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How fancy can I get, cooking for my boyfriend's parents?

I'm having my boyfriend's parents over for dinner for the first time and I want to make a good impression. How fancy should I go?

How well do you know them? How fancy are they? And how comfortable are you plating cailles en caisses à la vigneronne while looking calm?

If you answered "I wintered with them in San Marino last year," "They make the Clarkson-Ralston-Sauls look like Kentucky washer people" or "I moonlight at The French Laundry between motivational-speaking gigs," knock yourself out.

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Otherwise, you should cook within your comfort level. Think simple dishes made with great ingredients: roast chicken, say, with duck fat potatoes and a gorgeous mixed-herb salad. Maybe even try a practice dinner with a trusted friend (the boyfriend?) a few days in advance. If he tells you that your chicken's great, but Father doesn't feel that he's eaten unless he got baby songbirds in aspic, consider eating out instead.

Chris Nuttall-Smith is a food writer and restaurant columnist. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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