The end of most Januarys the thought hits me: Oh Crud. Next month is February. Hearts, red, pink, chocolate, here we come. Singleness Awareness Day.
This time, when the thought crossed my mind about the impending doom of February, an idea was born. Forged from the desire to give my single friends a special time to make them feel appreciated instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. Forged also from my own desire to plan and cook an elaborate meal. Because I like doing that.
So I set out to tell my single friends to book the evening and started dreaming of a menu. I knew I wanted to do something fancy. I looked up a traditional French course meal to see how many courses there are and the order of them. I ended up not making things that could completely be described as French, nor did I serve them in exactly the order one is supposed to, but it’s my party and I’ll do what I want. :)
Disclaimer: In order to talk about the different parts, I am going to divide these posts into different themes. This post will be about planning the party, the menu, and how it all went. Other posts will include more specifics on the actual dishes and maybe some recipes. Disclaimer over.
My plan did involve some simplicity, actually. (If you feel like that is crazy by the end of this post, you may feel free to tell me that in the comments) I knew that if I was going to pull off a 6 course meal, I would have to not over-do one single part of it so that I could actually make all those courses.
The first thing websites said about French meals is that you always have baguette available during the entire meal. Since I have been wanting to try out Thomas Keller’s recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, I used this as my opportunity.
I decided that instead of doing the courses in the same order the French do, I would do more of an American take on it. According to the websites I read, the French actually have the salad course after the main dish. Well, that just went against everything I’ve thought about for a long time. So the courses I chose upon were:
- Entree/Meat/Main Dish
- Cheese Plate
The first thing I really settled on was the main dish. A while ago I pinned a recipe for Zinfandel Short Ribs over Polenta that I’ve been wanting to try a while. Wintery Stew-like dishes are always so comforting. The second dish I settled on was the salad. A while ago my friend made a salad for a French 5 course meal we did, and I have loved it ever since. It was an arugula salad with goat cheese croutons that I loved. I’ve made it several times since, but this time I decided to do a take on it. So, I made an Arugula, Blood Orange, Pine Nut Salad with small Goat Cheese Croutons. The third dish I knew I wanted to do was Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Covered Strawberries for dessert. I messed around for a while between Creme Brûlée and Chocolate Mousse and settled on mousse since it was Valentine’s Day. And because I like to have reasons to make chocolate covered strawberries. I’m pretty sure they are my love language. I also decided pretty quickly on what soup I would like to make. I flipped through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and found her Garlic Soup recipe, which sounded good to me. I ended up making a completely different recipe, but looking at hers was what got me started down that road.
The most difficult course for me to figure out what the appetizer course. I knew that I just wanted to have a small appetizer to whet the appetite, but I had no idea what. And then, one day, I created something in my little apartment kitchen that was so delicious, I wanted to find a way to re-create it for the appetizer. I made a garlic, butter, lemon shrimp pasta that somehow turned out beautifully one day. But turning it into something that could be an appetizer was hard. Pasta noodles aren’t exactly easy to eat. I finally settled on using tortellini. I just put a few on the plate with the shrimp and we had a small appetizer. My friend Elizabeth helped with the cheese course as well as a trip to Whole Foods.
So that was the menu! I loved thinking through all the different components and trying to find things that would go together. I wanted to keep the different parts light so no one would feel bloated by the end.
Prepping the table
As I was dreaming about courses, I also was thinking through the decorations. Since I wanted to be an event where each girl felt special, I thought it would be fun to give each girl a little bouquet of flowers. If I was going to give each girl flowers, I figured I might as well use them to decorate the table with. Although it was designed to be a fancy affair, I didn’t want the decor to be too fancy or stiff, so I incorporated some mason jars along with tan linen napkins and a blue tablecloth.
A table setting
Just another angle
Take home strawberries
I spent about a month dreaming about and planning this time. I spent part of Friday and Saturday preparing for it. I woke up Saturday morning with a blazing headache, worried everything would fall through because it hurt to think. But God was gracious and slowly took the headache away as I started gaining strength to work on what I had so long planned for.
This is my headache face.
Then 4:45 came and my friend Elizabeth arrived and helped me with the finishing touches of everything. Then 5:45 hit and the other girls arrived and we sat down to a wonderful time with friends. I am so thankful for the chance to share with these girls. Cooking for people and having them into my (parent’s) home is another one of my love languages (besides chocolate covered strawberries), and it was truly an honor and a gift to me to be able to share with my friends. There was honesty and food, laughter, listening to music, and after it was all over they stayed and helped with the worst part of any party: the dishes.
Ruth, Dani, and Bridget
Elizabeth and I
So here’s to the best Valentine’s Day yet. And to many more in the future!