French Lesson: What Does Farandole Mean?

One of the only drawbacks to traveling to one of the world's famed gastro-tourism hot spots is not always understanding all the words on the menu. Or any of them. Now for true culinary devotees, it won't really matter what you end up ordering — it's going to be great because you traveled somewhere famous for its food. But knowing an extra word or two in the country's language couldn't hurt. Today we travel to France. What does farandole mean?

Aside from the dictionary definition ("a lively Provençal dance in which men and women hold hands, form a chain, and follow a leader through a serpentine course") there are a few associations. Typically, farandole translates to "medley," "arrangement" or "assortment." You'll see it describing dishes that involve multiple vegetables or fruits, as well as cheese plates and buffet-style dining.

Farandole can also refer to the cheese or dessert carts still widely used by upper-tier restaurants, or to the French pastry tradition of serving many small complementary desserts like tarts, quenelles, macarons, mousse and fresh fruit. The dish above, for example, from Paris' famed Le Grand Vefour, was listed on the menu as a "une farandole de desserts aux framboises" or "an assortment of raspberry desserts."