Hors d’oeuvre translates into English as “a part from the main work” or “outside the oeuvre.” Passing small bites or ‘hor d’oeuvres’ during cocktail hour is something that can’t really happen in a traditional restaurant. We used to serve an amuse-bouche to people as they sat down in our former restaurant Rupperts. However this seemed very much a part of the main meal for us– A gift from the chef to try to make people feel at home. Of course the trend these days in restaurants is small plates— multiple small plates that aggregate into the main meal. But how does one serve something at a dinner and keep it separate from that dinner. During our Home Restaurants we create small bites that are served during a cocktail hour. Guests gather and visit in the library or out in the garden, weather permitting. We use the time to develop relations with the diner. A stranger has entered in to our home to eat, not the usual entitlement that goes along with the hard and cold contract of dinner reservations at a restaurant. We want to introduce the guest to who we are with out intruding on the meal they are about to encounter. There are three thoughts that we take into consideration as we try to do this. 1. Size… Knowing that people can only eat so much– keep it small, and light— avoid heavy ingredients. 2. Function…Make it easy to eat so it is welcoming and there are no awkward moments in an already unfamiliar setting. 3. A part from the main meal… Look for lacunas in the sit down portion, maybe there is no poultry or seafood, or maybe there is something that you do really well and that something did not make it on to your menu.
We have gone back in forth over the last few years with our bites and feel just recently to have gotten the hang of this ‘outside’ of the meal. We look at it simply as if we were in our mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen and she would offer us a taste of something that she had stashed away but wasn’t on offering that night. Simple and raw, which is to say: beginnings always start from the outside.