A French Half Birthday Dinner

I’ve become totally obsessed with French cuisine, so to celebrate my half birthday last Friday night, I planned a French themed dinner party for 11 friends. Like any party, it was quite the production, but with plenty of things done in advance, it was a relatively stress-free event! Since the group was large, I had to transform my studio apartment to accommodate a bigger dining table. I turned the nook in my kitchen into a little lounge with my coffee table, arm chair, and storage bench, then I set up a folding table next to my dining table in the main room. It ended up working out perfectly and all my guests loved the lounge area.

The meal started out with an assortment of nibbles: housemade pork rillettes (I modified the New York Times recipe and made the rillettes in a slow cooker), three kinds (blue, creamy, and hard) of French cheese, olives, crackers, crostini, and cornichons. The best hors d’oeuvre was contributed by my amazing cousin Connor.

He placed a wheel of brie in the oven until it was melted and just starting to get gooey. He drizzled the warm cheese with honey and served it with thin slices of crisp apple. It was so simple, but absolutely scrumptious and totally sophisticated. Tres French if you ask me!

Jeff and Sonia were responsible for the delectable watercress soup that I served as the first course. Sonia found the recipe and Jeff made the soup before coming over. Sonia and I decided that the soup would be delicious without the caviar, but Jeff surprised us both with a small jar of luxurious caviar! This soup was decadent, but suited the special occasion and stormy weather splendidly.

For the main course, I offered roast salmon studded with bacon, lentils, and horseradish cream sauce. I found the recipe in The Country Cooking of France. It was unusual and unexpected, but enjoyed by everyone. For the final course, dessert, we devoured a French raspberry tart (from Nick Malgieri’s Bake!) with chocolate ice cream. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe from The Perfect Scoop; he describes the resulting ice cream as the ‘ultimate chocolate ice cream’ and I couldn’t agree more!

I was recently inspired by a color combination of navy and peach, so I used this to decorate the party space. I turned a beautiful navy fabric with white swirls into a tablecloth and picked up an assortment of peach flowers (roses, hydrangeas, ranunculus, and alstroemerias) from the flower mart. White candles and white cloth napkins completed the look. Editor’s Note: My apologies for the horrible photos! It’s hard to host a dinner party and remember to take a bunch of photos at the same time.

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