Thanksgiving may be the most quintessential American holiday of them all, though adding a touch of French flair to a big meal is always a good idea. (Don’t worry, we’re not advocating for throwing classic traditions – or favorite American dishes, for that matter – out the window.) We’re simply suggesting that these seven tips promise to bring your meal to a whole ‘nother level.
Set the Mood
French meals are all about the ambiance and holiday dinners are certainly no exception. Add some fresh flowers and seasonal gourds to your table for a touch of fall-inspired festivity – and don’t forget to light a candle or two while at it. For an elevated French twist, we recommend losing the seasonally-inspired scents and leveling up to a more neutral option. Look to French brands like Diptyque or Le Labo for some seriously sensory-stimulating choices.
Prepare an Apéro
There’s no better way to Frenchify your Thanksgiving Day meal than by kicking off the afternoon with a French-inspired apéro. Offering your guests an apéro is both welcoming and warming, yet the drink also serves a special pre-dinner purpose, too. Apéros are meant to stimulate the palate for a hearty meal ahead (and that first kick of booze promises to spark some conversation amongst your guests as well).
Classic French apéro options include white wine, Pastis, Kir/Kir Royal, spritzes, and vermouth – though not to worry, a simple flute of Champagne is also certain to do the trick. And don’t forget the snacks! With a full day ahead in the kitchen, simply offering small bowls of chips, nuts, and other salty nibbles is just fine here.
Add Some French Flavors
Although Thanksgiving Dinner is all about the classics, you can’t go wrong with adding a subtle French touch to traditional American dishes. Sick of mashed potatoes? Whip up a gooey tartiflette instead. Tired of soggy green beans? Prep a delicious ratatouille in its place. And for those who simply wish to stick to the holiday’s original dishes, adding a touch of fines herbes, marjoram, or herbes de Provence offers a great solution.
Pour Some Vin Rouge
It goes without saying that long holiday meals with family require copious amounts of wine. Although many consumers tend to stick to domestic options for Thanksgiving, adding a bottle or two of French wine to the lineup always promises a good time, especially if some of the more food-friendly options make their way to the table.
Take Gamay from Beaujolais, for example. These thirst-quenching red wines are loaded with natural acidity and fruit-driven flavors, which make them extremely versatile with an array of dishes. Looking for a delicious white? Loire Valley Chenin is ideal with fall-inspired flavors, as its apple-driven undertones and unctuous yet balanced structure is perfect for standing up to hearty Thanksgiving dishes. And again… when all else fails, pouring a cold glass of Champagne is certain to pair well with basically every dish on the table.
Fear not! We’re definitely not condoning skipping out on dessert. On the contrary, do as the French do and add a cheese course just before it – because there’s no such thing as too much food on Thanksgiving. We recommend diversifying the spread with a variety of options (think fresh chèvre, crowd-pleasing comté, and a pungent bleu d’Auvergne), though if you really want to wow your guests, heating up a Vacherin Mont d’Or will certainly give them a holiday to remember. Snag some fresh bread, crackers, sweet jams, and nuts to really add some oomph to the course.
Finish with Something Sweet
What’s Thanksgiving Dinner without a solid dessert course? Ending the meal on a sweet note is basically non-negotiable, especially on a holiday where pies, puddings, and a handful of sweet American staples find their way onto the table. To add a touch of French flair to dessert, stick with a classic American pie option (think pumpkin or pecan), then swap out your apple pie for a savory tart tatin or tarte aux pommes. We promise that no one will be disappointed – especially if you serve up a pour of liquid gold from Sauternes, Barsac, or Coteaux du Layon to go with it.
Linger Over a Digestif
Although the meal may be over, the party has just begun. Never hosted a digestif course before? Easy. Simply break out all of those delicious spirits and liqueurs that you’ve been saving for ‘special occasions,’ throw some glassware on the table, and let your guests have at it. While we’re partial to French Calvados, Cognac, Armagnac, and Chartreuse, you certainly can’t go wrong with offering brandy, whisky, or fruit-driven eaux-de-vies. Leave the bottles on the table and let the good times roll.