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Monday, January 19, 2009

93: Fourteen for supper and a winter wasp

I've been feeling a tad janvierish. Well, it's that time of year isn't it. Then yesterday evening not only did I receive a jolly email from the nice people at Camelot telling me that I had some "exciting news" about my lottery ticket: I won £10, making a grand total of £20 since November 2005, but we had a wasp in the house. Yes, a stripey flying thing with bad PR. Isn't that a bit odd? Suffice to say the lonely insect is no more since being euthanased with an oven glove. Don't ask.

Saturday evening marked our turn to receive Max's team from work for the fourth dinner party. We've missed just one, ironically the one which would have been easiest for us to get to. Such is life. We somehow managed to accumulate the most people since the new régisseur started and Laurie acquired a boyfriend. We added in the Bopes to lighten the sociability load and, voilà, quatorze à table!

It went rather well I think, though it is always difficult to tell when you are the one doing the work! The pressure was on since the French equivalent of "Come Dine With Me", Un Dîner Presque Parfait became popular and now I could smell competition in the air!

Everyone arrived within a manageable space of time and we did the usual guestimate of whom to kiss and how many times. Then we cracked open the champers provided courtesy of some do where Max works and I got the blinis topped and served. After my first flute of fizz I toddled off to prepare the endive salad (with walnuts from our neighbours garden, and Roquefort) and got going with the chicken breasts with Parma ham, Parmesan and thyme. Max had pre-prepared the leek and lemon risotto so that it was not quite fully cooked and set on one side. Then I re-warmed the tartes tatin aux endives et Maroilles in the microwave and dressed with a little pile of lamb's lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. Seating everyone took a few minutes - a little like a difficult jigsaw puzzle - as although we had managed to get two tables into the space it was just a bit cosy!

The main course was a bit of a production line too! I sliced the chicken, arranged on the plate and Max placed some risotto and I sprinkled the parsley. Renée tossed the salad!

The English cheeses went down very well in fact Max and I passed first time so that everyone else could serve themselves first and then it went for a second lap before it arrived by us again! It was a hasty collection of a good Cheddar, an apple-smoked Cheddar, an OK Wensleydale, some Welsh goat and something made of ewe's milk. Don't berate me! I only had the deli selection from Morrisons in Wimbledon. We offered oatcakes, Jacob's Cream Crackers and Hovis crackers together with Max's bread to go with said collation.

Oh, they enjoyed the Christmas crackers but didn't really get them. Half of the rather useful gifts were left behind and they didn't notice the paper crowns. They were lovely quality but hugely wasteful and I certainly wouldn't have spent £22 on a box full price. Sainsbury's note that faux leather is still only plastic not some lower grade of leather! There was one rather odd looking thing - pictured - that none of use could work out. Having discounted the racier possibilities we settled for a childs bracelet but since I have worked it out. Go on, have a guess! Answer at the end.

I should also mention that the team kindly contributed the wine - other than the large red I sank in advance of their arrival and that was from an opened bottle in the kitchen, hic! Serge chose three bottles of La Cigale vin de pays rosée par Gavoty, three bottles of Domaine des Huards, Cheverny 2006 and two bottles of Chateau Roquevieille 2002 Côtes de Castillon to drink with the cheese.

Then we decided to do dessert, coffee etc in the sitting room so that I could wack the crèmes brûlées à la chicorée under the grill without an audience. Renée had brought some home made macarons with her- the teensy French kind - so we offered those instead of the planned mince pies since I thought that our guests had had enough to eat and wouldn't really appreciate this most English of delicacies, and it meant I could give the Bopes a box to take home. They love 'em!

The WTC crowd certainly enjoyed themselves as, once back in the sitting room, they moved the sofas so they could all be together. Max's father was amazed: he'd never seen such behaviour. I was pleased that they felt so chez eux. I could almost see 8s, 9s and 10s in the taxis home... For those who are not au fait with the programme, click here for a link to the episodes we watched yesterday.

Renée and Jean-Michel left the next morning armed with the aforementioned pies, plus extra tartes tatin and créme brûlées plus some poitrine fumée that I bought by mistake. Max and I vegged out all afternoon only getting up to refuel on leftovers but otherwise slumped in front of Location, Location, Location followed by Come Dine With Me.

Quite satisfying in many ways, quite exhausting too. We had planned a buffet but sitting together around one albeit L-shaped table made it more convivial, more fun, more conversational, indeed more French!

(answer - a napkin ring!)