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One of my favorite ways of entertaining friends and family is to host a dinner party. My parents had dinner parties at least several times a year. But I think hosting dinners has become something like a lost art. It is just easier to make dinner reservations at a restaurant. However, a restaurant can sometimes be too noisy to hear everyone at the table and it will be much more impersonal than having dinner at your home.
Gary and I recently invited some friends over for what I billed as a “French Wine Dinner”. This gave me a framework to work from—structure is never a bad thing for me; it allows me to be creative without feeling like I have too many choices. So, I thought I would share what went into hosting the dinner.
I like to set the table first so I’m not running around trying to do it at the last minute. Don’t worry about whether your glasses match or whether your tableware matches. Mine didn’t.
So, I began by choosing the wines. Because I had a structure “French Wine Dinner”, it made it easier for me to select the wines. I also added the additional factor of challenging myself to offer something a bit different from the expected French wines that would go with each of the courses.
First Wine for Appetizers: Chavy-Chouet Cremant de Bourgogne (retail price $50). It is a pure and elegant wine with a balanced structure and a very low dosage. Intense aromas of citrus fruits, apple, apricot and white peaches, fine bubbles. Apple and Asian pear flavors, a round mouthfeel and a clean finish.
My friend brought her famous Smoked Turkey Cheese Ball. I’m trying to get her recipe to include here.
Second Wine for Salad Course: Figuere Valerie (retail price $26). This wine is from the Cote de Provence and it is light and fresh. We served it with the Elegant Poached Pear Salad.
Third wine for Main Course: Chateau Parenchere Bordeaux Superior (retail price $18). This wine is a Bordeaux Superior meaning the AOC for Bordeaux has determined that this vineyard consistently produces wine of Superior quality. Medium body red to complement the rich, spicy flavor of the Chicken Marengo I served with Mashed Potatoes for the main course.
Chicken Marengo was purportedly Napoleon’s favorite dish; created by his chef to break Napoleon’s fast after the battle of Marengo. It also happened to be one of my Dad’s favorites, so I always enjoy sharing it with friends. This is my version. I like to use it for dinner parties because you can do all of the work ahead of time and leave it on low, or on no heat for an hour or so, and then quickly heat it back up when you are getting ready to serve.
Fourth Wine for Dessert: Hallet Sauternes. This is a sweet wine from Bordeaux made from grapes that have acquired a gray fungus called noble rot. It sounds Gros, but it tastes delicious. Full, ripe and sweet with apricot notes. Yummy! I served this with a Torta de Santiago.
Remember this is all in good fun. Don’t stress about it too much. Enjoy!
-Kim Weiss, owner of Spirits & Spice