It turned out that July was the perfect time to host a Tour de France party. We decided to combine an airing of the Tour de France (we recorded it that morning and replayed it) with a wine and cheese tasting event. Although ideally I would serve all French products, I came to the conclusion that it was neither practical nor affordable! A wide variety of cheeses found at local grocery stores fit the bill. Because we were drinking Cabernet for the tasting, I looked on line to determine which types of foods would compliment that type of wine. With a little creative editing and replacement, I found what I needed.
For the cheese platter, I simply cut a few slices from each cheese, and then placed them on a wooden cutting board. The labels stating the name of each cheese were made on my computer (using the same font I used on the invitations), and then cut out using punches and glued onto small wooden picks. Various specialty cheese knives were found for a very reasonable price at World Market.
On the decor, I mimicked a Provencal atmosphere by draping tables and the buffet with a simple natural linen material and taupe burlap cloth. Since I was going for a rustic look, I merely used the material as it was purchased - sans hemming.
In various areas on the table I placed clay pots of rosemary and French bottles filled with single sunflowers. I used emptied bottles that had held flavored water, and then dressed them up a bit by tying them with some thick brown twine. Again, all affordable items found at various discount stores.
Sets of utensils were stored in a tin tub - each set wrapped in a red, white, and blue napkin and tied with twine. Wine glasses were placed in rows on a side buffet. Under each wine glass I set a small card explaining what to look for when tasting a Cabernet. On the stem of each glass, I tied a small tag with one of the more popular cyclists' names. This was an easy way for party-goers to keep track of their glasses, and at the same time familiarize themselves with TdF contenders. (In addition, people loved to look for their favorite cyclist!) Bottles of wine were next to the glasses, and individuals could choose which ones they would like to sample. A large jug of lemon water was also available for in between tastings.
Since I felt that the space was not large enough inside, I opened up the front patio as well. Paper lanterns in red, white, and blue with large globe string lights gave a more festive atmosphere. In addition to the linen, burlap, and sunflowers, I placed candles and antique oil lamps in strategic areas (where small children could not reach them!) Italian sodas, Swiss chocolates, and Madeleines were offered to guests on a small side table. I also didn't forget to include Red Vines, which are a local popular snack for road bike races!
For dessert I purchased two Paris Brests - traditional French pastries invented to commemorate the first Tour de France. They consists of two puff-pastries in the shape of a bicycle wheel, which are filled with a flavored pastry cream and topped with toasted almonds. Needless to say, they were very popular and were finished off in minutes!
A couple of extra touches were included to involve party-goers in the race. I typed up an up-to-date list of top contenders, teams, and stages. I also placed a large French map on the wall and traced out the route of this year's race. Several different cycling magazines featuring articles on the Tour were set out within easy reach. At lastly, the necessary ingredient to any party - music. A carefully hidden stereo on the patio played Edith Piaf. (see The Best of Edith Piaf featuring the wonderful "La Vie en Rose")
Even though dogs and children raced through the living room (with the kids breaking out into a squirt gun fight later in the evening!), the party was a huge success. It was a perfect compliment to a warm summer night.