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5 Tips: La Dîner Fête

If I had to describe my CEA apartment in just one word, I would choose charming. Two people barely fit in the elevator at a time, but after squeezing yourself inside, it's all up from there. Literally, all up from there; we live on the eighth and final floor. While being in "The Penthouse" is cool in itself, my roommate Coley and I also have a beautiful, unobstructed view of the 12th arrondissement and Bastille area. With our bedroom's 'Tiffany's box' blue walls, our mix-matched kitchen table and the two sunflower mirrors hanging in our living room, the apartment is a little unconventional, yet absolutely wonderful.

With our suitcases unpacked, our fridge stocked and our pictures hung, Coley and I decided that to make our apartment truly feel like home, we would have to do as the Parisians do: throw a dinner party.

How to throw a parisian dinner party in 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Pick an occasion

  This is the easiest step! Although Coley and I had already been living in our apartment for about two weeks, we decided to make a "housewarming party" our excuse for inviting our friends over on a random weeknight. Whether the occasion is someone's birthday, the end of midterms week, or simply because it is a Tuesday, every and any night in Paris is worth celebrating.

Step 2: Clean...

If you're anything like me, this will be the most difficult step. I have a terrible habit of using my floor as a shelf for everything. Because mine and Coley's friends would be seeing our apartment for the first time, we wanted to make sure they could actually see our apartment! The end result included two freshly made beds, toilet paper in the bathroom, a spotless floor, an empty kitchen sink, and a vanilla Febreze scented apartment!

  Step 3: ...And then some

If you have time after making the apartment Stepford-wife approved, think of what you can do to transform your house (or apartment) into a home. This step finally gave Coley and I the motivation to finally hang up our posters and photographs from home, light our jasmine-pear scented candles, pick up some freshly cut flowers from the corner market, and lay our growing collection of French fashion magazines across our coffee table.

Step 4: Prepare the Menu

  Possibly the most essential part of any dinner party is the dinner! In California, dinners with friends typically involve things like guacamole and chips, BBQ'd burgers, XL pizzas ordered from the Round Table down the street, etc. The Parisians raise their bar a little higher. While the French tend to enjoy and appreciate fine cuisine, most of the french dinner party essentials don't even need to be baked, boiled or sautéed! The key menu items that no dinner party is complete without include: cheese (brie is always a reliable crowd-pleaser), bread (baguettes from your corner bakery will most likely be the cheapest thing you buy in Paris, 1€!), and even if it’s not your beverage of choice, wine.

Because Coley and I had class until the early evening, we decided to get creative and prepare a hodgepodge of easy plates. In addition to the standard baguettes and cheese and mozzarella and balsamic, we baked fresh salmon to add protein to the meal. To balance the necessary nutella and peanut butter, we sliced some fruit and steamed some zucchini and squash.

If you have the time, there are some traditional and easy french meals you can make for your dinner guests to enjoy. Salade Nicoise is a great example of a healthy and filling plate that is also easy to prepare. No actual cooking is necessary, all you need to do is grab a large bowl and mix together lettuce, tomatoes, boiled eggs, tuna and olives, voilà! You can also cut up some russet potatoes, add some thyme, place them in the oven and you’ll have lyonnaise potatoes, bon appétit! For our dinner party I simply steamed zucchini and squash, but with more time I could have easily added some garlic, onions, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes and herbs to create the classic dish, ratatouille.

Step 5: Have fun!

After a couple of days of cleaning, planning and cooking, enjoy yourself! The only thing better than eating good food and having great conversations is doing those activities with your friends and in your home. And it’s sure to create a perfect instagram photo opportunity!

Madison Vlay is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Paris, France. She is currently a junior at UCLA.

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