How to Throw a French Dinner Party
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
Every year, I throw a dinner party for my family and in-laws the day before Mother's Day. It's the perfect time to get every one together and celebrate the moms in our lives. I like to pick a theme, and use that to guide my menu and tablescape choices. This year, we traveled to France!
Below are all the details you need to bring France to your dining room....
I wanted to go with a very simple and classic looking French tablescape, using creams, whites, light blues and pinks, with pops of gold. Our group was so big this year, I had to create a separate table for the kiddos, where I opted for fake candles, over the real ones I had at the adult table. Links/descriptions for each item can be found below...
Placemats - I made these using macrame cord, cork coasters and hot glue. A full tutorial will be up soon, but you can follow my video tutorial here.
Table runner - Link here.
Napkins - I have used these for several parties. They've held up so well! Link here.
Leaf Name Cards - I made these with leaves found in our neighborhood and a gold sharpie.
White Melamine Plates - Mine are no longer available, but these are similar. Link here.
Gold Candle Stick Holders - Stunning!! Link here.
Glass Votive Candle Holders - Link here.
Glass Tealight Candle Holders - Link here.
Tall Votive Candle Holders - Link here.
Drip-less Candle Sticks - These things were amazing and really didn't drip. Link here.
Fake Candle Sticks - Link here.
Fake Tealight Candles - Link here.
Flowers - Roses, tulips and hydrangeas from Trader Joe's
Vases - I love stocking up on clear vases in all shapes for this very reason. They're neutral and can be used for any style party.
Menu Details & Recipes
We followed a very traditional French five course meal - Apertif (cocktails and light bites), Entree (appetizers), Plat Principal (main course), Cheese, and finally, dessert.
Apertif - Not quite appetizers, but not quite just drinks. It's typically very light snacks and bites, served with cocktails or something bubbly to open up the taste buds.
I served a variety of nuts, crackers, olives and spreads, including some pate. For drinks, I had champagne and sparkling rose for the adults and sparking apple cider for the kiddos.
Entree - The name is a little misleading here, but this is actually the appetizer portion of the meal.
I served a Spinach Gruyere Quiche (recipe here), a bistro salad (recipe here) and a French spring soup (recipe here). For the salad, I left out the walnuts, because my daughter is extremely allergic, and it was still unbelievably delicious.
Plat Principal - This is the main course, and I borrowed the recipes from my French friend. They were delicious.
The chicken is Poulet aux vin jaune et aux morilles and the potatoes are Puree de pommes de terre. Highly, highly recommend. I've typed up the recipes here, translated from French.
Cheese - Since I had lots of kiddos over, I made the board as kid and adult friendly as possible.
It was enjoyed by all!
Dessert - I like to always offer at least one chocolate based dessert and one fruit based dessert. I loaded everyone up with three choices this time...
For the chocolate, I made an authentic French chocolate mousse, whipped up some fresh whipped cream, and topped it with berries. Recipe here.
For the fruit based dessert, I served a lemon cream tart (I think this was the winner of the night). Recipe here.
And, I threw in some macarons for good French measure! These were not made by me, but were picked up from a local French bakery.
Make sure you have lots of yummy bread available throughout the dinner - bread is very important with any French meal!
After the Apertif portion of the meal, serve some delicious white and red French wines for the rest of the meal.
Scheduling & Prep Tips
(so you can enjoy the evening too)
Example Meal Schedule 5:00 PM - Apertif
5:45 PM - Entree
6:45 PM - Plat Principal
7:30 PM - Cheese
8:30 PM - Dessert
Two Days Before Dinner
Prep your tablescape (minus floral arrangements)
Make tart crust
Bring out any dishes you will need for food plating
One Day Before Dinner Pick-up macarons
Make tart filling
Make dressing for salad
Morning of Dinner
Make floral arrangements
Pre-chop ingredients for salad, chicken, quiche and soup (you could also do this the day before)
Prepare cheese board and store in fridge
Make chicken, allow to cool, and store in fridge
Boil, peel and mash your potatoes (store in fridge)
The following is strictly based on the example meal schedule listed above, so adjust accordingly if your times are different:
3:45 PM - Assemble your tart and place in the fridge
4:00 PM - Start making your soup (cooks for 1.5 hrs on the stovetop)
4:15 PM - Start making your quiche (cooks for 1 hr in the oven)
4:30 PM - Toast up loaves of french bread
While bread is toasting, arrange your apertif spread
Slice up toasted bread and plate
5:00 PM - Apertif begins 5:30 PM - Place chicken back on stovetop at the lowest heat setting and slowly
reheat (this will take about an hour)
Begin plating your entree spread
5:45 PM - Entree begins
6:15 PM - Finish making your mashed potatoes
6:35 PM - Begin plating Plat Principal
6:45 PM - Plat Principal begins
7:30 PM - Serve cheese (you already per-arranged this so simply bring it out of the
8:15 PM - Make fresh whipped cream
Top tart with berries
Top tart with mousse and berries
8:30 PM - Serve dessert
Happy dinner, friends!