The temperature dips, leaves start to fall and my dining tastes switch from outdoor BBQs and salads to warm, comforting meals served on nice tableware. The flicker of candlelight, the smell of something delicious coming from the kitchen and soft music in the air. I long for the cozy feel of a neighborhood French Bistro but as I won't be traveling to France anytime soon, I paired up with my friend, Cheryl Norris of Bakes by Brown Sugar to create a French Fall Dinner Party Menu that you can make at home.
Cheryl lives in Portland, Oregon and we have never actually met in person, but we have become blogger friends. She is an engineer by day, home baker by night. What I love about her blog is that she writes to beginner bakers and her recipes are truly fail-proof. Her holiday cookie recipes were my constant companion last year and will be again this year!
Tips for a Successful French Fall Menu Dinner Party:
Prepare in advance
Choose recipes that you can make well before your guests arrive. The last thing you want to be doing is fussing over the kitchen stove while your friends are at the table. This menu is full of dishes that you can prepare in advance so that you are cool and collected throughout your Bistro Soirée.
Set the Stage
A good restaurant ambiance is all about theatrics. A half hour before the guests are set to arrive, prepare the "stage". Dim the lights. Ask Alexa or Siri to play French Bistro music (yes, she can!). No need for room spray or any other scents - the waft from the oven is appetizing enough! Finish setting the table so that it looks inviting. I love to add a branch of rosemary or lavender to my place settings. It is a little French touch that guests appreciate.
Serve an Apéritif
Help your guests transition from the world outside into the comfort of your home. The French tradition of L'apéro is a great way to start off a dinner party. Guests chat and linger, working up an appetite. Cheryl's Gougères recipe is light yet fragrant and delicious and will have guests excited about the meal to come! Serve with a crisp dry sparkling wine (Champagne, for example!) to start the evening with a twinkle.
Don't wait too long to serve the first course
In France, a practice is to serve the first course an hour to an hour and a half after your guests arrive. In North America where we tend to eat much earlier, I would aim for about 30-45 minutes after the start time.
This creamy butternut squash soup with crispy sage is a great appetizer for a Fall dinner menu. It is super simple to make and can be prepared a day in advance and reheated to serve. The crispy sage garnish is made in the microwave (the best Chef's tip ever!) and can be prepared before guests arrive so that you are not scrambling in the kitchen to serve the first course.
Serve with a freshly baked French Baguette (this recipe can be made in two hours for complete beginner bakers) and guests will be mopping up the bottom of their bowls to get every last bite.
Keep the Main Course Simple
By now, conversation is flowing and your guests are enjoying themselves. Nothing makes a dinner party fall flat quicker than when the host excuses themselves to spend an hour in the kitchen trying to cook, à la minute, a fancy dish with multiple components. My go-to has always been this French Roast Chicken Recipe as it can be put in the oven and hour before the guests arrive and will be ready to serve by the time you are ready for the main course. Place the potatoes directly in the roasting pan and you have a complete dish that your guests will truly enjoy with minimal effort. Plus, the smell of the chicken roasting is incredible!!
How to Serve Roast Chicken
I recommend serving family style by bringing the entire platter to the table and carving it in front of your guests. This is so interactive and fun. If you are not an expert at carving, make light of the situation - surely someone will hop up to help you! If you carve the chicken in the kitchen make sure you present the dish to your guests before you start making the plates. A whole roast chicken always gets "ooohs" and "ahhhs"! Plan on serving a whole breast or a leg to each guest (ask for their preference). Wings go to those who want them!
I like to pair roast chicken with a Provençal Rosé wine or light, fruity red such as a Pinot Noir.
Leave a lasting impression
Your guests will remember the dessert! It is the last thing that they will eat before leaving. Cheryl created a showstopper Cinnamon Apple Crêpes dessert that will have everyone asking for seconds. My tip would be to make the crêpes and the apple topping in advance. The crêpes can be reheated in the oven at 175 degrees for 10 minutes (cover with tinfoil so they don't dry out) and the apple topping can be reheated in a sauce pan just before serving. Simply top with whipped cream and powdered sugar when you are ready to serve. Voilà!
Please let me know if you make this French Fall Dinner Party Menu. Cheryl and I had so much fun working on this together!
You might also like the following menus:
What other menus would you like to see?
Au plaisir mes amis,
Le Chefs Wife