Each course is a small portion, but I promise you, if you leave there hungry it's your own damn fault.

I've had some beautiful evenings there with dear friends ... it's the most civilized way to eat a huge dinner that I can think of. When I was last there with drinks and good wine it would wind up being around $100 a person. I hate to think what they charge these days.

http://www.marchirestaurant.com/

your humble TubaDiva

smithsb 06-09-2017 11:35 PM

Heck, most Golden Corrals have that many desert courses alone. Same with many other buffet outlets. Separate plates for each if you want [and can still stand and move]. For some, this IS fine dining.:D

DesertDog 06-10-2017 05:53 AM

Babette's Feast is a Danish film about the preparation and consumption of a multi-course haute cuisine dinner by a bunch of dour Jutlanders and one Swedish gourmand, circa 1885. It is loosely based on a novella by Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen) of Out of Africa fame.
SPOILER:
It turns out that the eponymous Babette Hersant was the head chef at Café Anglais before showing up in Jutland as a refugee.
I was living in San Jose when it came out and one of the chefs there offered a prix fixe duplicating the feast for $150, which was big bux at the time. The only concession to modern sensibilities was that the Cailles en Sarcophage (quail in puff pastry) had their heads replaced by pastry heads; the originals were served with their heads on so you could suck their br-a-a-a-ins.

Hampshire 06-10-2017 07:26 AM

So it's like being at Costco on the weekend?

salinqmind 06-11-2017 11:13 AM

I'm going to the Chinese buffet restaurant tomorrow, with over 50 different dishes. A help-yourself tasting menu! (and for me, that IS fine dining, all that seafood! all I'm ever asked to cook here at home is burgers and fries.)

MacLir 06-12-2017 09:25 AM

I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned dim sum in this context.

After all, that's basically how a dim sum restaurant works; the hostess seats you and a pot of tea appears on the table. Then a series of (typically) young ladies with small pushcarts come by at leisurely intervals. Each cart has a few items, and you select what you want. As the young ladies' English is about equal to my Mandarin (i.e. none to speak of), you may not know what you are getting, but it is almost always tasty. :confused:

There is a progression of courses that cycle every hour or two, but hitting "TDC" on the cycle is a matter of chance.

MarcusF 06-12-2017 09:52 AM

Possibly small portions but bear in mind rich Victorians and Edwardians ate prodigious quantities of food. A few years back the BBC did a series "The Supersizers Go/Eat ..." where Giles Coren and Sue Perkins attempted to eat like Edwardians, Victorians, Romans, etc for a week. The first of the programmes was Edwardian Supersize Me and the amount of food was extraordinary - the presenters felt awful after only a few days


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