It’s official I am an adult. Yes, at 26 years old I threw my first genuine dinner party, propelling me squarely into adulthood. I have thrown and hosted other dinner parties before but never where I cooked the balance of the meal. In this case, it was the first where I invited a small group of friends to assist me in approximating regional cuisine, with recipes we were completely unfamiliar with, to be bound to wines of the Languedoc and Costières de Nîmes—or Southern France. As I found out, creating the menu and locating the ingredients certainly ups the ante on what a dinner party can be.

In deciding the menu I had carefully considered the guests—who were mainly vega-pescatarian—in my selection for an all-encompassing menu. I arranged the meal around a couple of Southern French white wines, planning to pair the 2010 Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet with Croquettes de Brandade and the 2009 Lou Coucardié Rhône white with stuffed Artichoke and Shrimp in green sauce. While the latter dishes were distinctly Italian, I still thought the white wines of Southern France carried an edge over the Central Italian red wines that I had stocked. It was strictly a white wine affair.

I was particularly excited about the Picpoul de Pinet after my recent experience in San Francisco—the freshness of the wine, complimented by its racy acidity make it a food lover’s dream. I also love the price point, the Font Mars, much like the other Picpouls I have purchased in the past, have never registered for more than twelve dollars.

After selecting the courses and inviting my friends, it was time to find the ingredients. This became especially difficult in the case of salt cod (Bacalao), which was an integral component of the croquettes. I called about eight different fish markets while I spent the day in Long Beach, combing southern Los Angeles County for the salt-preserved fish with no luck, until I decided to change strategies. I called an Italian deli and market and was able to get the desired amount with no complications. The other ingredients were fairly simple to gather, culling from my home market here in LA.

I set the clock and began some minor preparations before the dinner began, making breadcrumbs from an older loaf, thoroughly cleaning the vegetables, and plating appetizers as well as cuing the music before my friends arrived. The execution was nearly flawless as the first guests trickled in; it was their first time to my apartment and their tour had put me back some on the things I needed to accomplish before their arrival. They immediately set to work, assisting me in getting the parsley, mint and garlic into form. Everyone wielding blades, and chopping accordingly, we had the croquettes well underway before my roommate came home.

To prime our palates, I poured a domestic Chardonnay, to accompany us as we cooked. The Sparkman Cellars “Lumière” showcased ripe Washington fruit that was soft on the tongue, brandishing a smooth mouthful of apples. The flavors eased us as we slaved over artichokes. Once the innards had been removed, we filled the cavities with the finely chopped garlic, mint and parsley and started their cooking. With pestle and mortar we ground a similar bunch of greens, garlic, and salt into a green sauce, lubricating intermittently with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

After nearly two hours we had plated the foods and had the first glass poured. In our glasses rested the fresh Picpoul, the straw colored wine was recommended to partner with the salt cod croquettes. This became obvious once we sipped the wine after our first croquette, the garlicky mashed potatoes and salt cod mixture was pierced by the crisp gooseberry and citrus-tinged wine. We were ready for the next bite as the Picpoul subdued the distinctly strong flavors of the croquette.

The white Rhône wine was next on deck; a mixture of flowers, honey and Asian pear it would hopefully tame the artichoke and enmesh with the shrimp with a matador’s grace. We ran the leaves between our teeth while we reached for the Roussanne-heavy blend and suddenly the stoic fruit was catapulted forward and the honey notes were accentuated. I learned that cynarin was the culprit for making everything a bit sweeter when eating artichokes. A much more balanced transaction took place with the shrimp in green sauce. After a couple more shrimp, our palates normalized and the flavors began to sync.

Short dessert—a minor oversight—the night went off without a hitch. My roommate remembered that he had a box of chocolates, and, acting swiftly, he shared them with the table to appease our sweet tooth and to cap the evening. Though the Picpoul shined with the croquette, I actually preferred 2009 Lou Coucardié. The honey kissed fruits and generous mouth feel seemed to live up to my fond memories when I had tasted it at a Rhône event earlier in the year. I entered the big leagues, getting the wines, planning the dinner and making the dishes (with help), which was truly gratifying. Dinner parties, much like my time serving wines at a local restaurant, are very addicting… It only took me 26 years to recognize this.