Sunday, August 30, 2009

Apéro Hour(s), a Time to Savor Conversation and a Good Drink

Taking ample time to enjoy aperitifs in Paris is a time-honored pursuit that
remains robustly contemporary. Indeed the hours for enjoying Aperos are
considered to be valued times for prioritizing the simple pursuits of catching up with friends, indulging in conversation and perhaps a bit of flirtation.

This treasured Apéro-interstice before dinner has (no surprise France being
France) an entire culinary tradition associated with it. Aperitifs are not
simply a Parisian passion, indeed part of the fun of experiencing L’Heure
de L’Apéro is sampling regionally beloved aperitifs from all over France. Most can be ordered in Paris cafés or purchased in wine stores or foodie-troves like the Grand Épicerie of the Bon Marché.

The flavors are varied and the names are storied… Noilly Prat Vermouth, Suze, Lillet, Dubonnet, Kir, St. Raphael, Rinquinquin, Pastis. These herbal and fruit based potions, bitter or sweet, this galaxy of appetite-stimulating drinks is a long one. The mere notion of indulging in Aperitifs conjures up images of pleasant hours whiled away in languorous late afternoon Mediterranean- light- illumined café terraces or even on bustling urban terraces in Paris or beloved-elsewheres in France. Of course today, often a coupe of Champagne or a glass of dry white wine constitutes the drink of choice. Sometimes even a cold glass of beer seems perfect.

Food served during L’Apéro is mean to compliment the drinks and provide a
savory backdrop to conversation, not to be a star in its own right.
Thin slices of saucisse, paté, savory crackers, salted nuts, olives often
appear. Sometimes a hostess will serve savory hot hors d’oeuvres and even
end with a sweet. The idea is to gather, talk, relax, and set the stage for a transition to dinner. There are no expectations. No one gets drunk.

L’Apéro can be enjoyed at a public place, at a café or bar, and often is. Or,
friends gather at an apartment or at home to indulge. Parisians, like many
big city dwellers, live much of their private lives out and about in public spaces so a favorite Apéro spot is treasured.

Often I hear from non-French persons who have been invited to French homes for dinner that they are somewhat bewildered about the experience of being invited to dinner and arriving to find not a shred of evidence of any imminent dinner in sight. Rather, the hostess serves Aperitifs and small plates of savory snacks. Any they talk and talk and talk for what seems like hours before dinner appears. Or, conversely, an invite to Apéro-time can stretch on and lazily transition into an unexpected dinner.

A Parisian friend of mine who is a knowledgeable ‘foodie’ has decided to
offer an instructively engaging Apéro for visitors to Paris. She has
designed a two-hour perfect for “learning the art of the French Apéro” and will show a minimum of four guests how to make three varied Aperitifs ranging from simple to elegant while discussing the customs and cultural mores of Apéro-time.

Guests at this Apéro relax, sip savor and sample appropriate nibbles, if a tad more elegant than just olives and nuts. They take the recipes and the
experience to create their Parisian Apéro-time at home. Contact Sally at for details on this unique Parisian

Bottom line. I’m sure indulging in L’Apéro will be excellent for your mental
health. If you have a favorite café scene in Paris by all means become an
early evening habitué with your special someone or your posse of friends. Try a variety of Aperitifs over time and find your own favorites. Here's to you!

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