The invites were sent long before anyone knew that it would be the night the XV de France would face the ferocious All Backs during the Rugby World Cup. By 9:45 pm, the hostess was flummoxed as she surveyed her buffet table loaded with whole poached salmon with an anchoïade sauce, rosy beef tenderloin crusted with herbs, and assorted fall salads while most of her guests were jammed into the tiny TV room cheering the French team. It reminded me of all the Super Bowl parties I had read about but never attended.

To make her feel better, I offered “you know, in the US, parties around sport events are quite popular. And, they can be very elegant affairs.” I expected the mocking comment I have heard so often in the past few years “les Americains sont des sauvages” (Americans have no manners). Instead, she looked amused and quite pleased with herself — she was now hosting the coolest party around. She just sat back and poured another round of chardonnay 2006 Domaine de la Commanderie de St Jean.