Palate Cleansers

This weekend I was at a Las Vegas wedding and I experienced a palate cleanser course for the first time.  The meal started with a plate of small appetizers with pretty strong flavors–onions, parmesan cheese, olives–followed by the salad course.  They served a tomato, red lettuce, candied pecan salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing along with a pear pastry on the side, the salad was followed with a delicious french onion soup.  After the strong flavors of these first few dishes we were served a palate cleanser.  Virtually all of the guests were confused by the course, a low buzz of whispers swept through the place–what is that?

A palate cleanser is usually a small amount of a light sorbet.  The idea is to remove the flavors from the previous courses from the mouth so that the next course may be enjoyed with a fresh palate. The french also call a palate cleanser an “amuse” –related to “amuse-bouche” literally meaning “mouth amuser.”  But the amuse-bouche is usually served early in the meal–usually an hors d’œuvre to excite the palate, rather than to cleanse the palate.

On this occasion, at Andre’s at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas we were served a cucumber flavored sorbet in a small glass about the size of a shot glass with a small spoon.  We were probably served a total of 2 teaspoons of the sorbet.  It was lovely.