citrus & chocolate: five courses on a perfect paris evening

The most fun dinner party I ever threw happened in Paris this July, and it has led me to develop two new philosphies of dinner party planning from which, henceforth, I hope never to stray: 1) when planning, start from dessert and work your way back; and 2) hunt & gather: the more diversified your ingredient sources, the better your meal will be.

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I should mention that the entire event was beautifully captured and narrated by my dear friend Sarah, a formidable food blogger in her own right. But she’s also downplayed her own role in the creation of this meal: she didn’t just provide the desserts, she provided the theme that threaded its delicious double helix of citrus and chocolate through the DNA of this party. At lunchtime the day of, she delivered a plate of incredible and freshly-baked desserts from her pastry course at Le Cordon Bleu: chocolate ganache and orange cream tartelettes. You have simply never tasted desserts like these. I took one look at them and knew what I had to do.

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And so I got inspired: I would add something citrus, or something chocolate, or both, to each course of the meal. To the cheese course I added a ganache of dark chocolate, butter, and lemon juice melted and dabbed on thin slices of comté fruité from the lovely fromager down the street. Lemon juice was drizzled over the gazpacho.

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I let my bechamel chill out with a few lemon slices and some lemon zest for a while to make a more citrus-y garnish for my gnocchi course. The vague tagine I’d had outlined in my head became this one, featuring tangy lemons. Chopped splinters of fine dark chocolate topped my sweet summer fig salad. And of course, the desserts.

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I like to think that the errands I ran to make the meal: to the grocery store for flour and biere blanche (my new favorite category of summer brew), to the greengrocer for the last fresh figs of the day, to the fromager, to the boutique with the incredible gazpacho, to the chocolatier – all those bits of conversation and searching for the perfect bits of chocolate and citrus worked their way into the gnocchi dough and the gazpacho garnish and even the dinner conversation to make the meal an extra magical experience.

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(Of course, that it was all set in Paris didn’t hurt.)

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Browse or purchase prints of images here.

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