When the French use the word “cocktail,” they often mean a party, not a drink. The term “cocktail” in French refers to a brief get-together around 6 or 7 in the evening for people to eat an olive or a peanut, have a little glass of something and then skip off to dinner or some other event. Such was my concept when I invited 15 people to my studio apartment on Friday night. My apartment is 19 square meters, which is about the size of an average hotel room, and half of that is bathroom. It was for practical reasons, therefore, that I never entertained the notion of a dinner-party. My table seats three people comfortably. Still, I love this apartment and wanted to share it with people I also love. It was a way of saying thank you for certain kindnesses, and to get people together who hadn’t previously met. Such was the spirit with which I embarked on Friday evening’s adventure…
Being an anxious person by nature, it took me more than 6 weeks to work myself up to this event. There seemed to be so many details to arrange and so many things that could go wrong. Where would everyone sit? Would there be enough to eat? What would I serve to drink? Could I really pull this off?
As it turned out, there were nine of us in all, and it was the perfect number. Everyone found a spot and perched, making a comfortable, little nest for themselves. I had a bottle of sweet, white wine, a bottle of dry, 2 bottles of red, a bottle of champagne, and half a bottle of freezer-chilled vodka. Several people brought bottles of wine.
For food, I had a small amount of caviar, which I placed in little globs on top of small blinis, covered with creme fraiche. This was rapidly inhaled by the first two guests and myself. I also had a duck breast, stuffed with foie gras, and a smoked, pork sausage that I had gotten at the salon d’agriculture.
There was a plate of little flavored cheeses, wrapped in crepes, from the supermarket and a plate of prosciutto and salami. I had a round of cheese, known as a “monk’s head.” This kind of cheese is from Switzerland, and comes with a special serving platter with a built-in utensil. You turn the handle and it shaves lacy slices off the top of the cheese…
When it was 9:00 and everyone was still there, I began pulling things out of the refrigerator. I made a platter of bresaola and sliced, vine tomatoes, sprinkled with herbed fleur-de-sel and white pepper. I cut more duck breast and sausage. I filled a dish with pickles.
As the evening wore on, one person left and another showed up. I continued pulling things out of the refrigerator and opening bottles of wine. The person who had left came back, and I opened more wine.
When I ran out of other things to serve, I put on the table a little vase, full of candied orange rinds, which I replaced with dark chocolate-covered orange rinds, when the first lot was cleaned out.
When I took inventory, my refrigerator was empty, my wine stash a memory, there were 2 bags of garbage and 12 empty bottles standing in line, waiting to be recycled. There was also a big mess to clean up and I was exhausted, but what greater compliment for a hostess?