The Elegant Ritual of the “Cleansing of the Palate” at a Formal Dinner

The Cleansing of the Palate

It is not uncommon at very formal meals where multiple courses are being served, for somewhere midway in the dinner, usually between the fish and meat courses, that a palate-cleanser is served—oftentimes a fruit sorbet (called “sherbet” in the United States) or granité of some sort. Theoretically, it refreshes the mouth and neutralizes the taste buds after the tongue has been teased with the various flavors of the first half of the meal. This mini course, which also prepares the palate for the many flavors to come in the second half of the meal, can be likened to intermission at a theatrical performance, or the changing of ends during a tie-breaker in a tennis match, or perhaps even a recess break in elementary school. But in addition to serving a practical purpose, the course should be remarkable and memorable—like a cameo appearance by a beautiful actress in a Hollywood drama.

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