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How to host a dinner party in true French style

Table decorated with candlesticks and beautiful table cloths

Julia Girard-Gervois of TripUSAFrance organises amazing tours of France. Though she now lives in the USA, she loves to bring a taste of French style to her table. We asked Julia for her top tips to create a French flavour at home…

French table style

Always make sure that the dinner table is dressed before guests arrive. Use a beautiful tablecloth, individual napkins, fancy wine glasses, and flowers. Be careful to not overdo it – you want to keep it stylish but simple.

Aperitifs are soooo French

Bowl of tapenade made from crushed olives

Don’t sit at the dinner table as soon as guests arrive, start the evening in true French style with an aperitif – maybe in the garden or the living room. Have some amuses-bouches for the guests. Olive tapenade served with pieces of fresh bread or slices of saucisson are easy but delicious. Serve with  Champagne, Muscat Pastis or one of the most popular French aperitifs – Kir: white wine and a splash of fruity liquor such as Crème de Cassis. Turn it into a Kir Royal by substituting the white wine for Champagne. The apéritif can easily last over an hour if the ambiance is good. French people never rush this moment.

Match wine to dishes

First off, if you really want to have French style – serve a minimum of 4 courses. Appetizer, main course, salad and cheese plus dessert. This sounds like a lot of food! The key is to serve smaller portions for each course instead of one big meal.

Make sure to serve some French wine during the meal. Try to pair it according to the food that you prepared. Oysters for the appetizer offer some crisp white wine such as a Picpoul-de-Pinet, earthy meat Boeuf Bourguignon for the main course go for some bold red wine. (SomMailer French wine club deliver the best boutique wines from France, throughout the USA).

Salad and Cheese courses France

Cheese platter filled with cheeses cut and carved by an expert

The third course should be salad and cheese. French people take this step very seriously. Beforehand prepare a beautiful cheese board with at least four different cheese options. Try to mix them up, some creamy Camembert, some hard cheese like Comté, some blue cheese like Roquefort and maybe some mild goat cheese. The board will be shared between the guests. The salad is very simple. Take a bowl of sliced fresh lettuce and add a simple dressing. Maybe just plain olive oil with a touch of Balsamique. Walnut oil with some fresh walnuts is also really good.

Bread with your meal – it’s the law in France – almost!

Small bread rolls on a plate tied with string and a sprig of rosemary

A French table never runs out of bread! You should have bread on the table at all time. Make sure to put aside some bread for the cheese platter. If you want to keep it 100% French, you shouldn’t have any butter on the table. Only at breakfast time in France do butter and bread meet.


Offer a “digestif” at the end of the meal. Usually a shot of strong liquor. A typical drink would be Cognac, Armagnac, Chartreuse or Calvados. As the name of this drink implies, it’s supposed to help you digest your dinner!

Finally coffee

Table with pink and white table cloths and plants in a bowl

After the digestif it’s time for some coffee. French people LOVE to drink coffee after dinner. Make sure to have some decaf coffee as your guests may not want to drink a shot of expresso before going to bed. You could at this time serve some fruit and nuts or dry fruits and even some chocolate.

If you want to enjoy the very best of authentic French gastronomy, join Julia on one of her brilliant tours of southern France or Normandy: TripUSAFrance

All the lovely tableware on this page came from Pimlico.eu

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