Friday, September 9, 2011

On Eating in France – IV. The Dinner Party

We invited our guests on Monday for an evening dinner Friday, and had a confirmation by Wednesday. I had been forming a plan all week and was excited, yet a little nervous about the first foray into the francais dinner party world! With Lauris not allowing me excessive amounts of time for shopping, cleaning or preparation, I settled on a simple menu that would allow me to prepare most everything ahead of time. With all the effort that had gone into the making of the aukstā zupa, I decided to serve it as l'entrée. Initially I wanted to serve it in small cocktail glasses (borrowing from our experience at Le Compotoir des Saveurs) but after a search of available serving options settled on normal bowls. With the potato bounty gifted us by our friends in Chatenet, I decided that potato salad to accompany le plat principal was just the thing.

After delegating responsibility for the alcoholic purchases to Roberts, I headed out Wednesday to do some shopping. The goal was to pick up everything that could not be had at the local marché Thursday, or that needed to be bought fresh Friday. The apartment was looking surprisingly clean after all our travels of the past month, but I started with the cleaning and straightening up as well.

Thursday Lauris and I hit the Chamalieres marche for our fruit, cheese and herbs. While the produce at our neighborhood Carrefour is acceptable, everything available at the market has been dependably fresh and delicious. Then started the potato salad preparation, from an old family recipe. However, my plan for Friday was to incorporate the vitelotte potatoes from Chatenet. And if you aren’t familiar with this particular variety of heirloom potato, let me show you the following picture:

The plan was that if the salad could not deal with the minor change of potato-type and turned into a major disaster, then I would have another day to decide on alternatives. Luckily, the potatoes retained their color through boiling (perhaps it was even intensified), and a taste test showed no difference from my usual results.

On Friday we picked up the salmon and then bread from the boulangerie. I spent the morning making a deep dish peach pie from one of my tried-and-true pie recipes and cleaned house. Roberts arrived home for lunch bearing olives to accompany the nuts as snacks with the champagne, the one thing I had forgotten, and was home slightly earlier from work. I set the salmon to marinate, organized my serving dishes, washed wine and champagne glasses, and before we knew it, our guests had arrived.

All the work finished ahead of time paid off, as I was able to enjoy the conversation, enjoy my meal and worry about Lauris instead of spending the time in the kitchen. The food was mostly a success; I’m not sure how the pink-colored beet soup went over, the hesitation with the purple potato salad was redeemed after trial, but the salmon was perfect and second helpings were had. My tried-and-true peach pie never gelled (!) but tasted the same as always, and found takers for second servings as well. Instead of coffee I served tea, which definitely had me wondering if herbal tea can be served as we had no black tea in the house. As the children dropped off to sleep one by one and digestion took over, the evening came to a close. One of the best moments of the night came after the dishwasher was loaded, the food put away and all the other dishes brought to the kitchen: Roberts offered to stay and wash the remaining dishes and glasses, but I beat my compulsion for a spotless kitchen and said “it can keep until tomorrow” and we headed off to bed.


  1. It sounds like a great dinner party!

  2. It all sounded delicious. Those potatoes are beautiful, but I can't imagine how they looked when you were eating them. What an interesting color.


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