It's the Celtic New Year!
Hello my fellow witches, goblins, gremlins, freaks, geeks, and party people!
A very Happy Halloween to you and to yours!
Halloween is my favorite holiday - ever and to celebrate my special day, I drank a Monaco to bring in the new year!
A Monaco is a beer mixed with grenadine syrup - it's delicious and fun fact, in Romania, this drink is called a Dracula!
Tonight, as I was drinking in the evening air, I did notice many children dressed up and walking about town.
Halloween is slowly infiltrating French culture, and to be honest, I don't like it. Why is that, you ask? Because it is not a typical French tradition, and I want MY France to stay France - which is ridiculous to write, because we are in a constant state of motion and evolution, but still.
I'm happy to see French customs and traditions adapting to other cultures, it is highly civilized, but not at the expense of losing a bit of its own identity as well, but times are a changing, and even though I want France to be, well French, I feel she will never lose her je ne sais quoi.
Today, I thought about my ancestors, reflected on my life, became emotional, walked my dog, made some decisions, ate eggs and black beans for breakfast and had a ham and Havarti sandwich with salt and vinegar crisps/chips tucked inside the bread for a late dinner, did some yoga, took a shower, lit some incense, watched an old Charmed episode, petted a cat, went to a bar with a friend and drank a Monaco, visited my neighbor, waved to children, and was gifted a tiger's eye stone from my husband's family.
All and all, not a bad way to spend New Year's day and an important reminder to myself that come what may, I, like France, will never lose my je ne sais quoi!
Today's blog post is about serving and spoiling your friends and loved ones, how to be the perfect host/hostess, and how to be the perfect guest - complete with directions, a market shopping list, Dos and Don'ts, a French themed menu, and recipes!!!
Read time: 7 minutes
Hello everyone! I hope this email finds you well and in good spirits!
One of my greatest pleasures in life is serving and spoiling my friends. I adore, simply adore, having them stop on by for some quality time, good food and drink, and great conversation. I think I just love doting on them, plus I love to cook, and to eat, and to drink, therefore hosting brunches, lunches and dinners simply makes me happy and happiness is contagious, so I ask you, when was the last time you hosted a get-together?
My sincere hope is that this post will inspire you to host a little party of your own.
DO Host a get together! The sooner the better, but best be prepared!
Of course there are some rules that a host/ess must adhere to, food and drink should be obvious, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
Before we begin, I must ask you two questions:
1. Have you seen the movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel? (If not, please DO!!)
2. When was the last time you hosted a get-together? (BBQs don't count, ok they do, but they don't.)
I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, the director for such films as The Royal Tennabaums, Rushmore, Moonlight Kingdom, and of course, The Grand Budapest Hotel....plus he is a Texan! I admire his flair for simplicity and style, I find his movies and him, not only charming, but refreshing in today's awful cinematic choices of lackluster blockbusters and raunch. I recently read he designed Bar Luce in Milan, Italy. It is very lovely, however couldn't find the price of a cappuccino!
If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it, after-all, it only won several awards, including four Oscars.
You may being asking yourself: What in the Sam hell does that movie have to do with being a host? In short, everything! The movie is about the lost art of being a charming and elegant host.
There are so many gems of dialogue in that movie, but there are three quotes that stand out to me in particular.
Mr Gustave: What is a lobby boy?... A lobby boy remembers what people hate. A lobby boy anticipates the client's needs before the needs are needed. A lobby boy is, above all, discreet to a fault. Our guests know that their deepest secrets, some of which are frankly rather unseemly, will go with us to our graves. So keep your mouth shut, Zero.
Replace the words lobby boy with host and this should give you an idea of your required duties. Being the host does not mean that you a slave to your guests, on the contrary, it means you create an ambiance of comfort, which leads to possibilities, and most importantly, know that whatever happens at the party, stays at the party!
DO create an ambiance of comfort!
As Mr Gustave said, a lobby boy remembers what people hate. I find this too complicated, instead, I find out what foods we both like, and build my menu around that.
Mr Gustave: Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won't get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.
Guest Rule #1 - You are there to have a good time!
A good guest should only be concerned about having a good time, assisting the host with the little things, and spending quality time with friends. Guests should never worry about the food or not having enough, to have that mindset is just gross, besides that is the host's job.
** A good host will make sure there is more than enough food for seconds or thirds, however a GREAT host will ensure your guests won't have room for dessert! **
A guest should NEVER ask what is being served or what something is, of course there are a few exceptions, but everything depends on the context.
Guest Rule #2 - Don't ask what is being served or what something is. You have eyes, you can see, you have a brain that allows you to decipher what something is! Simply put, it is RUDE, perhaps because they are fearful they won't enjoy their meal. These words should NEVER EVER be uttered. Why? A good host would have already given a description of what is being served.
Guest Rule #3 - If you have been invited to someone's home, it is only polite to bring a gift. Be it a plant, something to share such as a bottle of wine or sparkling water, a bag of chips for the apéro or even something homemade - be creative, gather wildflowers from around your area (sure have done this, made a fabulous little bouquet too!) just know it doesn't have to break the bank!
DON'T ask what is being served. A good host would have already informed you of what to expect. DO have a good time! DO bring a gift!
I am sort-of a snob, not in the classical sense of the word, as I am not nobility - snob is Latin for sine nobilitate (well, one day, when Prince Harry finally finds me.)
Food is important and should be respected, not only because is it our sustenance, but because there are millions of people who die of starvation in our world, so I find being wasteful or gorging oneself shows a lack of finesse and respect.
In fact, a NPR (National Public Radio) news piece has estimated Americans waste 31-percent of food - that's 3 pieces of pizza of a 10 piece pie! WHAaaaa?!
We need to feed ourselves and feed ourselves well, so easy tiger, be grateful for the food you are eating, the time on our beautiful earth, and the time we get to share with others. I define myself as a snob in the sense of being mindful and respectful to myself and others and I show a condescending disdain to those who complain, have a lack of self-respect and are wasteful. I find it repulsive.
Please do not misunderstand me, I'm human, I do and I am all of those hideous actions at times as well, but I'm also conscious and conscience of my behaviors, therefore I attempt to choose wisely, and some days are easier than others!
I also know and understand that not everyone was educated and raised as I was, therefore you can take my menu of advice with a grain of salt (hopefully pink Himalayan rock salt) and scatter it to the four corners - your choice. DO what makes you, YOU, boo!
Mr Gustave: You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant... oh, fuck it.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, so to speak, let's talk about your duties as a host.
Host Rules -- A host creates a friendly, warm and comfortable ambiance for their guests. Full stop. EVERYTHING comes down to timing. Full stop. Food and drink are merely the accessories of the evening. Full stop.
A host's job is to prepare and to be prepared.
When you invite your friends over to spend some quality time together, you should already have an idea of what you will be serving, a food theme. Mention Italian, Mexican, French, traditional comfort food or whatnot and see what excites your friend! That is how you build your menu for the evening.
I once made Mexican food for my French family one evening, and I was toast of all of France, they loved it and sent accolades onto the next evening. Another time, I made chili for some friends and they left feeling loved and all warm and gooey! You see, it is not all about the food, it is though, but also how everything is presented, and served, and timing.
Everything is about timing! Allow me to expand on this by giving you an example about me. I AM LAZY, and because I'm lazy I must arrange my life so that I can have the privilege to do nothing, which means being organized and executing effective time management. It's paradoxical and a choice, I know. For me, doing nothing means everything must be efficient and neat, otherwise I can't enjoy my lazy time if everything is one hot mess.
Once you know what the theme is, everything will fall into place.
Timing also means everything must be ready and waiting to be set out, cooked up, and poured. This means vegetables should be already chopped, spices within reach, pan oiled and on the stove, drinking glasses laid out, drinks chilled and ready to be taken out of the fridge, plates, napkins, forks, knives and spoons ready for use, table set, so that when there is a knock at your door, you are revving to go!!
Timing means being prepared and preparing.
A host's job is to create a friendly, warm and comfortable
ambiance, not only for their guests, but for themselves too!
You DO NOT want to be a racing about, umm no,
that defeats the purpose of a friendly, warm comfortable ambiance!
Today's food theme example is French, since this is a French themed website.
Also please note: REAL French comfort food and REAL America comfort food are the same foods! It is just pronounced differently and with a funny accent! This should help put your mind at ease, believe me!
Want proof? Ok, coq au vin -- chicken with wine sauce. Blanquette de veau - veal cream stew. Pot au feu - pot roast. Poule au pot - chicken soup. Canard à l'orange - duck with orange sauce. So, wash the crockpot and let's put it to good use, because our main dish will be a pot roast! (Sorry vegetarians and vegans.)
The Apéro otherwise known as the appetizers...
When guests first arrive, take their belongings and place them out of the way, then tell them where the toilets are so if they wish to wash up right away they can, and then immediately offer them a drink!! Wine, flat and sparkling water ((optional - whiskey or rum, plus juice and cola for mixes)) are all good choices. As you are pouring their (and your) drinks, invite them to sit down and make themselves comfortable on the couch in your living room or however your home is set up.
On the coffee table, you will have already set out a small spread of nibbles: A small bowl of peanuts or cashews, a small bowl of chips and a medium-good sized portion of dip, some fresh vegetables that goes well with the dip (such as carrots, celery, broccoli) some olives, and deviled eggs. These are all good choices. Pick at least four!
Your guest is your guest, therefore if they have to ask for a drink, you are failing as a host. (See, I am a snob.) Also, hosts will keep an eye out on drinks, if someone has emptied their glass, especially with alcohol, (you want your guests to be safe and don't want their taste buds dulled!) automatically offer to refill them or ask if they wish for some water.
Remember timing is everything, so expect to spend 20-40 minutes of chat time before excusing yourself to prepare the next course.
To the table! à table!
L'entrée - the next course
Depending on the season, the next course should be either a soup or salad entrée, and because you are the perfect host, it has already been prepared before hand.
In the fall/winter, I love to make butternut squash or pumpkin or broccoli cheddar soups! In the spring/summer, I love serving gazpacho (if you can't get it directly from Spain, store bought is fine - just joking!) I always buy my gazpacho from the market, but I top it off with fresh chopped carrots, celery, cucumbers and cilantro for more texture and heartiness and then add a splash of jalepeno juice to kick it up a notch!) or a fresh tomato mozzarella basil salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing, so fresh and light! Again, the soup/salad will have been prepared before hand.
SOUP RECIPE: Buy a butternut squash or pumpkin or broccoli.
Chop them up into bite size pieces and place them in a pot. Fill it with water so your vegetables looks like they are relaxing in a jacuzzi, add a bouillon cube (chicken, beef or vegetable), add half a medium chopped onion, 2 cloves of pressed garlic and boil until tender. Allow it to cool a little before transferring to a blender (I cracked my glass blender, still makes me so mad!) or use a hand blender until smooth and/or velvety. Transfer it back to the pot and add butter, cream (full fat sour cream or creme fraîche or heavy whipping cream) salt and pepper until it tastes perfect for you. Set aside and when it is time for it to be reheated for serving, top with your favorite freshly grated or crumbled cheese, such as cheddar or Roquefort blue cheese.
Crockpot or oven done pot roast -- YUM! Hello, deliciousness, I've got a sweet spot named my stomach and there room for you! Want to Frenchify it up a notch? Add a glass and a half of red wine for a nice savory sauce. Keep it simple, folks! Beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, stock, salt and pepper.
A side plate of an assortment of cheese (3) - cut and presented in bite sized portions - served next to a garnish of lettuce and tomatoes. Choose from your favorites, however they should be a mix of hard and soft cheeses. Choices include: Havarti (soft), Gouda (hard), Brie or Camembert (soft), Beaufort (hard), Comte (hard) - all are excellent choices and very good!
Apple and oatmeal bake, a creamy-milky, apple-y treat that tastes like Norman Rockwell print has come to life!
Oatmeal and Apple Dessert Recipe
This is a very simple recipe, it is, as described, simply oatmeal and apples. However, your guests, who have just eaten 4 courses of rich and bountiful food, may not have room for dessert, but let's face it, EVERYBODY has room for dessert!
This can be made either thin or thick - (less oats vs more oats) it is how you prefer to make it. I like mine to have the consistency of cake, so I make mine very watery (milky). Keep it simple. Cut up the apples into slices or bite sized squares and make oatmeal. To the oatmeal, add heavy whipping cream, a pinch of salt, sugar, and butter (optional: cinnamon and/or nutmeg) until it tastes perfect to you. You want it to be wet and milky because it will go in the oven.
Transfer to oven safe dish(es), top the oatmeal with apples, sprinkle it with some sugar and add pats of butter to the tops of the apples. Bake until warm, bubbly and tender. Your home should smell like Christmas Eve, mmmmm!
Serve warm on side plates, top off with whipped cream.
Coffee and Tea
After the dessert course, offer your guests either coffee or tea. Make fresh, obviously, and enjoy the rest of your evening!
I hope I have given you some food for thought. I love cooking and eating and entertaining, but everyone has their own rhythm and thoughts of the perfect party - so why not throw one?! I anxiously await for an invitation, with pleasure!
Thoughts? Comments? Invitations? Let me hear them.
Take care of yourselves, remember, life is too short to eat bad food and until next time...
PS. Watch The Grand Budapest Hotel and Host a party!
Bonjour et Bienvenue!
Thank you for stopping by for a spell!
I am a 40-something year old American woman. Born in Texas, raised in Las Vegas!
Frenchified for Life
is a fabulous little lifestyle blog about truly embracing French life!
My intent is to simply inspire you to create something unique and beautiful in your everyday life. The French have this wonderful and annoying habit of seeing the world through rose colored glasses, might as well learn something from them!
That said, I lift my glass to you!
By the way, I mention the name Cachou (or The Cash) a lot, I'm referring to her...