Last month, our ten year old daughter, who is in love with Louis IV and all of his trappings begged us to have a Royal dinner party in which everyone came dressed as royalty, gave themselves royal names, and ate in a royal fashion. Putting her off for longer than we would like to admit, we sat down one day and talked about what this dinner party would be like.
"Royal costumes! Everyone has to come dressed like some royalty. They can be a King, a Prince, a Duke, or a Countess. I am of course, Comtess Zoe-Pascale de Saxe Roux of Languedoc, Rousillion."
Now, being a tween she was also aware of the fact that some of her friends might think she was "uncool" and therefore wanted to invite family friends. At first we tried to dissuade her, but realized she had actually come up with a solution to the problem she felt (operative word, felt) she had which was not to be "uncool."
In her eloquent Franglais, she crafted the Royal invitation and sent it out to a few family friends asking them to RSVP with their titles and come appropriately dressed. To our surprise, all the invitees answered with hysterical messages that asked, "Where should we park the carriage and horses?" "Will there be water for the horses?"
This week, my husband Jean and I attended a dinner and book signing by Mireille Guiliano, the author of Why French Women don’t Get Fat and The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook.
In a small intimate gathering at Moussy’s restaurant in San Francisco we were served a menu (taken from her book) that melted in your mouth. The appetizer was enough to make me swoon with flavors bursting with mixtures of prosciutto and blackberries and d’anjou pears and blue cheese topped with walnuts on toasted baguette.
Being a “when I have time to cook, cook” I have experimented over the last 5 years with a few of what I call my signature dishes. After talking with her I am determined to expand my repertoire and try what she suggested were some easy, fast, and flavorful dishes.
But first back to the menu. The first course was roasted gulf prawns with a citrus and fennel salad. I don’t know about you, but I love prawns but have never figured out how to cook them unless they are part of a shrimp cocktail. Grilled shrimp here we come! The entrée, a delicious grilled hanger steak with the long stemmed flowering broccolini was amazing. Most importantly we were reminded of the portions being small (why French women don’t get fat) and yet so flavorful that every bite was a trip to heaven. Okay, there was a superb chef cooking for us, but still anything is possible.
Conversing with Mireille over desert we discussed the Vanilla Panna Cotta with organic strawberries, candied pinenuts and Mint. The chef told me later he added his own ingredient of fennel pollen honey imported from Italy. Take away the amazing honey flavor Mireille attested that it would take 3 minutes to make the desert (albeit it does need to be prepared ahead of time to gel) and is both brilliant and healthy.
I shared with Mireille that we sit down at the table every night (I got ten points for that one) but our daughter was complaining that we ate too much chicken. She loved my lamb chops too, but I needed something else easy that wasn’t chicken.