July 25, 2023

French Alps Party Menu

In 2022, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday running around the French Alps – amazing! But I never got to celebrate with my friends and family back home, which kind of bummed me out. This year, I’ve struggled with going back and forth between my Superior house and my house in Minturn (I know, first world problems!) because it’s been tough to maintain two friend groups. So putting those two problems together, I decided to host two birthday parties in 2023: one in the mountains for my friends up there, and one back in the Front Range. That meant I also got to come up with two themes and menus – yay!

For my mountain party, I decided to make it a French theme. Wine, champagne, and kir royales were the drinks, and then I put out a massive cheese board spread to serve as hors d’oeuvres. I think I had about 20 different cheeses (not all French), olives, fig jam, almonds, and crackers. To hold all of that, I had to use four charcuterie boards, all spread out across my dining room table. It wasn’t fancy in presentation (there was a lot more I could have done to make it pretty had I put more time into it), but man, this much cheese is the stuff of my dreams!

If only I had one more tray of cheese to fill in that hole in the front… 😂

With all of that to munch on, I probably didn’t need to make a full dinner… but I did anyway. On the healthy side, I served a mixed greens salad with a simple dijon vinaigrette… and on the not-so-healthy side, I made this gratin dauphinois. I had never made potatoes au gratin before, and this was the dish that I was the most nervous about going into the event. Mostly, I worried about how long it would take me to slice all those potatoes, and I seriously considered buying a mandoline just to help! But even though I was doubling the recipe to have enough for all my guests, it really didn’t take too long to prep all the potatoes, especially since I only had to slice them and didn’t need to peel them. In all, the cooking / prep for this event only took about two hours.

So what did I cook for my main dish in just two hours? Ironically, a dish that normally takes all day – coq au vin. This recipe was a healthy twist on the French classic, and it cooked in less than 10 minutes in the Instapot. Or at least it would have, if I hadn’t gotten distracted with the last bits of party prep right as I was getting ready to set the Instapot to cook, and forgot to add the chicken to the pot of wine and veggies! I realized my mistake when I opened the Instapot lid after cooking it in full, and “fixed it” by just adding the chicken and recooking the whole thing. I expected the veggies to be way too mushy as a result of my double cooking, but they were actually okay, and several guests asked for the recipe. Score! This recipe is a definite keeper.

Here’s the whole platter! With a side of fresh-baked baguette to sop up all the amazing juices, bien sur 😉

For dessert, I was trying to find a blueberry tart, like the incredible one I devoured in the rolling foothills of L’Aiguilette de Posettes last year. When I couldn’t find that here in the States, I started looking for a fruit tart – still impossible on short notice! So in the end, I just served a few dozen macarons, and then grabbed a storebought chocolate bundt cake and poured homemade salted lavender caramel over the top. Not the fanciest, but after all the champagne and cheese I had consumed at that point, I really didn’t care about the dessert too much 😂

This menu was incredibly simple, and the theme was incredibly fun. A lot of people wore berets, a few greeted me with a carefully practiced “Bon anniversaire” (happy birthday in French), and we all had a fabulous summer evening sipping champagne. I loved this party theme and would definitely do it again!

Lovely birthday and lovely friends!

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