Entertaining on a Budget: Summer in Paris

Parisians have the right idea: take the entire month of August off and indulge in the sights, sounds and flavors of France. While it might not be possible for all of us to do the same (quality time in this chic country doesn’t come cheap), you can still indulge in a bit of French fabulousness at your next dinner party. So grab a few friends, crank the tunes (en francais, of course) and throw a stylish French fête in celebration of summer:

What to eat:

The main event at this party is dinner. So plan your party around the supper hour and enlist a select group of people to be the sous-chefs to your inner culinary queen. You’ll find dozens of easy-as-can-be recipes at Let’sCookFrench.com. Many of the ingredients they use will already be in your cupboard so you’ll be able to cut the time and money you spend at the grocery store in half. Here’s a simple sample menu.

Starter: Goat Cheese Toasts with Honey

Main: Thyme and Garlic Chicken with a Bell Pepper Salad

Dessert: Half-cooked Chocolate Cake

If, however, preparing a full meal is a bit too much, ask your guests to bring some traditional French fare. Baguettes, cheeses, cornichons, thinly sliced meats and honey are très bon. Serve on a few large platters and let everyone nibble at their leisure.

What to drink…

Champagne is the drink of choice in France but a bottle of bubbly can easily bust your budget. So instead of serving the real deal, try one of the mocktails at AllRecipes.com. We love the Strawberry Champagne Punch.

If you’re serving wine, do like the French do and add an ice cube or two and serve it in a variety of fun glasses.

How to set the scene…

Transforming your place into a French cafe doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep everything simple and use a few accessories you may already have at home.

~ Drape a table cloth over your kitchen table to create that chic cafe feel

~ Dim the lights and set the mood with candles

~ Instead of buying a large bouquet of roses buy some wild flowers and place them in mismatched vases around the room

~ Decorate your in-house bistro with printed vintage cabaret posters you’ve found online or check out photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson

~ Tune your radio to a French radio station or pick up a CD by Edith Piaf, one of France’s most renowned singers

~ Ask your friends to wear berets and scarves

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