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What is a starter?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

I apologize if this sounds a little dense but what exactly is a "starter"?  I'm pretty good with serving appetizers but I've never served a starter course in any of my meals.  I usually begin dinner parties with wine, cheese, and a few assorted appetizers in the living room and then serve family style in the dining room.  The selection on my table usually includes some kind of meat, a starch, a couple of vegetable sides, salad, and a basket of bread.  What is the function of a starter and what's the difference between that and an appetizer.  Should it be a little bigger than an appetizer?  What are some typical starters?  Can a starter be served family style?

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post #2 of 40

 

It basically starts your meal/app


Edited by panini - 6/7/11 at 5:36am

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post #3 of 40

What a mess. Those words all mean something different depending on what country you're from and what era you're talking about. The reason I mention that is because many of those words (hors d'oeuvre, amuse bouche, entree etc..) are French but are not used with the same meaning as their French counterparts - and even in France, they don't have the same meaning today as they did 100 years ago. 

 

Would you say an apetizer is the same thing as a hors d'oeuvre? If yes, nowadays in France, a hors d'oeuvre is the same thing as what us French call "Entrée", which is the first plated dish served once you sit at the table. So it would be the same thing as a starter.... right? In the past when formal meals had 12 courses, all those words had a very specific meaning but today everything is kinda blurred together. 

 

In France a typical meal consists of:

 

• Amuse Bouches (single bite apps served to standing crowd or at the table before you place your order). 

• Entrée (starter or first course)

• Plat principal (entrée)

• Salad

• Cheeses

• Dessert

• Coffee and chocolates

 

 

In France an Apéritif is an alcohol (typically fortified wines, pastis, or champagne or kir, etc...) usually served before you sit at the table, along with amuse bouches, or as we really call them at home, amuse gueules, along with some olives, salted roasted nuts, cubed cheese, balled cantaloupe, etc. 

 

A few typical starters served we serve at home in France: 

• Shredded carrots & vinaigrette, soft boiled eggs

• Shaved red cabbage & vinaigrette

• Cantaloupe and prosciutto, 

• Soup

• Charcuteries (pate, terrines, rillettes, etc..)

 

post #4 of 40

In England, 'starter' means "appetiser".

post #5 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by panini View Post

Normally a starter, starts your meal. It can be small like an amuse bouche. 


Here in California, if I went to a restaurant and ordered a starter, and they brought me an amuse bouche (one or two bites), I would definitely complain!!! eek.gif

 

post #6 of 40

We always start with an apéritif and an amuse gueule. These are mostly not served at the dining table but at the coffee table. The apéritif can be anything that sharpens your appetite; champagne, dry cherry, gin tonic, light white wine or even a light beer. In summer I love a Campari soda or a pastis.

 

The amuse gueule is up to your inspiration. Put a plate of oysters on your coffee table and let guests serve themselves. Small one-bite toasts with foie gras is also very popular and simple to make. Don't get me wrong, we don't serve only posh amuses. Mostly it's a bit more humble like cutting a nice chunk of excellent hard cheese like gouda in small bitesize cubes, a few olives, anything is possible. A small "verrine" is very popular now; small glasses filled with anything that comes from your imagination like crabmeat in mayo, a mousse etc.

 

Starters (or entrée in french terms like FF explained) are small plates (think spanish tapa) that mostly contains no starches; 6 or 12 oysters, a few scallops, a fish soup served in an expresso cup. When going to France, for starter I will always have a terrine du chef, delicious homemade pâté. Or, also in France, an assiette de crudités, an abundant plate of raw veggies and vinaigrette...

post #7 of 40

Never gave it much thought, before, KK. But now that you bring it up, a starter, in this household, is the first plated dish. It starts the meal (thus, starter), and is a small-plate sort of dish. Could be anything from a salad to soup to seafood lollipops. It's served, obviously, at the table. Very often, I find, that if the starter is based on what is normally a main dish I adjust the size. For instance, I might use crab cakes as a starter, but the plate would hold three of them that, in total, only equal the size of a regular one. Or maybe I'll use a couple of meatball skewers as a starter, in which case the meat will be shaped with a melon baller.

 

To me, horsey derves, appetisers, etc. are synonyms for small bites designed to stimulate the appetite. They are usually not served at table, and are accompanied by beverages. Basically, a before-the-meal snack.

 

Amuse' serve the exact same function. But I've always thought there was a minor nuance in that an amuse' bouche is a one-bite way for the chef to show off.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 40

Hey guys  a starter could also refer to bread making or a sour depending how old you are. Panini you could explain this

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #9 of 40

I thought this thread would be about bread.

post #10 of 40

Interested discussion Koukou. I always thought a starter and an app were the same. An amuse bouche is so small it is really just a teaser but a starter is what you "start" eating your meal with. 

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post #11 of 40

Maybe a guy on the golf course??

Chef EdB
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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 

I've learned from Top Chef that an amuse bouche is only one bite that is meant to tantalize the palate.... no matter how many times I try to spell it right I will never spell this word right.

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post #13 of 40

Top Chef the TV show?

Amuse Bouche became popular during the Nouvelle Cuisine Craz.e. It is not an appetizer. It is a gift from the chef

to get your taste buds awake. An appetizer is something that is ordered.

  We actually know very little about the taste buds. Way back they used to tell us sweet near the tip, sour towards the back

but all this has been debunked.. The key to amuse bouche is to stir all or most of the taste buds with one bite. It can prepare you for your meal

or make the meal unpleasant. Asian chefs have defined another taste bud. It stands on its head when you use certain glutemates.

Crap, can't remember the name uname?? that's all I know.

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post #14 of 40

Panini - I think the word you are looking for is Umami.  I could (easily!) be wrong.  It's generally found in foods such as tomatoes and mushorooms for example, I think.

 

This is how the other courses are translated/ transposed here, generally.

 

Amuse bouche (or amuse garde) is definitely just a mouthful of something really tasty to set you in the mood for more.  Not generally had at the table, as has been mentioned.

Appetiser-  well it equals starter or entree, sat down at the table, small serve, usually something fairly light.  As in seafood, salad etc.

 

Main course - often called entree in other parts of the world, is generally the heaviest part of the meal, whatever the course may be.

 

Dessert is dessert.

 

Coffee and something chocolatey is a lovely way to finish the meal, maybe accompanied by a liquer (I highly recommend Irish Mist or Port wine).

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post #15 of 40

Well, I, too, thought this was going to be about bread, Benway. 

 

But none of this mentions the "first course" in Italian cuisine, and actually, in most European cuisine, where a soup would always precede the main course no matter what, and in Italy where it could be a soup or a pasta, and this even in every family meal.  I thought this was still part of a french meal, in fact, even at home, but maybe my information is outdated.   

 

Many families will not eat "dry" in italy, which means without a first course, and schools without full cafeterias will send the kids home for lunch.  I remember many parents, in reply to my asking why they can't just take a sandwich to school, would say "you don;t really want your kids to eat "dry" at lunch do you?" 

 

So where do you put the soup course?  I know pasta is used as a main dish in the states, but soup, at least not heavy thick soups full of bread or beans and pasta etc, but thin soups like broth or simple veloutees, are first courses, are they not?  And are definitely not considered appetizers, are they? unless if served in tiny cups or spoons, which seems to be a current phase.   Would they be starters?   Not that it much matters, but just for the information.

 

I usually don't do any sort of appetizer or aperitif before a dinner, the only aperitif i ever did was cyr (is that how it's spelled?) (champagne plus cassis) because i like it, and that's for a stand-up meal type party, and there I do many appetizers.  But people don;t drink much here, at least not those my age. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #16 of 40

Its a forspice or pre dinner tidbit  sent out gratus by the chef to the dinner guest after tey are seated.. As an example of what is to come.

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Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #17 of 40

It would seem, everybody has a definition for appetizer, starter, hors d oeuvre. In some venues they are all one in the same thing. Amuse Bouche means "to amuse the mouth" The term has been bastardized some where along the way.

 

At first glance, I too, was ready to give the definition of a flour, water, yeast mixture used in the production of bread.

post #18 of 40
Thread Starter 

I'm sorry to disappoint those who thought this would be a thread about bread, but alas I do not bake. 

 

Since some of you have mentioned chefs and restaurants I'd like to point out that in that context I have no problem distinguishing what a starter is.  I often order a starter at a restaurant with no fuss.  But I don't know how to incorporate a starter from my own kitchen.  Somehow I seem to classify my dishes as either appetizers or family-style entrees.  I don't do fancy plating at home which probably eliminates the need for a "starter."

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post #19 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

I don't do fancy plating at home which probably eliminates the need for a "starter."



I don't get the logic in this. You're the boss when you're cooking and you plate in your very own style; it's an expression of who you are, so what? 

When eating in a Greek restaurant in my country we mostly share a big plate of mezze as a starter, perfect but abundant mix of greek goodies. I believe "mezze" is the equivalent of spanish "tapa". I would love to being served only a few as a starter in any greek home!

 

@Siduri; Soup! Oh yes, when we were young we had homemade soup every single day before the meal... That was the era where mothers had a lot of children, stayed at home, and indeed the children walked home each noon, to eat at home ànd return to school on foot. Since mostly both partners go to work, there's sadly no more time for all that. So daily soup got a bit forgotten. But, you're right, soup can indeed be a fantastic starter. I already mentioned soups being served in small cups nowadays as a starter. We just outgrew the "cappucino" thing where people had to put some kind of posh foamy substance on a soup before serving it.

post #20 of 40

In the UK the courses are known as

 

starter

main

pudding

cheese

 

Starters can be anything from melon/proscuttio, a broth, eggs mimosa, small amount of pate with melba toast, prawn cocktail (very retro!).  It's usually a small amount of food.

post #21 of 40

which probably eliminates the need for a "starter."

 

You say "need", KK, as if there are some rules you have to follow. All we're really talking about is the progression of courses if you happen to serve that way. You recognize this in a restaurant. If you want to follow suit, just arrange the courses the same way.

 

On the other hand, if you serve family style, as is apparently the case, everything just goes out on the table at once (except desert, of course), and you avoid the whole problem.

 

Siduri's comments about the Italian system are right on track here. You begin with an antipasti (comparable to our appetizer), then proceed to the primo (first course or starter), secondo, etc. But fit this into your own kind of service. As she notes, although pasta is a main course here in the States, it's a primo in Italy. The portion size is nothing near what we serve. Instead, it's a small amount that gets you ready for the courses that follow. Typically, 3 oz of pasta serves as a primo.

 

Keep in mind that a formal course progression usually has little to do with how you serve at home. We just don't engage in that sort of gluttony anymore, where you have as many as 12 courses. The word "course" can be confusing, though. Let's say you served a progression that included salad, soup, the main plate, and desert. We would call that four courses. But, in fact, in a formal progression, there is no such thing as a plate divided in three, as we commonly serve. Instead, there would be a fish course, and a beef course, and a vegetable course, and..... well, you get the idea.

 

Even when serving family style there often is a progression of courses, even though they may not be called that. When I was growing up, for instance, Mom always served the soup or salad before the main meal. So we would, in effect, have three courses: the starter (soup or salad), the main meal (always a plate divided in three), and desert. But if anyone ever referred to them as such I'm sure mom would have looked bemused at best. I'm not sure mom even knew the word appetizer. When people showed up, you just automatically put out some noshes and something to drink.

 

What I'm saying, at base, is that it almost doesn't matter what you call each course. The goal should be to make you and your guests happy through food. If a progression of courses accomplishes that, that's what you do. If family style works better, then you serve that way.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #22 of 40

Some places in Europe and a few here serve Salad Course after entree . Some serve an Intermezzo . Depends where you are and what ship your on.      I served an Intermezzo of Lemon Sorbet in a Real Lemon Basket with a Live Daisy on it.

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Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post





I don't get the logic in this. You're the boss when you're cooking and you plate in your very own style; it's an expression of who you are, so what? 

When eating in a Greek restaurant in my country we mostly share a big plate of mezze as a starter, perfect but abundant mix of greek goodies. I believe "mezze" is the equivalent of spanish "tapa". I would love to being served only a few as a starter in any greek home!

 

 

What I mean is I don't do plated dinners at home, I serve all my food family style in big platters.  So if I put a "starter" out along with the other food it's not really considered a starter is it, as one person may choose to eat it last, as a side dish, or not put any on their plate at all.  My meal "starts" when everybody sits down and starts passing around the platters of food.

 

Meze is not a starter, it is something completely different but since you brought it up I'll explain.  Meals are done quite differently in the greek culture.  The main meal of the day is at midday.  It's usually served family style, there are not any courses, but an arrangement of a main dish, perhaps a side dish, and probably a salad as well.  Never missing from the table are a basket of bread, a few slices of cheese, and perhaps some olives or other "antipasti" type finger foods as well.  These are all on the table simultaneously.   We do not have courses.

 

The evening meal is quite different.  At home it's never a big deal, a bit of bread in hand, a bit of cheese, maybe some sliced raw vegetables, perhaps a few peanuts or a bit of yogurt, and nobody expects to sit down altogether to eat.  Dinner more or less is a snack.  Unless you're going out in which case in the evening we mostly eat Meze.  You are correct, these are tapas style plates, they are not starters or even appetizers, they are the entirety of the meal.  They're little plates that are meant to be shared.  Each person is provided with a fork, no plate.  Some common mezedes are:

 

- meatballs

- french fries

- stuffed zucchini flowers

- olives

- croquettes

- bekri meze

- gigantes

- sausages

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post #24 of 40

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View PostQuote:

 

What I mean is I don't do plated dinners at home, I serve all my food family style in big platters.  So if I put a "starter" out along with the other food (....)

 

But what if you put it out before the other food? We often serve family style (in big platters) while still following the course orders in my house. So first we'll bring one big salad bowl of shaved raw red cabbage with a vinaigrette, that's our starter. Everybody help themselves, sometimes several times, and once everybody's done with the starter we bring the pot of stew, again family style, once everybody is done with that we bring the salad and the cheese, and once everybody is done with that we bring the dessert. 

 

In France, even if you have guests, you usually serve food family style, but you follow the order of the courses. 

 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer
 
On the other hand, if you serve family style, everything just goes out on the table at once (...)
 

 

 

OK maybe I'm confused on the meaning of "family style" then - I thought it just meant that a big dish would be placed in the middle of the table rather than individually plated. Does it also mean that you place all courses at once on the table? confused.gif

 

 

post #25 of 40

In my family, family style serving was everything placed on the table at once.  Salad, Entree, and all sides, and everyone passes platters around the table.  Then starts the fun part, the eating, the conversation and the good feeling of being with family and good friends!  :)

post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Longcolts View Post

 Then starts the fun part, the eating, the conversation and the good feeling of being with family and good friends!  :)

 

.... that's the most important part of any meal!!! smile.gif
 

 

post #27 of 40

Italian family style means that the dishes come out in a sequence - often the pasta course is put in the bowls in the kitchen.

(family meals usually don;t have antipasto)

1. first course, always pasta, rice or soup

2. main course and side dishes (usually vegetables, usually lots)

3. possibly salad, always after main course, or SOMETIMES you might get it on the table with the other sides, but most people will eat it, in their main course dish, but AFTER having finished main course and sides.  In restaurants, always in a soup bowl and separately after the main course. 

4. fruit

usually no desert, sometimes cheese

This used to be for lunch every day, then supper would be leftovers from lunch or even bread and cheese and a salad, though many italians, esp older ones, would not eat ANY meal without a first course.  Usually pasta at lunch, pastina or rice in soup at supper, but in the north pasta could be replaced more likely with rice or polenta, and all over could be replaced with gnocchi.  None of these are ever served with the main course.  Nowadays, some will eat only the first course. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #28 of 40

Siduri,

I think it depends on which culture you are in or presenting as to where soup comes in.  I think in many western european cultures it would be served as a starter.  But on the other hand if you are doing oriental a simple broth or tea is served between each course as a refresher.  I had an inkling that in the Italian cuisine, be it rumour or myth, that pasta was generally served as the last course before dessert.

 

Here, it is generally a starter in the home kitchen, then main, then dessert.

 

Confusing innit? :)

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #29 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC Sunshine View Post

Siduri,

I think it depends on which culture you are in or presenting as to where soup comes in.  I think in many western european cultures it would be served as a starter.  But on the other hand if you are doing oriental a simple broth or tea is served between each course as a refresher.  I had an inkling that in the Italian cuisine, be it rumour or myth, that pasta was generally served as the last course before dessert.

 

Here, it is generally a starter in the home kitchen, then main, then dessert.

 

Confusing innit? :)

Sure is.  But no italian would eat pasta after the main course, it is always first - or if there is an appetizer, after that.  And salad is always after.  I think partly for economic reasons, you fill the people up before they take the more expensive meat course (and courtesy and good manners always dictated that meat must be eaten with bread, and is called "companatico" - "with-bread" to stretch it even more).   But salad is to clear your stomach and palate with something fresh and crispy.  (In fact i have to say i never liked salad on an empty stomach!)  Almost no one finishes a meal without fruit here- though i prefer it during the day or even before a meal. 
 

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #30 of 40

Does it also mean that you place all courses at once on the table? confused.gif

 

As with everything else food related, French Fries, it varies. But I'd say, with a couple of exception, yes. Typically, all the platters are put on the table, and passed around. Everybody helps themselves to what they want.

 

Soup and salad are often exceptions. Soup, because it requires an extra setting, and to assure it is piping hot, is served separately. In America that most often means at the beginning of the meal. Salad is either served separately at the beginning, or as a pass-along platter. But that, too, varies. In my mom's house, salad was passed, and you put it on the same plate as everything else. But friends right next door used a separate salad bowl, even though the salad was part of the main table.

 

So, a heavy family style meal would, in terms of progression, consist of either three or four "courses:"

 

1. Soup.

2. Salad (possibly)

3. Everything else (main dishes, side dishes, maybe salad, bread)

4. Desert

 

Appetisers are rarely served in a family-style environment. Usually they are reserved for parties, or when entertaining guests. But not so much at a regular meal.

 

Given our myriad cultural influences, however, it's hard to pinpoint hard and fast approaches. But I'd feel safe saying that's the general family style.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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