A five-course meal consists of soup, salad, appetizer, entree and dessert, in that order. These courses may vary among different regions throughout the world.
The first course is the soup course. Soup can be hot or cold and is meant to prepare the palate for the meal to come. The soup should be of a different texture than the salad, so many people opt for a creamy soup before a salad course.
The salad course can come at the beginning of the meal, right after the soup, or at the end of the meal, before the dessert course. A crisp salad served with a tangy or spicy dressing works well for this course, especially when served right after a creamy soup.
The appetizer comes next. This can be a small serving of pasta or another introduction to the main course or entree.
The entree or main course is generally a hot food served with vegetables. Roast beef with seasonal vegetables is one example of an entree.
Finally, dessert is served. Dessert is a sweet dish that offsets the rest of the meal. Therefore, if a person serves a heavy main course, the dessert should be light.
Many formal dinner parties have palate cleaners between the courses. This can be something as simple as a glass of water or a cup of green tea, to something more extravagant, like sorbet.