Monday, July 22, 2013

French Dinner Party

Note this post was written Sunday, July 21st but the internet wasn't cooperating so I'm posting it today.

I survived my first large dinner party tonight. It wasn’t nearly as stressful as the first meal we had with guests but entertaining is still an art, especially the way the French do it. Eight people at the table means 32 plates not including countless serving dishes, and something like seven pieces of cutlery each. So, what do the French eat? Well today was a pretty typical example, although on a slightly grander scale than a normal day.

  • Champagne
  • Two kinds of olives
  • Nachos and homemade guacamole
  • Crackers with tapenade and capers

(This is unusual. The aperitif is usually one thing, just the chips and guac or nuts or just olives, something really simple before dinner.)

Entrée (which in French means appetizer)
  • Thinly sliced ham (I'd classify it as proscuitto) 
  • Cantaloupe
  • Figs

(This is typical. I can’t count how many times we’ve had this already in the three weeks I’ve been here. My boss has a meat slicer and he buys a gigantic ham hock from a restaurant supply company and then serves this regularly. We don’t always have figs but they’re my favourite. Also, I hate cantaloupe in Canada. Here though? I love it. I can eat half of one at a time…and frequently do. )

Grand Plate (main course or, in North America, the Entrée)
  • Poached salmon served with half a tomato, lemon and homemade mayonnaise. Served cold.
  • Green bean salad – the dressing is made of oil, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard which is standard for all salads around here. Shallots and parsley are added when the dressing is mixed in. Served cold.
(Fish is super common. Maybe it's just because my boss loves it but we eat it three or four times a week and we've served it every time we've had guests. White fish, salmon, you name it, we've eaten it)

Cheese Course
Generally three types of cheese. Today was a brie, goat cheese and a hard cheese that lost its label awhile ago. It’s one of my favourites though.

  • Tiramisu

(When we have guests dessert is typically something sweet. When it’s just us we eat dessert every day but it’s generally just fruit and yogurt for my boss.)

  • Decaf-espresso style, served with chocolates

All of this, including the aperitif which is always the longest, takes two to three hours to serve. Today we rushed a bit because of the fireworks at ten. It’s not unusual for your guests to arrive just before 8 and still be at the table at eleven.

Because there were so many people I ate in the kitchen between courses. Normally I just join the family but this actually worked better. It allowed me to eat on the run and stay on top of the dishes and putting away the leftovers. As it was I had to run the dishwasher twice and there will still be wine glasses for me in the morning. Such is the lifestyle of the rich! And for the record, as the main table was served, I was served as well, so it's not like I was left out at all. 

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