Bonjour dear readers and friends. It’s been a busy couple of weeks around le sud. With spring in full-swing, and the sunshine finally making a (very) long-awaited appearance, the French joie de vivre has been hard to escape.
So given that we had our first “official” outside apéro just a few short weeks ago, I thought this would be a good post to kick off what is ultimately one of the best French pastimes – L’heure de l’apéro.
We’ve done more than a few fancy “aperitivos” in Italy, and I had my fair share of margarita-fueled happy hours back in my 9-to-5 days in sunny, Southern California, but I never really did any “at home” apèros before coming to France. Now I’ve become a staunch DIY-apéro enthusiast, and we’ve amassed enough colorful ceramic pots, miniature plates, and olive bowls to take our apéro party on the road… picnics, bbqs, dinner parties, etc.
But what we really enjoy most is hosting apéros for friends at home, so here’s a few of our favorite things for making a fantastic French apéro chez vous.
Rosé, Crémant, and things that bubble
Rosé wine is a given when the temps start climbing, and loads of French whites are also great during apéro hour. We’ve popped a few Champagne corks during special occasions, but we mostly go in for Champagne’s cheaper cousin… Crémant – a real steal price-wise, with some “up market” bottles rivaling Champagne for taste and quality. And if you’re looking for even more bubbles, you could always give a nice spritz a try.
Until a few years ago, I had no idea what Pastis was until the hubs ordered a glass one hot summer day in Cassis. I’ve always liked the smell of anise, but like many liquors made with this licorice-flavored plant, Patis can be an acquired taste. If you’ve taken a walk on the wild side & tried anise-flavored Sambuca in Italy, you might also like a tall glass of Pastis on a hot summer day in Provence. But make sure it really is a tall glass (locals traditionally add ice and water to their splashes of liqueur) as this “summertime friend” is 40-45% proof.
Here in Provence, you can’t pass a market without bumping into bowlfuls of the most plump & tasty olives on the planet. And since spring in the South finds us investing our time in all kinds of creative & culinary pursuits, I’ve recently been on a quest to try as many different varieties of these little gems as possible.
I have to give a very favorable nod to the regional specialty, olives mixed with Herbes de Provence, but let’s not overlook a very spicey pimento, parsley, & curry version, and I also found a surprising mix that quickly became a hands-down favorite: garlic, cumin, sweet pepper, & laurel. Now that’s one flavorful olive.
Perhaps a touchy subject for non-meat eaters, and far from being “light” on the waistline, salami is a forever crowd-pleaser in the south of France. You can find great quality sausages at the local markets. My favorites are the ones stuffed with hazelnuts – delish. And don’t forget to try sausage “au sanglier” – wild boar. One of the unofficial “mascots” of the backlands of Provence and suprisingly très très bon.
Chips and other crunchy stuff
Yes, the French eat potato chips. And they have some downright interesting flavors… fancy some roasted chicken chips, or maybe you’d like to munch on a few spaghetti-bolognaise crunchies? Since we prefer to go au naturalle (only with our chips I assure you), we go for the normal stuff… and sometimes toss in gruyere-flavored crackers to boot. And really, there are enough apéro recipes in French food magazines to make your head spin. Many of my favorites include all the wonders you can achieve with simple puff pastry.
To find more apéro-inspired recipes, follow the link to a few goodies from All Recipes.
Cheese (optional, but why not, it’s France!)
I don’t really think that cheese goes into “traditional” French apéros, but honestly we get so caught up at the cheese shop that it’s hard to say “non”. Just be careful, because those cheese-filled apéros sometimes turn into meals all themselves. Very tasty meals indeed.
So that’s a bit about how we “apéro”, what are some of your favorite ways to pass the happiest hour around?