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French Bistro at home
– The Ile de France guide to stylish, comfortable entertaining
March 2010

Restaurants billed as “French bistros” can be found in any city in the world. The term’s ubiquitous use stems from the eateries’ simple and timeless recipe for success.

Bistros have traditionally featured small menus filled with simple, moderately priced dishes. Fresh ingredients and natural flavors with a gourmet flare highlight the food served, while an easy going yet fashionable atmosphere pervades.

The comfortable vibe that’s made bistro dining so popular can be traced to the eateries’ origins, when many were based out of the basement kitchens of Paris apartment buildings.

These original bistros served as gathering spots for local residents and extra income for building owners.

A comfortable, relaxing and warm atmosphere came natural in the surroundings and this aesthetic still thrives today. The name bistro brings to mind an intriguing connotation of comfort and sophistication.

French style bistros are more popular than ever. But one certainly doesn’t have to go to Paris to experience the flavors and ambience of bistros – in fact, it’s not necessary to leave your own home.

Next time you are entertaining, why not host a gathering that’s a wonderful nod to the history of the French bistro by creating a true French bistro experience at home!

Try these simple steps to create a hip and friendly bistro style.

The Ile de France cheese French bistro a la carte 4 step party planner

Step one: Create the ambiance
– since the bistro experience is rooted in laid-back elegance, it’s important to keep the décor simple and inviting. If possible scatter small tables throughout your dining area to mimic the street side seating of many Paris bistros. Garnish the tables with clear vases or glasses and fresh flowers. Keep the lighting dim and light candles to add to the inviting atmosphere.

Step two: Gather the essentials
– Authentic fromage (such as Ile de France brie, goat cheese and Cantorel Roquefort), classic red wines (like Pinot noir and Cabernet sauvignon), plenty of baguette and your favorite slow-cooked meat or seafood round out the basics of a true bistro menu.

Excellent bistro chicken dishes include Gourmandise and walnut sauce over sautéed chicken and pears and herbed stuffed chicken papillotes with St. André. More entrées can be found in our recipe archive.

Step three: Serve the courses
- Start things off simply by serving a cheese plate and wine. Move on to a French onion soup or light salad with blue cheese crumbles. For main courses, simple, classic dishes should be served.

Some excellent choices include cheese plates, croque monsieur sandwiches (ham and cheese) roasted chicken, salmon or pretty much any other classic, no nonsense dish that pairs well with fromage and is accented by your favorite wine.

Step four: Keep the conversation lively
– Bistros are all about informal chats and breezy story telling. Think of Parisians unwinding in bistros while sipping wine and laughing. The bistro vibe is fun and casual, so keep it simple and don’t worry about time constraints - keep a couple extra bottles of wine on hand because meals at a true French bistro can last for many hours.

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