L’heure de l’apéro is a small luxury we should all make room for in our lives.
WHY AN APÉRO?
Imagine the pleasure of coming home from work and enjoying a drink (apéritif) and nibble instead of immediately hurrying to cook and get dinner on the table. This most delightful of French food and drink rituals is the ultimate way to leave the stresses of the day behind and prepare for a relaxed evening meal. While I do understand this is hardly practical on a daily basis, it is a wonderful way to ring in the weekend on Friday evenings.
In my home, it has become tradition. While my husband sets the table with candles and napkins, opens a bottle of wine and finds nice music (usually vintage French records), I arrange a few delicious treats on a serving board, fold open my Opinel knife and call our daughter Kirstie (who is usually upstairs in her room and will respond to my request with an expected amount of teenage moodiness that quickly vanishes when she walks into the dining room or garden).
I relish this time immensely. Though we always eat dinner together at the table, sharing an apéro often leads to deeper, more meaningful conversations. It is an excellent way to form strong family bonds and, at the same time, make beautiful memories.
Keep in mind that the drinks offered should not be too heavy as to spoil the appetite. Kir (white wine mixed with crème de cassis, crème de pêche or crème de framboise), port, vermouth, sparkling drinks such as Crémant or Champagne, Campari, Pastis, Lillet, Suze or even a gin-tonic are all great choices. If serving wine as an apéritif, opt for white wine, rosé or even a sweet wine as they do in Southwest France. Red wine is much too strong, in my opinion. Typical foods served with an apéritif are olives, nuts, radishes and salted butter, bread and rillettes, artisanal sausages or other charcuterie, a chunk of pâté with a few cornichons, and even some quality chips. None of them, obviously, involve any cooking. A stop at a delicatessen on your way home from work should suffice. At our house (and as un-French as that may be) we also add a little cheese. My Dutch husband wouldn’t have it any other way — and I don’t mind at all!
For those who want to add their own little touch to an apéro, or if you would like to host an apéritif dînatoire for friends – which is intended as a meal and similar to a buffet – you can also put in a little extra effort and make traditional French treats such as gougères, savory madeleines, small squares of pissaladière or even a homemade terrine.
Whatever you choose to serve, remember that the most important thing is to relax… and enjoy!