Table d’hôte.. Yorkshire style

Wanting to move to France yet not being able to is frustrating, particularly when our freedom of movement could be severely curtailed any day now. But we’re continuing with our research and doing our best to be as prepared as we can possibly be. One thing we’d like to offer when we open our chambre d’hôtes is for guests to be able to eat with us in the evening, both to make us stand out and to make a little extra money.

As, for obvious reasons, restaurants in France aren’t so keen on the potential loss of business, there are rules which govern what you can serve and how it is served. Guests must eat with their hosts, usually at the family table, and can’t be offered a choice of dishes. What is served should also reflect the gastronomy of the region and make use of local and seasonal produce.

This is what’s known as table d’hôte, literally ‘table of the host’, and to get some practice in we’ve set up a supper club on a similar basis. Each month we’ll invite up to six guests to come and enjoy traditional French cooking, using seasonal Yorkshire ingredients, around our kitchen table on ‘pay as you feel’ basis.

A couple of weeks ago we had a trial run with a group of five friends who agreed to come and be our guinea pigs. It was a bit nerve racking getting everything ready, though as La Reine was doing most of the cooking I just stuck to cleaning the floor, polishing the glasses and laying the table.

Our guests arrived on time and were presented with traditional ‘apéros’ of a French 75, a cocktail made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar, or a Kir Royale. We also gave them amuse bouche of red pepper, walnut & goat’s cheese palmiers which had been made in advance and didn’t take long to cook in the oven.

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Once everyone was seated, we served the appetizer of Prawn & Salmon terrine. This again had been made in advance and chilled and so just needed slicing and serving with a dill sauce. Guests were encouraged to take their time as we’d hate to think people felt they couldn’t linger over their meal as they could in a restaurant. It also gave the smokers plenty of breaks to pop outside.

The main course was Chicken & Cider Fricassée with parsley croûtes, buttered new potatoes and green beans. Cooking a casserole is a great idea for this kind of meal as it can cook slowly and be ready when needed. It’s also very tasty and went down a storm with everyone.

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There was some debate as to whether we should serve the cheese as a separate course but everyone agreed that we’d put them out at the same time as the dessert, either Religieuse, a French pastry, or crème caramel, and people could choose for and help themselves. I’m guessing that kind of informality is what people want when they choose to eat with their hosts, rather than eat out every night?

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The evening was a great success with our final guests departing about four hours after they arrived; something we’ll have to keep an eye on when in France as we’ll have to be up to serve them breakfast! We got some lovely feedback which we hope bodes well for the future and, having left a pot on the hall table for contributions, were delighted by our guests’ generosity.

“Perfect evening- amazing food and delightful company.”

“What a lovely evening. Thank you so much to our hosts and great to meet you.”

“Thank you to everyone for your company but, mainly, thank you to our hosts for creating a wonderful environment. The food was just perfect and a gift of pleasure.”

If you live close enough to Shipley in West Yorkshire and would like to join us our next two evenings are 6th April and 11th May.

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