A Brief History of the Palate Cleanser — and 11 Favorites!
If you’ve ever been to a fancy wedding or an elaborate dinner party, you may have had the pleasure of tasting an intermezzo between courses.An intermezzo is a very small plate served about halfway through a large multi-course meal, or just before the entree. A light, refreshing, two-bite affair, an intermezzo slows down the dining experience just enough to help you and your guests really savor the meal. They are intended to cleanse the eater’s palate and accentuate the meal’s flavors.
Intermezzi originated in Italy (“intermezzo” is Italian for “interlude”) and aren’t limited to dinner parties — there are also intermezzos in theater performances. Just as an intermezzo in an opera was intended to provide comic relief between scenes, an intermezzo in a meal is meant to be brief and refreshing, to cleanse the palate between courses.
To create a true intermezzo, serve only one or two bites of light, neutral flavors. Bright herbs like mint, basil, or parsley are also a nice touch.
Intermezzi are most often a fruit, wine, or liqueur sorbet, sparkling wine, or fresh fruit. If you’ve never had an intermezzo before, consider serving it at your next dinner party!