AFTER THE MEAL IN A PARISIAN HOME...

In Parisian tradition, being a first-class hostess is more than pouring drinks and seeing that everyone gets fed. Meticulous attention to detail is very important to us, even after the meal.  Guests must feel pampered and cocooned as they slowly digest and engage in after-dinner conversation. It’s up to the hostess to see that everyone is having a nice time and will have wonderful memories of the evening. It’s time to serve good coffee, relaxing herbal teas, or delightful liqueurs.  If smoking is allowed, it’s also the right time to pass around the cigarette box, and offer the gents hand-rolled Churchills."

AFTER-DINNER DRINKS

Coffee

In France, coffee is not normally served at the dinner table (except in a restaurant). Have coffee in the living room or, weather permitting, outdoors on the deck or patio. To do things properly, brew the coffee while the guests are having dessert. Serve the coffee as soon as the guests get up from the dinner table. Coffee must be served hot on a large, attractive tray. The cups must be placed right-side up (never upside down) on matching saucers. On each saucer, next to the cup, should be a moka spoon (not a teaspoon). The coffee pot, cream pitcher, and sugar bowl (with tongs) are placed in the middle of the tray. The cups and saucers are placed around them. If the serving set (coffee pot, cream pitcher and sugar bowl) is silver, the cups and saucers should be in a compatible style:  antique look with antique style cups or contemporary or 30’s style with same style cups. Porcelain or earthenware serving sets must have matching cups. 

Making a good thing even better: coffee time should also be chocolate-tasting time. Traditionally, these are served by the lady of the house.

Liqueurs 

They are served just after the coffee. Once again, make up a lovely tray. The choice is wide:

-  A carafe of cognac is often de rigueur

-  One or two bottles of fruit eau de vie (plum, pear, and raspberry arte traditional flavors)

-  A carafe of Calvados, or any other mild, old Rhum.

Try and have one or more nice-looking carafes. You can mix and match, as long as the styles go together. When everything looks great, who can resist?

Fruit Juices

Following your after-dinner drinks (this time should be kept relatively short), offer fruit juice.

- For a small dinner party, one kind is enough (orange juice, lemonade or a freshly squeezed citrus mix)

- For larger affairs, it is more elegant to offer a choice (citrus or cherry, for example)

Have ice on hand, in case anyone would like some in their juice, or might care for a whiskey & soda on the rocks. You might also serve champagne, but don’t feel you have to.

These beverages should be ready to go, on a nice tray, right after the cognac or liqueur.

IF SMOKING IS ALLOWED…

Cigars

When liqueur is served, bring out cigars, if you can afford to do it with style. Offer only handmade quality cigars, or don’t bother at all. Cigars are luxury items, so no one will hold it against you if you don’t have any.  Remember to have a cigar cutter and long matches, and don’t forget to remove the cigar band before lighting up.

Cigarettes

Have a cigarette box in your living room, filled with an assortment of cigarettes. Pass the box around before and after the meal, and encourage guests to help themselves, if they’d like another.

So now you know the secrets of the perfect Parisian hostess. Try them out and see how it goes! Putting the rules into practice take a lot of hard work,

…. but well worth it! Isabelle

© Picture home page: Mariage Frères

Isabelle - Spotlight

Bonjour, my name is Isabelle. At my parent’s, a week didn’t go by without a social gathering. It may have been a garden-party, a bridge party or a diner dance. No caterers, of course, everything was homemade! With my sisters, we learned how to put different spreads on toast, the right way of course, arrange the flowers for the tables or decorate the buffet, to say the right thing to each guest or organize an elegant picnic. As appropriate, I learned etiquette during these receptions and also had “savoir-vivre” lessons. Today, I work in public relations in Paris and the education that I received is of great use. I’ll give you several very Parisian tips…

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