Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

After Dinner

\"The End of Diner 1913\" by Grun
(“The End of Dinner, 1913 by Grun.” Poster available here.)

Do you serve coffee or after-dinner drinks? We’ve recently had the “sixth course” as a host referred to it: a beautifully arranged cheese tray, complete with walnuts, grapes and figs. It was a fitting accompaniment to the vintage port he is in the habit of offering.

The response I get most often to asking if anyone would like coffee is “no, thanks,” or, “only if it’s made.” If I do make coffee, the request is usually for “decaf.” Decaf? Hmmm. What’s the point I wonder?

I remember my parents serving after dinner coffee and drinks. But they also served dessert; which I don’t. I’m not much of a baker and I really don’t have a sweet tooth. The friends who are our most frequent guests don’t like any sort of fruit. That sort of limits me to lemon sorbet or purchased profiteroles and chocolate syrup with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Brownies in a box are never a success.

I love the idea of offering a cheese tray with grapes and figs to accompany a good port at the end of the meal. And I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee, even if I’m destined to hit the rack in less than an hour.

The issue today is, of course, the drive home. The folks in the picture above would have taken a handsome cab or walked back.

How about you? What is your after-dinner ritual?

13 thoughts on “After Dinner

  1. We always offer some type of dessert wine. What we offer depends on the season, port in the winter, Madiera in the fall, etc. One of our friends recently had us over and, after a loooong dinner, brought out her one cup coffee machine. (It used pods.) It worked well because she could do decaf and regular and there was none of the “only if it’s made” that is the usual response to the offer of coffee. I liked the idea so much we are shopping for something similar.

  2. I don’t ask if anyone would like coffee, rather I make a pot (because I want it) and place it in the middle of the table. I sometimes am asked if it is decaf, and I simply respond “no.” They usually drink it anyway.

    As for after dinner drinks, it’s normally a dessert wine, a port (for my father-in-law mostly) or a nice sipping whisky, especially if we are outside and the cigars are being broken out.

    Without guests, it’s normally whatever wine is still left over from the meal, along with a rousing dose of Tom & Jerry and several stories from Dr. Seuss.

  3. Desert wines are a nice touch. If I might suggest something from your area, try Barboursville’s Phileo.

    You really need to find some acceptable signature dessert, though. Perhaps some high quality shortbread cookies on a plate? Or a tart from a local bakery? A good one is more than the fruit, but not too sweet.

    Regarding coffee, Lucy’s suggestion is an excellent one. They have an assortment of single-serve coffee makers at Williams Sonoma, which can also make cappuccino or espresso depending on the model. Also see: http://www.nespresso.com/ for a full lineup of these machines.

  4. Like you, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but enjoy nibbling some small savories, “to fill in the corners” as a one of Tolkien’s hobbits might say. Besides avoiding tooth decay, I also think a resurrection of this type of afterdinner fare appeals to a sense of classic entertaining. British navy has a quaint protocol to pour to your guest on the right then pass to the left (“port to port”). Check out Wikipedia for more.

    Small niggle, but I can’t resist: Undoubtedly, the portrayed guests’ cab might have travelled handsomely in an hansom cab. I surely read too much Athur Conan Doyle in my youth.

  5. Thanks Al, I needed that…

    This idea of an individual serving might work well. I have a small espresso machine which does the trick. But not as handily as one of the pod thingys.

    DCL, I like Barboursville’s product for the most part. I’ll look into the wine. Those fruit tarts are my idea of a perfect dessert.

  6. Lucy, if you’re still following this (thanks for providing the forum, Mr. E), we use our Keurig maker (keurig.com) like it’s going out of style. I asked for a surprise from Costco earlier this year and was surprised with this coffee maker. When my husband saw how pleased I was with the unexpected surprise (’cause clearly I expected nothing more than a slice of pie or bottle of wine from Costco), he quickly stammered, “Wellll… Happy Valentine’s then!” No so fast! 😉

    And should you care on a price point basis, we concluded that the half pot we often would toss from our maker justified the single servings that we drink to the last drop. The other nice feature is the Keurig has a brew basket that you could fill with your own grounds so you’re not left without should you be low on pod supplies. Takes the convenience away, but still a nice back up. And I’ll admit that my coffee shop purchases have gone down given this convenience on my counter top. So that right there — a 50 cent cup vs. $3.50 is a good deal!

    As for after dinner, always something with variety (salty and sweet options), the need to pass, and if possible, of local fare or an introduction to something new.

  7. We love serving coffee after a nice after-dinner port – with excellent stilton… or even a fine bourbon, or cognac, depending on the temperature outside. I do get fresh decaf for those that want it… but I love a good classic cup of hot coffee or an espresso.

    Sometimes we do tea… with asian meals, jasmine and an assortment of fresh fruits.

  8. MC,
    Thank you so much for the suggestion! We will visit Costco this weekend. If the machine could justify fewer stops at my local coffee house, then it will undoubtedly be well worth the expense.

    What a great topic! Thanks!

  9. What? No dessert? Darling, E. I’m trying not to judge. We always have dessert when we entertain as I can’t cook, but can bake, so it is the bone that Mr. B throws me. Makes me feel like I’m “helping.” I think the cheese and fruit sounds delightful. I, also, always make coffee. Decaf. I get the purists, but a girl needs her sleep.

  10. Hi Mrs. B., well, we’ve ordered a cake for tomorrow night’s gala… . I cook, but can’t bake. Mrs. E., who also has no sweet tooth, never learned to make dessert either. I did have some success with a cœur de crème once, but it was with Operation Overlord level advance planning. Not a strong suit here at the manse.

  11. I love light and tasty lemon, orange or mango sorbet after dinner. And then — after moving to the living room — a lovely pretty box of the very best chocolates opened, examined and passed around to delight guests and sweeten the palate. Coffee and tea. Brandy and port — and later — after cards or some amusement like reading the Ouija board or the tarot cards (hmmm ….. a dark-and-handsome stranger will be arriving at your door! Jolly fine with me — as long as he brings more chocs!) THEN the cheese board is served, interesting selection plus sliced apples, pears and a dish of nuts.

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