Tuesday, March 02, 2010

French Dinner Party in a Dutch Suburb


This year, I decided to celebrate my birthday a week early.  While I do know that some people believe this brings bad luck, I still went ahead and invited some of my friends over for a dinner party- the ultimate way to celebrate, as far as I'm concerned.
Of course, the meal had to be as French as possible, and include six courses. I always throw six-course dinner parties. Not just because I'm a wannabe Française, but because I like to keep my guests' tastebuds on the edge of their seats. Imagine how boring it would be to just plop down a pan on the table and say, "help yourselves"!  It's great to keep everyone excited about what's to come.  I see it in their faces- what will she bring out next?
A six-course meal also gives me a chance to play around with wines and match them to the courses.  Plus, all the food provides a good layer for the booze. Well, for the most part of the eveniing anyway.
I know you're dying of curiosity, so here's the complete menu, which got excellent reviews, by the way.  My friends think that my food is "better than anything at a restaurant".  How cool is that???
Ok, so here goes:
- We started off with a simple aperitif.  Black and green olives marinated in herbes de Provence. This was a simple idea I got from our holiday in Duras last year.  Everytime we headed to our favorite restaurant, we would first be greeted with a tiny bowl of some of the tastiest olives around.  Convinced they were marinated in this fragrant mix of herbs, I went ahead and tried to make my own- with great results.  
I also served slices of saucisson , some foie gras accompanied by a small jar of confit d' oignon  and some crusty baguette from my favorite baker, Sebastien.  That was all washed down with a bottle of Sauternes and a bottle of Moelleux that I had purchased after the wine tasting at the castle in Duras last year.  
-The starter was a tart of goats cheese, pancetta and homemade red onion confit.  The crispy tarts were served on a bed of salad dressed with a drizzle of sweet Vincotto. A simple, dry, white Bordeaux accompanied the meal.
- And the main!  Now, I am certainly not one to stand in the kitchen and cook between courses.  I really enjoy being able to sit down with my guests without having to worry about keeping an eye on the stove.  Therefore, I usually either go for simple oven dishes or stews that only require a little heating up. 
This time the Boeuf Bourguignon made the cut. It's a homely yet impressive dish which does require a little preparation, but hey, that doesn't matter considering the end results!  I start marinating my beef two days ahead and I cook it for a good four hours the next day. On the actual day, all I have to do is fry the pearl onions and the mushroom and heat up the whole thing. Some salad, some crusty bread, a jar of Dijon mustard and I'm all set!  This was served with a light, fruity Bourgogne.
-I have boasted to my friends about my crème brûlée before, claiming that only mine was as good as the ones I ate at the best French bistros. Well, as you can imagine, the heat was definitely on, or should I say off?  Just when I was ready to caramelize the delicate lavender sugar, my blow torch died!  In a desperate attempt, I threw them under the grill, fully aware that this would not give me the results I wanted.  I really need a cold custard!!  Thankfully though, they were gobbled right up and I was reassured about my talent for desserts.  I served them with madeleines (from Sebastien) and a dollop of melon jam from Gascogne.
-After dessert came the cheese board.  I opted for Brie de Meaux, Epoisses and a good, hearty cheddar.  Crackers, apple chutney and prunes from Agen on the side.  I had bought some white wine to go with the cheeses (red wine and cheese isn't my thing anymore), but my guests were still busy with the wine left over from the previous courses!
-The digestif was a bottle of Armagnac and a tray of homemade lavender chocolates.  I don't know why, but I also decided to whip out a bottle of Colombian Aguardiente I had gotten from my friend Yolanda.  Well, before we knew it, there was salt and slices of lime on the table and there we were, taking shots like our life depended on it! Needless to say, it lead to hilarious results.
At the end of the evening, I was very pleased. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I got a lot of compliments on the food. But it wasn't just about the food.  I felt very blessed and lucky to have some of the coolest people around at my table, sharing my love of French cuisine and not minding my quirky taste in music at all!  


And now for another excuse to throw a dinner party...
Hungry for more pictures, look here: 
French Dinner Party

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Happy Birthday Paola!

What an impressive meal, it seems like you guys had a lot of fun too!

xox Sarah

Alex said...

Lovely dinner. Where did you get that cute red tableware? it looks so French =)

Paola said...

Thanks Sarah! We did have a lot of fun! A little TOO much in fact! ;)

Hi Alex,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. :) I actually bought the plates at a thrift shop- the perfect place for unusual treasures! I even found two gorgeous Limoges plates at the same shop one time!