Skip to next element


Embracing the Opulence of Luxury Dining, Fine Accoutrements & Unforgettable Experiences

Immerse yourself in a world of luxury as we explore the history of fine dining. Discover the art of creating a memorable dining experience, from stunning interiors to culinary details that delight the senses.

What are food accoutrements?

Accoutrement stems from the Old French world meaning accoutrer, meaning to seam or sew together. This etymological meaning is also evident in the word couture, meaning the business of making fashionable clothes. In modern times, accoutrements has grown to mean "to provide with equipment or furnishings" or "to outfit," according to Webster’s Dictionary, and often refers to accessories or gadgets.
In contemporary linguistics, the term food accoutrements encompasses a range of elements such as sauces, toppings and side dishes, all of which are skillfully utilized to elevate the main course's flavors. Additionally, this term also includes the utensils and vessels employed to present a meal. During the 18th and 19th centuries, dining accoutrements underwent significant advancements due to the rise of industrial capabilities, the growing affluence in society and a surge in innovative ideas for hosting lavish gatherings.

The History of Luxury Dining: Exquisite Spaces and Memorable Gatherings

Luxury dining has long been a symphony that engages all the senses. Every aspect, from the elegant attire of the guests to the poised grace of the waitstaff, orchestrates an enchanting experience. The culinary creations, generously presented, help to create the remarkable fusion of performance, indulgence and taste that we all love.
Community dining is a universally cherished experience that manifests uniquely across cultures worldwide. Despite various cultural nuances, the ethos of luxury dining remains constant: crafting an extraordinary and memorable experience for every guest.
Banquet du Château-Rouge. 1860. Source.
Banquet du Château-Rouge. 1860. Source.

The enduring allure of fine dining is evident in the widespread popularity of gala dinners, Michelin-starred restaurants and the tourism of historic homes. People worldwide eagerly seek opportunities to delve into the past and savor the essence of sophisticated dining as they once did.
The preservation and interior design of historic estates with luxury dining rooms continue to captivate visitors. To ensure the timeless traditions of luxury dining endure for future generations, the scholarship of dining history plays a vital role.

Rococo Dining Accoutrements: Enhancing Culinary Delights with Fine Details

Louis XVI-Style Porcelain-Mounted Card Table. Circa 1870. M.S. Rau.
Louis XVI-Style Porcelain-Mounted Card Table. Circa 1870. M.S. Rau.

Rococo art began in France in the 1700s as an extension Baroque style of King Louis XIV. With the extravagent court of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the helm, the Rococo period was all about romantic indulgence. The era’s art, sculpture, furniture, silverware and glassware took on ornate but delicate forms and these items were punctuated by theatrical displays and materials galore.
European aristocrats across the continent later embraced this style, which art historians describe as a playful, bright and joyfully frivolous counterpart to the drama of Baroque which utilized sharp juxtapositions of light and dark, dynamic movement and rich depth of color. Both styles share a grandeur and opulence, though the Rococo favored beauty over narrative resulting in exquisite displays of excess. There was perhaps no greater example of Rococo opulence than a grand dinner served with all of the finest accoutrements of the day.
How to spot fine dining accoutrements from the Rococo era:

  • Shell motifs: The French word “rococo” derives from rocaille, which means shellwork. People saw shells as symbols of love, fertility and abundance, and they used them to decorate dishes, bowls, cups and silverware.
  • Curves and Spirals: Tableware, silverware and even furniture often featured sinuous curves and flowing lines.
  • Bright colors: Dining accoutrements were often decorated in bright shades of pink, blue, green and yellow. This use of color helped to create a sense of lightness and airiness, in contrast to dark Baroque hues.

Traditions in Victorian Dining: a la française and a la rousse

During the Victorian era, flatware expanded beyond the basics into fantastical realms with a specific utensil for every possible dish. From asparagus tongs to terrapin forks, wealthy hosts began to collect extensive flatware sets and built cabinets with custom-fitted inserts to store their collection. These custom cases served as beautiful displays and just as importantly made it very obvious if even a single item was missing.
A la française
Hester Bateman Silver Dish Cross. 1789. M.S. Rau.
Hester Bateman Silver Dish Cross. 1789. M.S. Rau.

During the Victorian era, the prevailing dining style known as a la française, or in the way of the French, involved placing all the dishes for each course on the table simultaneously, necessitating guests to serve themselves. The fine dining accoutrements of this era included the intricate sideboards where meals and dinnerware were staged, serving plates, platters, and epergnes. Each of these elaborate fine dining accoutrements helped to showcase cuisine in the most exquisite presentation possible.
Not only did these ornate pieces serve aesthetic purposes, but they also provided practical functionality by keeping the food warm. This beautiful silver cross dish by Hester Bateman, for example, would have been used to keep multiple serving dishes warm at one time. Crafted from the finest silver and porcelain, the most exceptional accoutrements from this era were both time consuming to craft and highly expensive.
A la rousse
Silver Pagoda Epergne by John Lloyd. 1776. M.S. Rau.
Silver Pagoda Epergne by John Lloyd. 1776. M.S. Rau.

When a Russian diplomat introduced the a la rousse style to Napoleon, a new way of dining quickly gained popularity. In the a la rousse style, chefs prepared and plated dishes one at a time behind the scenes before they brought them to the table and presented them to the individual guests. Practically, this solved the problem of having lukewarm dishes. Furthermore, this style allowed free space on the table, so patrons could utilize it for presentation purposes. Monumental epergnes such as this one by John Llyod were used to display fruits, meats and the chef’s most stylized food accoutrements.
With the adoption of a la rousse, decorative elements and dining room furniture such as centerpieces, florals, candelabras and raised mirrors called plateaus became prominent. Additionally, this is when chefs began to carefully pair wine with specific dishes.

Legendary Menus: Exploring the Culinary Masterpieces of Iconic Dinner Parties

Throughout history, there have been many iconic dinner parties that have featured truly legendary menus. From the lavish feasts of the Roman emperors to the intimate gatherings of the French aristocracy, these parties have set the standard for culinary excellence.
Here are just a couple of history’s most famous fine dining experiences:
The Last Meal of the Titanic
Old Sheffield Silver Plate Venison Dish with Cove. Circa 1825. M.S. Rau.
Old Sheffield Silver Plate Venison Dish with Cove. Circa 1825. M.S. Rau.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. The À la Carte Restaurant dining area served the first-class passengers a grand meal, without them being aware that it would be their last. The ship's head chef, Pierre Rousseau, and his team of 35 chefs prepared the meal and served it on fine china, silver and crystal. The menu included such dishes as canapés, oysters, consommé Olga, poached salmon, filet mignon Lili, chicken Lyonnaise, Waldorf pudding, peaches in Chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla éclairs, French ice cream and assorted fresh fruit and cheeses.
Sir Robert Dudley's 17-Day Feast in Honor of Queen Elizabeth I
George Gower's Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I Circa 1588. Source.
George Gower's Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I Circa 1588. Source.

In 1575, Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, orchestrated a grandiose spectacle at his esteemed Kenilworth Castle estate in an effort to divert Queen Elizabeth I's attention from the rampant rumors alleging his involvement in his wife's murder, supposedly to wed the queen. This opulent feast, spanning an extraordinary 17 days, remains unparalleled in English history for its extravagance.
The meticulously curated menu boasted an array of exotic delicacies such as pineapples, turkey and even sugar sculptures. However, the feast's allure extended far beyond the dining room. Jousting tournaments, fireworks, musical performances and speeches entertained the guests.
Undoubtedly, this unprecedented extravaganza served as a testament to Dudley's immense wealth and influence. Yet, despite the grandeur of his efforts, his aim of capturing the ultimate prize—the queen's hand in marriage—remained unfulfilled.

Modern Dining Rooms: Infusing Antique and Vintage Elegance into Your Dining Space

Though you might not live in a historic manor or estate, your dining room design is important, as it is a space where you can entertain guests, enjoy a family meal, or simply relax and unwind. It's also a great place to infuse some antique and vintage elegance into your home decor to facilitate the dinner parties of legends.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Use antique or vintage furniture. This could include an antique dining table, chairs, a sideboard, or a buffet.
  • Add antiques. This could include an antique dining room set, candlesticks, lamps, a mid century mirror, or artwork. Choose pieces that complement the style of your furniture and that add a touch of elegance to your dining space. Don’t be afraid to embrace the opulence of a bygone era.
  • Infuse your menu with creativity. Although many restaurants embrace minimalism and innovation, some of the world’s most prestigious institutions offer preeminent renditions of classic meals. Open a dusty cookbook to explore endless pages of gastronomy inspiration.
Whether it be a refined menu, an opulent tablescape or a minimalistic yet classy ambiance, dinner parties are here to stay. Don’t be afraid to send out invites and start planning your next gathering. Every night can be a night to remember.


Sign up below to be the first to know about new acquisitions, exhibits, blogs and more.

back to top
back to top