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Please Please Please - Help me throw a French party for 100

Each year I do a party for my brother, his wife and friends. The party is nearing and (as always) I'm turning to the experts at Chow to critic my menu. I've gotten great ideas in the past and look forward to creating the ultimate party.

The theme this year is France. The tables will be draped with black toile, have yellow tablecloths and a profusion of sunflowers. B&W Paris posters and a French flag or two will complete the decorations. Party invites may be 19th c dirty postcards in a discrete paper envelope. Entertainment is tbd but perhaps cancan dancers (although I think this is a little over the top and loud for such a large party - it was a little awkward the year we had dragon dancers).

The party is for 100 in Tampa FL (I live in Boston). This year, I'll have 5-6 days to bring it all together - extra time is needed to locate ingredients and materials in a city with which I'm not totally familiar. On the day of the party, I'll have a cook come in at 2 to help put things together for the party starting at 8pm. A bartender and another runner will come later to set-up and serve.

Please provide feedback on any aspects of the party. Other food ideas - additions as well as omits are very much appreciated. Any ideas for a party drink theme also would be great. And if you're from Tampa and invited to this party - hope you enjoy!

Last year's party link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552116

PROPOSED ME NU

__________Beef __________________

Boeuf Bourguignon - Skewered cubes of beef with horseradish mashed potatoes with skewers of mushrooms & pearl onions served in a chafing dish with gravy and fluted mushrooms

OR
Beef Steak Diane - Cubed or sliced tenderloin in a pepper cream sauce presented in a chafing dish with gravy and fluted mushroom served with shredded potato pancakes

OR
Beef Tenderloin en Croute - Small 'logs' of tenderloin logs topped with a layer of chopped spinach and a layer of mushrooms duxelle (optional addition of blue cheese). Sliced a bit-sized pieces. I did a traditional Wellington a few years ago to some success.

______________Poultry________________________________

Coq au Vin - Drumettes (gigots) with frilled collars in chafing dish with gravy and fluted mushrooms

OR
Rolarde of Chicken - Chicken breasts stuffed with red peppers and cheese, sliced and served on brioche rounds with red pepper cream sauce

AND/OR
Duck a la orange - Sliced duck in orange sauce wrapped in crepes

________________Fish__________________________________

Coquilles Ste Jacques - Scallops in cream sauce served in scallop shells

Whole poached salmon - Served with lemon, red onion, capers. halved cherry tomatoes, crème fraiche, green mayo, bilinis, crème frache with dill & chopped cucs, remoulade

Nicoise Salad - Traditional and non-traditional vegs, halved hard boiled quail eggs and lightly seared tuna/good oil packed tuna. This will act as the crudités platter

Boiled Shrimp - Served with rouille, tarter, horseradish (on the menu because people just seem to eat it like crazy

)

Escargot - Either wrapped in prosciutto in garlic butter, in wine gravy ala French Laundry, or tradition garlic butter. Served in fondue pot (lumped into fish category because where else would it go?)

________________Terrines___________________________

Liver Pate
Country Pate
Served with onion marmalade, mustard, cornichons

Beets in Aspic - Terrine of sliced and pureed beets served whole
Veg Terrine Layered creamed and composed vegs sliced and served on brioche

_______________Tarts_______________________________

Onion Galette - Leeks, onions and goat cheese
Tourte au Roquefort - onions & cheese
Tourte au Gorgonzola - with walnut & roasted pear

_______________Vegs & Misc________________________

French fries - served in small doily cups and homemade tomato mayo & spiced ketchup
Mushrooms en croute - Small packages of puff pastry filled with mushroom stew
Cheese plate - various cheese, with whipped brie, fruits, nuts, etc
Breads - Gougers, mini brioches stuffed with cheese, butter and jam, brown, French
Tapanade & other dips

________________Dessert_____________________

Note - desserts are rarely eaten at this party (and when they are it's by the last stragglers in the very wee hours). There will be purchased chocolate truffles and perhaps small meringues decorating the dessert table.

Croquebouche - Pyramid of filled crème puffs

AND
Chocolate Mousse - Served in small asian spoons with rasberry coulis and crumbled brownies
(did this last year)

OR
Milles feules - 'Cake' of layered crepes, sweet cream, lavender & honey

OR
Crepes suzette - Folded triangles in chafing dish with orange slices

OR
Rum Babas

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  1. Re: poached whole salmon. We have skinned a whole cooked salmon, slathered it with lemon mayonaise, then decorated it with overlapping thin slices of English/Japanese cucumber, starting at the tail so they look a bit like fish scales. Very attractive, if not specifically French.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Joebob

      Had planned on the mayo/aspic glaze with cucumbers and other fish-like 'decor' - this is a19c french presentation.

      1. re: alwayscooking

        i can respect your quest for authenticity, but very few people want anything to do with aspic anymore.

    2. The chicken on brioche and any of the three cheese tarts. Someone to perform Edith Piaf's repertoire, perhaps one song between each course, wandering through the tables, as opposed to a stage presentation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nemo

        It's a standing/cocktail party so everything will be bite-sized. In the past, food has been about variety so there will be a beef, a poultry, a fish, and another meat plus enough variety for vegans and vegetarians.

        I like the Edith Piaf idea - perhaps a small group playing in one of the rooms.

      2. I'd choose the more seasonal sounding items. For example, this isn't boeuf bourguignon season so likely the Steak Diane would be a better choice. Similarly coq au vin is more wintry than the other two poultries. Nicoise salad is more lunch than dinner in my view so I'd go with the salmon or shrimp ... also the other 2 choices seem heavy (cream and butter). If you let the season be the guide it'll be easier to make your choices.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cinnamon girl

          While I've cooked 'nouveau' French - traditionally, it's all about the cream and butter . . .

          =)

          1. re: alwayscooking

            Oh no I wasn't commenting on cream and butter (what's not to love there!?), or trying to be "correct" about seasonal produce etc. I was just thinking of your weather b/c you mention in your post that the party is soon and in Tampa. I was trying to think of what would work best in the heat and reflect the season. Then too, you've got kind of a framework to make your choices - hence, less agonizing over which of your "favourites" to choose from. So if it's 90+ out the latter two beef choices seem to "fit" better than the first. On the other hand if you're into stormy weather, then the boeuf bourguignon would be lovely. :-) . . . naaaa, while acknowledging its broader influence, I'm not a French nouvelle cuisine person myself.

            1. re: cinnamon girl

              Coming from Boston - October in Tampa is still summer! It soes tend to cool off in the evenings (or so the locals think) so I may be OK - especially sense this party tends to start the winter party round.

        2. Oh come on now..who else is thinking about the line from Better Off Dead here?

          "fronch fries, fronch bread, Fronch dressing, and of course, Peru!"

          1. This all sounds amazing. And welcome back. We were at the Cape in late June and missed you.

            5 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              Ms C

              My previous response was apparently deleted so I'll be brief - sorry that it rained the entire time and that I missed you.

              On to the food post - I'm uninspired by the menu since I make all the dishes frequently. Would love some imput on dishes with a twist (eg cafe au lait parfait?) - something unepected.

              Any thoughts?

              1. re: alwayscooking

                How about lobster "cappuccino" - lobster bisque served in a cappuccino cup.

                This is not an original idea- a French restaurant in Montreal serves it to all of their customers, and it is very popular.

                1. re: souschef

                  This is sort of funny but i often add cinnamon to bisques that I make, which would go quite nicely with the cappuccino theme.

                  1. re: Will S.

                    I really dislike cinnamon - the smell and the taste, and I think it would ruin a lobster bisque.

                    1. re: souschef

                      agree about the cinnamon and lobster. not my cuppa. a mushroom "soup" cappuccino is another option. also could be another vegetarian option, since you have very few. bouillabaisse or potato leek soup also work nicely in small cups.

                      will you be passing anything as guests arrive, before you open the buffet/stations? it would be a nice touch with trays of cocktails (i am a huge fan of pineau des charentes!). gougeres, escargot in puff pastry shells, bite sized quiches, the soups i mentioned, french meatballs (http://www.atfirstglass.com/2009/01/s...), oysters on the shell, etc.

                      it's also a lot of very heavy food. why not offer some braised or roasted veggies, like leeks dijon, or steamed green beans? friseé salad?

                      as for dessert, why not small fruit tarts? mini tarte tatins, for example?

            2. Chuck's Lillet Tomlin would be delicious.
              http://www.gumbopages.com/food/bevera...

              2 Replies
              1. re: AreBe

                Lillet is a brilliant aperitif. And so overlooked. I like it just plain, over ice, with a wedge of orange (as it was served to me in the south of France). Also along the same line is Pineau de Charentes (nothing to do with Pinot). It's made not far from where they make Lillet around Bordeaux (I think). We should point out to AlwaysCooking, that these little gems are among the best deals in town too! Too bad the sun isn't over the yardarm quite yet . . .

                1. re: AreBe

                  Great idea! And thanks - it's the sort of thing I've had and enjoyed in France and never seem to remember when I get home!

                2. For the fish, I am going with the scallops. They are bite sized elegant and delicious. Perhaps you can tell the chef to make a lighter sauce that emphasizes the wine rather than the cream.

                  If as you say dessert is for stragglers, I would go with something a little lighter. More of something to nosh on than to take in fully. To me that rules out the Rum Babas and the crepes suzette. I think both are too heavy. I think the floral lavander in the milles feules would be excellent as something not too heavy although raspberry and chocolate mouse is a combination par excellance.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Will S.

                    I like the scallops too although my brother and his wife reminded me when I served clams casino and oysters rockafellow at prevous parties they weren't a great sucess (perhaps the group is just shell-fish phobic at a cocktail party - when I serve them at dinner parties, they are well received). I'll push back and perhaps use them more as a decoration for the whole salmon.

                    Agree with your assessment on the dessert and will pull it back at bit. I do tend to serve mousse each year - and end up eating it myself [grim]. I may go ahead with the cream puff pryamid since it's dramatic and if no one eats it, it will add to the decor.

                    Thanks soo much for your feedback - the party is in a couple of weeks. Since I make it all myself (I'll tell the chef about lightening up the sauce!), it takes me some time planning the menu, cook process/approach, equipment and presentation.

                  2. When I was catering, my most popular holiday party menu by far was the Provencal Christmas Buffet. It starts with a warming Cream of Garlic Soup, and is comprised of two each of two savory tarts, and two Provencal pizzas (one the classic Pissaladiere Nicoise). Dessert is the 13 Desserts of Christmas, which are an assortment of 12 specific dried fruits and nuts (in copious array, topped by one spectaular "village dessert" -- generally a Gateau des Roi, or a Cornmeal Cake or a sweet Swiss Chard and Pinenut tart, depending upon the village the client chose.

                    In the years since Feastivals Catering closed, we have hosted this party in our home a few times. It is always well received (i.e., no leftovers, no matter how much food we prepare) much of it is easy to do ahead, it can be prepared as a "pot luck" with some of the guests bringing some of the components, and it's very affordable for a big crowd, both financially and logistically.

                    If you are interested in specific recipes, let me know.

                    1. for a cocktail, what about Pastis? I don't see this on your menu but what about french onion soup (unless it will be too hot) served in little cups? Very ambitious menu--all sounds wonderful but I agree with others who say not to get too "wintery" which is why I wouldn't recommend a cassoulet--otherwise i would.

                      1. Why not serve gougere while the guests are arriving and having cocktails. They are decidedly french, can be made ahead as they reheat well, and give off a wonderful aroma that will help stimulate your quests appetites.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: berna

                          Already on the menu

                          =)