Stages of the Meal

You needn’t order something from every page of the menu, of course, but if you were to do so in the name of luxury or overindulgence, your French meal would proceed as follows:
L’apéritif: A drink – and a moment – before the meal to stimulate the appetite as well as companionship. May be ordered at the table, but may well be taken in a café, bar, wine bar, hotel room, friend’s apartment, or park bench prior to going to a restaurant. May be served with les hors-d’oeuvres, small appetizers before the meal.
L’amuse-gueule: Served in gastronomic restaurants, this is a little unordered treat to tickle the appetite while waiting for your first course to arrive.
L’entrée: The appetizer or starter. Though we use the word “entrée” in English to designate the main course, the French word actually means “entry” and therefore refers to the first course.
Le plat or Le plat principal: The main course or dish.
Le plateau de fromages: The cheese board or tray. Taken before dessert or instead of dessert. In meals in a French home the cheese is often served at the same time as a lettuce salad.
Le dessert: Dessert.
Le café/décaféiné: Coffee/Decaf. Not traditionally served with dessert, even if waiters sometimes take the coffee order at the same time as dessert. If you do want coffee with dessert you will have to insist, and perhaps remind the waiter again when he returns to the table without it. In finer restaurants the coffee is served with chocolates and other small delicacies such as the sweet arched almond-flavored biscuits called tuiles.
Le digestif: Digestive; after-dinner spirits such as cognac, armagnac, and other eaux-de-vie (brandies).

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