French Style Apéritif Dinner- L’Apero Dinatoire

by Georgeanne Brennan

Tapenade as served at L’Apero les Trois. Photo credit Craig Lee

L’ Apéro Dinatoire is the French version of L’ Apéro hour at home, extended on a grand scale, with enough food and drink to equate a full meal, served in a series of bites or small plates, beginning with an apéritif, and concluding with dessert.

The Dinatoire’s casual, help yourself buffet of small dishes differs in both style and substance from the sit-down, multi-course affair of the famed French Gastronomic Meal listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. However, the commonalities of a traditional apéritif before the meal and the unabashed enjoyment of food, friends, and family links the seemingly disparate experiences in an expression of French values.

The Dinatoire, like the gastronomic meal, will carry you through a long, convivial afternoon or evening, beginning with two to three light appetizers, perhaps Gougères and tapenade toasts, followed by several heartier ones, such as small lamb chops, smoked ham with mostardo, and bite size sausages. A verrine, or glass, of Shrimp Gazpacho Aspic, or baby romaine leaves resting on a base of anchoiade might be included, or in winter, a small cup of hot soup. A platter of cheese often appears next, followed by an array of desserts.

The food, including the dessert, is bite-size, easily and appropriately eaten with fingers, with the exception of verrines or soups, which need a spoon.
As with the gastronomic meal prepared at home, the Dinatoire is a combination of homemade foods and high-quality, ready-made, purchased ones. This allows the cook to concentrate on a few special items rather than preparing everything.

At L’Apéro les Trois Tasting lounge, we’re inspired by the French way with apéritifs, food, and drink.

We offer a daily selection of our French farmhouse style apéritifs, apéritif cocktails, and a selection of appetizers to accompany the beverages, including Gougères.
From time to time, when the weather is good, we’ll bump the apéritif hour up to almost dinatoire style, adding a Grillade, a simple meal of grilled lollipop lamb chops or sausages and a lush salad, followed by a dessert, or preceded by a soup.

Starting in October, we’ll again offer our series of six full French style meals in the style and tradition that UNESCO has singled out. These seasonal dinners are themed around the fruit or nut in one of our L’Apero les Trois aperitifs.

In October, it’s quince. The dinner begins with a quince apéritif, then continues for four, celebratory courses, each incorporating some aspect of quince, accompanied by paired wines from Berryessa Gap Vineyards, and concluding with a quince Tarte Tatin and a warm spiced quince digestif.

As the seasons change and evolve, so do the offerings at L’Apero les Trois. What doesn’t change is our celebration of the tradition of L’Apéro and the enjoyment of food, family, and friends.

Recipe – Quince Apéritif

The honeyed undertones of quince- infused Chardonnay come to life with the addition of Berryessa Gap’s Blanc de Blanc, to create a welcome drink for the aperitif hour, or to begin a meal. This drink makes a good pairing with black olive tapenade toasts or honey drizzled goat cheese and crackers.

  • 4 ounces L’Apéro les Trois Quince apéritif, chilled
  • 1-ounce Berryessa Gap Blanc de Blanc, chilled
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • Pour the quince aperitif into a 6- 8-ounce glass, top with the Blanc de Blanc, and add ice cubes if desired.
  • Makes 5-ounce glass

Grillade of Lamb and Eggplant Skewers. Photo Credit Sara Remington from “La Vie Rustic” by Georgeanne Brennan