Bastille Day Menu: The Apéritif Dînatoire

Photo by via Flickr

Bonjour! Bastille Day is just a few days away, and its a good excuse to tap into a very French way of throwing a party known as the apéritif dînatoire. While the term translates, roughly, as a “dinner-esque cocktail party,” in essence, this is what the French might call a tapas party…if they weren’t French. The idea is to bring together lots of varied and somewhat sophisticated nibbles and bites, making sure there’s enough to stand in for a meal.

I am throwing an apéritif dinatoire this Thursday myself for about 2o to 25 people. Some are francophiles, but most of my friends simply enjoy a good excuse to eat good food and drink fine apéritifs. You don’t have to be French to celebrate Bastille Day any more than you need to be Mexican to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

For the menu, make sure that all dishes can be managed on a plate with just a fork, no knife needed. That way, people can eat while sitting or standing, anywhere in your home or patio. And, make sure you have a good mix of food:

♦ Finger Foods: These allow everyone to nibble and mingle a while before they move on to more substantial offerings. High-end dips, olives, breadsticks; for something homemade, add an appetizer made from puff pastry or stuffed mushrooms.

French Green Lentil Salad with Shrimp

♦ Hearty Salads: I always offer one or two salads to help anchor the spread. A great choice or this is the French Green Lentil Salad (throw in some shrimp, of you’re feeling splashy). But you can also try any grain- or legume-based salad.

♦ Quiches and Savory Tarts: Good options include a classic Pissaladière, a tarte flambé (Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart), or mini quiches (cut into halves or quarters to make into finger foods).

Asparagus Cheese Tartlets--Cut into quarters for bite-size grazing

♦ Charcuterie: Offer the best charcuterie you can find at a local deli, including salami, prosciutto, and, of course, pâté. (While salami and prosciutto may not sound French, the French have their own versions of these cured meats and enjoy them often.

♦ Cheeses: I always try to offer a goat’s milk cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese, a cow’s milk cheese, and a blue cheese. One of my favorite foursomes is Chabichou du Poitou (goat), Ossau-Iraty (sheep), Saint-André (cow), and Bleu d’Auvergne (blue).

♦ Breads: Offer the best artisanal breads your neighborhood or city has to offer. A French woman would probably put out a traditional baguette, as well as rustic country-style round breads, all cut into small slices.


Madeleines—a great dessert for buffet-style gatherings

♦ Dessert: Madeleines make it easy to offer a nofork-needed sweet to finish the buffet.

What’s to drink? Start everyone off with a French apéritif. It’s a must. Then move on to french wine, of course.

In summer, you can’t go wrong with super-chilled rosés from the South of France; especially those made with Syrah-Grenache-Mouvedre blends.

Santé. And I’d love to hear about how everyone else is celebrating Bastille Day.

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