What makes the perfect French dinner party? You may assume that it's all about the food. And given how the French feel about food in general, you wouldn't be far off. But most French will attest that it's more about the people you're spending time with. And we will argue that the room you are in can make all the difference in the world in how you and your friends interact during your dinner party. Go on us with a journey to beautiful spaces, delicious food, and good company!
First up is the apéritif and amuse-bouche to get the party started. Often traditionally hosted in the salon rather than the dining table, your guests can partake of a pre-dinner drink and light snack in the kitchen itself or your living room. Especially if you can serve your drinks from a vintage French bar cart! If you don't have a salon, that is… Our favorite is a pastis or kir royal with some provincial olive tapenade or maybe some mini croque monsieurs. What is your favorite apéritif?
Next up is the entrée, which is considered an appetizer outside of North America. And for this, your guests will make their way to the dining table. Here are a few of our favorite dining rooms in the French style; a truly magical space where stories are told while truly outstanding food is served. If you're feeling especially adventurous and want the full French experience, try to find yourself some quality escargot. Sometimes difficult to find in the U.S., but oh so worth it! Keep plenty of bread on hand for dipping, scooping, or snacking. And now would be a wonderful time to open the first bottle of wine!
The star of the show is the plat principal, or main dish. It may sound like a lot so far, but remember that the evening meal will last for hours, and the portions are small by American standards. So your guests will still be hungry when you bring out the main course. A lovely saucisse aux lentilles or perhaps roasted duck breast. Don't forget the sides... and more wine!
No French dinner party would be complete without the cheese course. The average French person consumes nearly twice the average American, so it goes without saying that cheese will be part of the fun. Always serve an odd number of cheese, and try to vary the textures and flavors. A wonderful go-to combo is a Brie, Gruyere, and Tomme de Chèvre. But feel free to experiment here. Keep a pat of butter on the board if someone feels a particular cheese is too strong. And don't forget the bread.
Did you think it ended there? Of course we still have dessert! Many will argue, quite convincingly, that the French make the best desserts on Earth. And we definitely are in that camp. Don't underestimate the oft-cited creme brulée or chocolate mousse; but also get in touch with your inner French self and explore some of the lesser-known desserts. A cherry clafoutis or poires belle-helène could be just what you've been missing in your life!
As your party winds down and your guests begin to wander from the table, if you're not all still sipping wine, it is standard practice to offer un café after the meal is done. You can wander back to the living room with your cup of coffee, or hang out in the kitchen or even the back yard if it's warm enough. As you can now see, the degree of commitment to a proper dinner party goes far beyond ordering takeout. Be prepared to be prepared! You can spend all day getting ready for this wondrous event, and it will be so worth it in the end. For some extra fun, invite some of your friends over early to help with the preparation and you can enjoy the extra quality time. Bon appetit!