Soak up the vibe of 1920s Parisian café society, where it was all about honest food and scintillating conversation.
- Write dinner invitations on postcards of iconic Parisian landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe.
- Post your menu on a framed chalkboard.
- Dress your table with simple white plates and white napkins. Tablecloths (also white) are optional. You can earn extra style points with woven rattan dining chairs.
- Create intimate, flattering lighting with lots of candles.
- If you're lucky enough to sit outside at night, string up lights and embellish your garden or patio with little lanterns (votive candles in jars will do nicely).
- After dinner, linger over glasses of Armagnac paired with excellent chocolates.
- Send your guests home with paperback copies of Hemmingway's "A Moveable Feast."
This is a classic red wine dinner. You could not go wrong with a California or Washington Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. If you want to keep it French, try a Bordeaux from the Medoc or Graves, or a red from the Rhone.
Evening in Provence
Spend a starry night in the French countryside doing nothing more complicated than becoming one with the local comfort food.
- Postcards of paintings by Van Gogh or Cezanne make perfect dinner invitations.
- Use table linens printed in traditional Provencal floral patterns of Mediterranean blue and buttery yellow. Plain fabrics will do in a pinch, but add color accents with an exuberant array of sunflowers in an earthenware pot.
- Bring out anything rustic such as wrought ironwork or carved wood and incorporate it into your decorations
- Set out pots of rosemary, sage, thyme, and lavender to scent the night.
- Scatter plenty of votive candles.
- Fill little jars with mixed herbes de Provence: dried thyme, rosemary, bay, basil and sweet savory. Give a jar to each guest as a memento of a magical summer night, or present them with the potted herbs on your dinner table.
If you're like me and prefer red wines to white, summer can be a challenging time. The solution? Drink dry rosé, like they do in Provence. It's the perfect compromise. It's a terrific food wine, a particularly nice match for the foods of Provence. Like red wines, rosés are made from red grapes, only the juice is run off the skins before it develops much depth of color. Chilled, they drink just like white wines, cool and refreshing. Try a rosé from Provence or California. Or if you prefer white wine, choose a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
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