Champagne vineyards in Mailly-Champagne near Reims, eastern France. Photograph: Francois Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty Images

Champagne vineyards in Mailly-Champagne near Reims, eastern France. Photograph: Francois Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty Images

This week, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee approved the vineyards of Burgundy and the Champagne region of France as World Heritage Sites. They noted the regions’ unique soil types and fermentation methods. France now boasts 41 sites on the Heritage list, including the Saint-Emilion vineyards in Bordeaux. We’ll toast to that!

Sources:

Corks fly as Champagne, Burgundy win UNESCO status / France24

Unesco grants champagne industry world heritage status / The Guardian

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French Dinner table

Receiving guests around a dinner table is a a very important part of French culture. Having guests over for a religious occasion, anniversary or other important date requires flawless planning and execution. Every person sitting at the table will become a judge of the affair and any faux pas will necessarily become a subject of gossip for years to come.  This may seem a bit exaggerated (and it is) but I do remember my mom really stressing trying to prepare Easter or Christmas dinners for a dozen family guests. So here are a few dos and don’ts for successfully setting a French table:

Silverware: They should be organized in the order in which they will be used from the outside to the inside.

Forks: Left of the plate, facing down.

Knives: Right of the plate, the cutting side of the blade facing toward the plate.

Dessert spoon and cheese knife: Over the plate with the handle to the right. Spoon faces down and the cutting side of the knife toward the plate.

Glasses: From left to right, from larger to smaller. In order: water then red, then white.

The plates: Positioned one to two centimeters (3/8″ to 3/4″) from the edge of the table. Never use more than three stacked plates. After the main course, the dinner plate (and presentation plate) are removed and replaced with the cheese plate and then the dessert plate.

Presentation plate: Optional, it is there to help present the other plates. It is removed when the cheese is served in its own plate.

Dinner plate: Used for the main course.

Soup bowl: Called a deep plate (assiette creuse) in France, its shape is in between a plate and a bowl.

Bread plate: Optional, the small plate is positioned above and left of the main plates.

French table place setting

French table place setting

Tablecloth and napkins:

Napkins can be folded in many ways: in a glass, in a plate,  in a napkin ring, as a square, in the shape of a flower, use your imagination! The Napkin Folding Guide has 27 ideas to get you started.

Tablecloth folds: If you are using a round tablecloth, all folds should be ironed out. If you are using a rectangular tablecloth, you can leave a fold lengthwise, but the crosswise folds must be ironed out. If you have table extensions, you can use several tablecloths to cover the whole length — or just visit our website or call us and order the correct size!

Decorations: Your table should be quite full when the food is served, so you do not need much to decorate. Avoid flower bouquets that are too large as they will block the view between guests. Try two or more smaller, short arrangements of cut flowers instead of one large arrangement that people will strain to see over. If one of your guests brings you a large bouquet, thank them, but don’t feel obligated to add it to the dining table if it’s too big or carries a strong fragrance. Placing their gift on a side table, coffee table, or bar top will show your appreciation just as well.

Do not use scented candles during a meal — instead, try our perforated taper candles, which will burn longer without making a mess.

Make sure to put enough salt shakers and pepper grinders (try our salt, pepper and herbes de Provence ceramic mills), trivets, and water carafes.

To avoid making too many trips to the kitchen, have a place nearby where you can keep your serving utensils. A buffet table or sideboard is designed just for this purpose, but if you don’t have one, a small table or a tray will do just fine.

Now it is time to get everybody seated and enjoy a delicious French meal!

Information courtesy of www.clase-frances.com.ar.

–Jean-Michel

Toile de jouy table linens are some of our bestsellers, but did you know the history of toile? According to Wikipedia, toile became an English word in the year 1561. In French, “toile” is a much older word meaning fabric. The famous toile de jouy style of fabric, depicting country scenes in one color on a white or off-white background, was created during the 18th century and is attributed to the town of Jouy-en-Josas (hence the name) near Versailles and just southwest of Paris. Toile decorating fabric has been in fashion ever since — a classic that never goes out of style!

Here are some toile de jouy table linens available for sale from I Dream of France!

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France Magazine Cover

France is not exactly known for its superior customer service. Anybody who has been to France can probably remember an encounter with a clerk or cashier that left a less-than-impeccable impression. It is very hard as a French person to ever admit that you are wrong and that somebody else, even a paying customer, is right.  The easiest way to put this theory to the test is to ask for substitutions in a restaurant, or to try to return a purchase to the store where you bought it. Actually, I would probably recommend not trying these, just take our word for it!

The latest issue of the British magazine “France Magazine” has a short story that illustrates this point. When checking out of his hotel in the south of France and explaining to the clerk that the bill was already paid, the author received a categorical “Non!” Turn to page 23 and read the rest of the story, it might remind you of your own experience there!

-Jean-Michel

I Dream of France