No such thing as a standard menu. We like to go for what we find on the market, and for what the participants feel like cooking – and eating.
But here are a couple of recent menus:
We meet outside the metro station. Everyone is on time, we enter the farmers market – a special treat, with foods pouring off carts and tents everywhere. We take a few pictures. We roam the market for seasonal produce, and together we agree our menu, based on what looks best.
We choose asparagus. To go with it, we will make a mousseline sauce.
Our guests are vegetarian today, so we go to the fish store and choose French red label grade salmon.
We then stop by the fruit and vegetable store, the cheese merchant, the bread maker, and of course the wine cellar.
We get home, we get introduced to the kitchen and the cooking utensils. We learn the essential routines for storing the cheese and bread 2 hours before serving.
We open the wine, one guest volunteers to taste it – no, another guest is also volunteering!
Guests talk about their love of cooking and their individual relationship to food.
We get busy cooking – everyone takes part, this is hands on.
We start with the salmon, we will make a papillote on a bed of green apple and fennel. We throw in secret ingredients – a confit of lemon and ginger, and “salt flower” flavoured with espelette pimento from French Basque country.
The cheese plate does not need too much attention – but we learn the does and dont’s of setting a cheese plate.
For dessert, as the strawberries from Brittany caught our eye at the market, we mince them in a vinegar reduction.
The table has intentionally not been set – we set the table, and along the way we discuss French etiquette and art de vivre.
A question comes up – how do the French eat asparagus – with silverware or with bare hands? We’ll tell you during the meal…
Then we start eating – we have been patient long enough.
The host makes conversation at first, but soon enough everyone is talking away.
Parting is the hardest moment. People linger, oftentimes they trade emails – with the host, and/or with each other. The host will likely email a small surprise in a couple of days…
Fall is mushroom season. At the farmers’ market we find morels straight from the woods.
The cheese store catches our attention with a seasonal cheese – mont d’or vacherin, matured in the cellars of the Alps.
We then visit the fruit and vegetable store, the cheese merchant, the bread maker, and of course the wine seller.
Main course is a seasonal stew, We make two classical French sauces – brunoise and julienne. Hard to make, but so handy!
For the morels, we cook them in a flan flavored with crunchy truffle salt. To top the meal, we make chocolate lava cake for dessert.