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|Components and courses|
In formal dining, a full course dinner can consist of 5, 8, 10, 12, or 16 courses, and, in its extreme form, has been known to have twenty-one courses. In these more formalized dining events, the courses are carefully planned to complement each other gastronomically. The courses are smaller and spread out over a long evening, up to three, four or five hours, and follow conventions of menu planning that have been established over many years.
Most courses (excluding some light courses such as sorbets) in the most formal full course dinners are usually paired with a different wine, beer, liqueur, or other spirit.
Table settings can be elaborate. More ostentatious settings sometimes include all silverware and glassware that will be needed for the entire meal, and lay out the silverware so that the outermost tools are used for the dishes appearing earliest on the menu. In this scheme, when diners are served the first course, they can depend on finding the correct implement at the outermost edge of the arrangement.
An alternative scheme arranges the place setting so that only the implements needed for the first one or two courses appear in the table setting. As the dinner progresses and new courses arrive, used implements are removed with the dishes, and new silverware is placed next to the plates. This scheme is commonly used when dinners are offered à la carte, so that the most appropriate implement is selected for a given course. For example, some diners may order clear, thin soups and others may order thick, creamy soups. As each of these soups has its own unique spoon, it would be considered improper and impractical to lay out a spoon that may not be needed or correct.
An example of a twenty-one course dinner follows:
Courses such as the above need not be served in strict sequence. Many are well-suited to be served paired with the previous or next course; this also minimises waiting for guests who may choose to have very little of a course for one reason or another.