A Dolce Vita atmosphère
This persistent heat is making us all more or less lethargic. I’m really looking forward to the first signs of autumn, the freshness of the early mornings and the beautiful golden light. Even if it means giving up the long summer evenings… It’s hard to dine out early when it’s still heavy and damp. So we put off mealtime, and above all, we cook simple things that don’t require us to linger in front of the stove or oven. We want fresh, tasty produce. Italian-style gourmet salad is the perfect dish for an al fresco summer dinner, and you can find the recipe here.
To set this table, I opted for simplicity, opting for a rustic Italian country-style atmosphere. All the crockery is Italian (apart from the vases and jugs) and in shades of blue and white. As the gourmet salad itself is very colorful, there’s no need to overload the table. To accentuate this Italian note, place a few lemons in a salad bowl, along with fruit and olives. The garden is an ideal place to set this type of table, and we’re lucky enough to have several cypress trees, which reinforce the Italian countryside feel. I’ve always dreamed of including a stone fountain somewhere in the garden, but we have a lot of squirrels and it’s dangerous for them, so the project was abandoned. Since then, I’ve been eyeing the beautiful Victorian greenhouses instead… but that is another topic.
For this type of dinner where there are several of us at table, we usually bring out the large wooden table in the dining room, especially if we want to recreate that rustic effect. For smaller gatherings, we lunch or dine on an oval wrought-iron table – an option I particularly like, as it makes it easier to chat with each guest.
Twisted candles in shades of blue are a must for any dinner party. I’ve got a whole case of them and they’re a table decoration not to be overlooked. Once the beautiful evening light (already in golden, almost autumnal tones) slowly fades, the glow of the candles will bring a warm atmosphere and the shimmering reflections of the flames on smiling faces is really something special…
With an atmosphere such as this one, we’d love the evening to go on until the early hours.
Everyone has their own recipe for vinaigrette. My mother secretly has her own, obtained from an Austrian family with a gift for cooking. I can, however, reveal some essential products for dressing a vinaigrette or a salad. Pick up these delicious products (they’re worth a price, but a few drops are enough to enhance the taste) at your local delicatessen or at La Grande Épicerie de Paris. To start with, Fernando Pensato‘s balsamic vinegar. I also like to use their lemon or mandarin olive oil for scallop carpaccio. Another interesting substitute is Roellinger’s Celtic vinegar, which really adds something extra to our vinaigrettes. Here too, a few drops are all that’s needed. You can find Roellinger spices in Paris (they have a store), but I also buy them in Cancale or Quiberon when I’m on vacation.
The rustic side of the table is enhanced by the addition of little country bouquets picked straight from the garden. I cheated a little by adding a few flowers from the florist’s, as this year’s drought meant the choice in the garden was rather slim. The main flowers for these bouquets are still dahlias from the garden, and you can find the full list of flowers used in this article.
This is undoubtedly one of my last summer tables this year. If you’re interested in the theme, you can check out the page dedicated to them here, and if you’re interested in the Italian theme, here’s another Italian-style table. As you can see from the photos, the light is starting to change, it’s shorter, more golden. The evenings are getting shorter and cooler, and I often have to take a little sweater with me in the evening to walk around the village. The season is changing and I’m more than happy to see it, as I love autumn. But I’m also going to miss the nice, big dinner parties that allow us to get together and enjoy these pleasant, warm, bright evenings.