Palate cleansers are to remove lingering flavors from the mouth so that the next course may be enjoyed with a fresh perspective. The French also use them as an all-important digestive, to avoid heartburn, indigestion and to stimulate the appetite.
Though not the prerogative of the French, palette cleansers did originate in France and have since been adopted worldwide. Though this habit of eating the refreshing morsels between courses in now only found in top-class restaurants or as part of a wedding breakfast, it is something which does work, especially when a meal is complex or lengthy.
There is little written instruction on the art of palate cleansing during a sumptuous, multi-course French meal. It has become something of a prized tradition, passed from generation to generation in the local enclaves of France. Each region has a special ingredient, usually a locally produced product that the locals swear by.
Traditional French Palate Cleansers
Sorbet, today, is the most frequent palate cleanser. The sorbet served should be sharp in flavor, not sweet. It is the combination of the cold, crisp and sharp flavor which works so well to clean the palate of any grease or strong tastes, thus making the palate ready for the next course.
Le Trou Normand
In Normandy, locals rely on apple brandy as a digestive. Le trou Normand, or the Norman break, is a fiery shot of Calvados right in the middle of the meal which more often is now served as a sorbet than a hefty shot of alcohol.
It hits hard and fast, yet is inexplicably effective as a palate cleanser and appetite stimulant.It’s yet to be determined whether it has as successful an astringent property on one’s palate as it does one’s wits – but either way, it does work.
Unorthodox Palate Cleansers
- Sparkling water, with or without a twist of citrus
- Lightly brewed green, black, or mint tea, with minimal sweetener
- Celery sticks or fresh tart apples
- A sprig of parsley
- Flat water with a twist of citrus
What to Look for When Choosing a Palate Cleanser
When choosing a palate cleanser, look for something with a clean, bright flavor that leaves little or no aftertaste. Neutral flavors usually work best for this purpose, but a menu with strongly flavored dishes begs for a unique - and perhaps equally bold - palate cleanser. Experiment with your own menus and soon you’ll know enough to impress your friends and family with your culinary ingenuity!
Other Names for a Palate Cleanser
Palate cleansers are also known as entrements, Trou Normand (in Normandy), Trou Bourginon (in Burgundy) and remise en bouche.