Service à la russe

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

French cuisine, the trendsetting style across ancien régime Europe, underwent its own revolution with the fall of the Bastille. With the decapitation of the old aristocracy, the grand, buffet-style courses made up of multiple dishes were supplanted by a form of sequential service adopted from a Russian model—hence the name service à la russe. The change was very gradual and not universally appreciated. The great chef Carême, for one, had little use for it. See carême, marie-antoine. In this new style, all the diners ate the same food, more or less, and the dishes arrived one after the other, much as they do today. The entremets, increasingly mostly sweet, shifted to the penultimate position, with dessert following. In other words, now two sweet courses concluded a meal. Flandrin points to the shift in language between menus in the eighteenth century, where “dessert” was the term for a course, to the late-nineteenth-century use of “desserts” (in the plural) to refer to the sweet foods themselves. By that point, the entremets often consisted of a sweet, creamy dish such as ice cream or bavarois, whereas dessert might include cakes, cookies, fruit, or petits fours. See desserts, chilled; ice cream; and small cakes. In France, a cheese course was sometimes slipped between the two.