HOW TO THROW A FRUITS DE MER PARTY

For the sheer wow factor, few dishes can match a platter of fruits de mer, French for fruits of the sea. A combination of raw and cooked seafood set on a glistening bed of crushed ice, fruits de mer never fails to impress, with the shapes and colors of the seafood creating a dazzling display. Best of all, although it looks like you slaved for hours, fruits de mer is actually quite simple to prepare. Since it's served cold, most of the seafood and dipping sauces can and should be prepared a day in advance. The only accompaniments needed are crusty bread, green salad and sparkling white wine. Here is our best advice for throwing a summer party that celebrates the ocean's bounty. In addition, check out Pottery Barn Stylist Jeffery Moss's video about creating a beautiful table setting for your fruits de mer party and Domaine Carneros Founding Winemaker Elaine Crane's tips on entertaining with sparkling wine.

Setting Up

Choose a range of seafood to give your fruits de mer platter texture and variety. Classic choices include lobster, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, crawfish, mussels, razor shells and periwinkles. Since freshness is the key to tasty seafood, and to the safety of raw seafood, do some research to find the best fishmonger in your area. The seafood should not have a strong "fishy" odor, and shellfish with open shells should clamp shut when tapped.

The cooked seafood can be prepared up to a day in advance of your party. All that's needed for this task is one big pot of court bouillon — a broth made from water, white wine, lemon and herbs. First cook the lobster, crabs, crawfish and shrimp, then the mussels, razor shells and periwinkles. Refrigerate each batch of seafood after it is done cooking.

Your dipping sauces can also be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. A spicy cocktail sauce is the ideal accompaniment for the shrimp. Lemony mayonnaise is delicious with the crab and lobster. And for the oysters, you'll need a tangy mignonette sauce, made from red wine vinegar, shallots, sea salt and coarsely ground pepper. You'll also want to have plenty of sliced

lemons on hand, and bowls of warm drawn butter for the crab and lobster.

To ensure that the seafood is cold and fresh, assemble the fruits de mer just before guests are scheduled to arrive. A tiered stand like our Antique Silver Tiered Stand is the ideal serving piece because it adds height to the table and functions as a centerpiece. Have several on hand if you are serving oysters and clams because, while each only yields a bite or two of meat, their shells occupy a lot of space. Fill all four tiers of the stand with crushed ice. Then shuck the oysters and clams, and arrange them around the bottom tier, being careful not to spill their liquor. Arrange cooked seafood on the next two tiers. Keep more prepped seafood in your refrigerator, and replenish your platter as needed throughout the party. For dramatic flourish, top off the display with the shell of a crab body or a small bowl of caviar.