Posted in Entertaining

How to Throw a Memorable Dinner Party

Five records were stacked and ready to start playing as soon as the first guest pulled up. The table was set. Small wine goblets brought out for the occasion. Fresh sunflowers filled canning jars. The dinner party was about to begin.

I decided to throw a four course dinner party for friends, complete with wine pairings. My own garden created inspiration and filled the menu, along with local mushrooms, wine, and cheese. Homemade pasta and sourdough baguettes rounded out the menu.

This was an elaborate party, but it was easily managed by planning out each detail ahead of time. The menu was written on a door painted with chalkboard paint. The chive pasta was made Thursday. The Limoncello cake was made Friday in anticipation for Saturday’s dinner. On Friday I also blended a simple gazpacho style soup using lots of fresh veggies and olive oil in my Vitamix, added seasoning to taste, then stored it in the refrigerator. The soup was served cold topped with crab, which was removed from its cans Friday and stored in a glass container in easy reach in the fridge. Ten sets of plates and bowls were set out on the counter for easy plating.

Everything that could be prepped ahead of time was, like harvesting vegetables, pre-cutting the iceberg lettuce, and making the salad dressing. The white wine and champagne were put in the refrigerator as well.

Saturday morning I met up with girlfriends, rested until after lunch, then hit the ground running baking bread and setting the table. The potatoes were parboiled then smashed and placed on a cookie sheet. I poured crushed garlic and olive oil over the whole thing and put it in the toaster oven to start after the soup course.

Before guests arrived, the wine was opened, a pot of boiling water was started and kept on low for the pasta. The pasta sauce made with garlic and oyster mushrooms was started to the point of adding cream and was then kept off the heat until it was time to pull it all together for the third course.

Cups of coffee and delicious lemony cake was served. Guests meandered the garden, played with the dog, sipped wine and found things in common with each other. The whole dinner was a success. It it is a wonderful gesture to invite those you love from different circles and spoil them with great food and drink and company.

A simple affair is also easy to pull off. Put on a pot of soup. I wanted to make my woofers (farm interns) a truly Colorado meal, so I made them green chile, heated some tortillas on the gas stove, juiced some prickly pears and made the most delicious margaritas ever. The point of a dinner party is to come together as friends and community. Joining together over food is a great way to keep relationships alive and well. It adds such sweetness to life.

Cheers!

Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Gathering Folks Together, a Simple Baby Shower, and an Easy One Pot Cake

My home seemed too small to host a baby shower for my friend, but I know after all these years of gathering people, that somehow it all works out perfectly. So my daughter, Emily, and I started planning. In my small space, we amazingly, and comfortably fit eighteen people, laughing and wishing the new mama well.

Parties needn’t be elaborate or expensive. When an RSVP came in, if they asked if they could bring something, I said yes! Many parties can be potlucks. No one minds. I always loved to throw great, large dinner parties, until I realized how crazy I was getting trying to get everything cleaned, then everything cooked, and I never ended up having time for my guests and relaxation.

My favorite guest, my granddaughter, Ayla Mae!

If you throw a celebration between mealtimes, you can just provide a few snacks and drinks. The idea is to get folks together. In an era of social media, loneliness, and disconnect, we must go out of our way to gather people together. Invite neighbors over for a neighborhood potluck. Invite a few couples over for cocktails and a card game.

Or invite several people you don’t know to a baby shower! It was really great fun. Gifts, chips and dips, vegetables trays, cupcakes, and my own vegan cake filled tables. A few different people brought sodas and Emily brought paper ware and index cards. We had the guests write their advice for the new mama. As she read each one aloud, I could tell she was touched by the support that she may not have realized she had as a single mom. It takes a village to raise a child, and a small part of the village came together to show her that.

Let us promote the idea of village once again and invite folks over to celebrate anything…celebrate life!

I like to make an easy one pot cake for gatherings. This recipe can have infinite possibilities. Use all flour or use hazelnut flour instead of almond. Change the spices. Use water or almond milk instead of coffee. Just keep the basic numbers right and you will end up with a delicious, moist, plant based cake every time!

Amaretto and Coffee Cake

Combine:

2 1/2 cups of unbleached, organic flour

1 cup almond flour

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons of baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of ground coffee

1 Tablespoon homemade cinnamon extract (or 1 teaspoon of store bought vanilla extract)

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 cup of coffee

2 Tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar

Quickly stir it all together (the baking soda and vinegar is what makes it rise) and pour into a 9×11 greased pan, 2 greased round pans, or a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

For the baby shower cake, I just used regular frosting. I made the same cake the evening before for a gathering with friends and make an amaretto frosting to top the cake with. Amaretto and Coffee cake is delicious.

In a bowl combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 Tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur. Drizzle over cake.

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Your Complete Guide to Holiday Food and Wine Pairing and Gifts

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Perhaps you are entertaining this season, or maybe you entertain all year.  A glass of wine at dinner is better when paired appropriately.  A glass of wine with friends is even better.  Maybe you want to give a bottle of something as a gift.  Or perhaps you are curious about great wine.  Great wine doesn’t mean expensive.  The terroir and nuances and enjoyment of wine and the way it plays with food pairings can be found in a bottle of twelve dollar wine.  You just have to know what to look for.

There are five glasses of wine in each bottle.  A standard pour is five to six ounces.  This will help you plan how much to provide at a party.  Serve whites at 55 degrees.  Reds at 65-75 degrees.  Look for wine between ten and twenty dollars.

For appetizers– a sweeter wine that holds up on its own and is quite delightful is RieslingPinot Noir can be paired with anything.  It is the most versatile.  Look for the cherries and chocolate flavors in this milder wine.

If you are serving something with butter or cream- Mushrooms with butter sauce and Parmesan or Linguine Alfredo, let’s say, or a nice salmon with a creamy herb sauce will pair perfect with Chardonnay.  Chardonnay carries the crisp tropical and fresh fruit flavors of white grapes with the toasty cream finish thanks to the oak it matures in.

If you are serving seafood or salad– Shrimp Cocktail, a beautiful main-dish salad with chicken, or pork roast with apples and cabbage.  Anything that has crisp flavors-apples, lettuce, briny seafood- goes best with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It has crisp fruit and mineral flavors, is dry, and is made in stainless steel.  It goes really nicely with food.  If you want to go a tad sweeter with this type of menu, choose a Pinot Grigio.

If you are serving tomato based dishes or beans- Rich chili, thick pastas and savory sauces, olives, or bean soups all go beautifully with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Anything Italian naturally pairs with Sangiovese, Chianti, or Barbera.

If you are serving red meat or barbeque- You just can’t go wrong with a Merlot or a Malbec with a smoky steak or buffalo burgers.

If you are serving dessert- a thick Port with fudge is divine, a glass of Moscato or Ice wine is a sweet way to end the meal.

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A gift to a wine club is a great present to the wine lover on your list.  Some of the smaller wineries offer wine clubs which gives the oenophile on your list some new and exciting small batch wines to enjoy.  Some of the larger wine clubs offer treats from around the world.

Enjoy your festivities this season, my friends.  Cheers!

 

 

Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

The Forest Feast and the Underground Supper Club

the forest feast

I have found the most beautiful cookbook.  It is called “The Forest Feast” by Erin Gleeson.  You can taste the food and smell the forest and celebrate with friends as you flip the pages.  Cool cocktails and interesting takes on vegetables wooed me into the check out line with it.  I have spent hours lost in its pages.

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I bought it to challenge me.  Sometimes I make the same vegetables in many of the same ways as I always have.  Corn with butter and salt.  Broccoli with  uh…butter and salt.  How about broccoli roasted then tossed with blue cheese and pine nuts?  I served this dish with curried salmon and salad when friends came to dinner and the dish positively melts in your mouth and screams for great red wine.  Cauliflower steaks with cheddar and chives.  Cucumber and strawberry salad.  Paprika and cinnamon crispy carrot slices.  Sangria.

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It inspires me, as so many things out there do.  Shyanne and I have long dreamed of a supper club.  Wildflower and Fawn, after our respective Native names, would be its moniker.  Supper clubs are frowned upon when serving wines and food in a non-commercial kitchen and charging.  But, yet we dreamed.  Four courses, from scratch, organic, local ingredients, wine pairings, my creative take on main and side dishes, and Shyanne’s extraordinary flair for desserts.  A multi-star experience of fresh flowers, laughter, fine china, and delicious food and drinks.  A quarterly event.  A way to express our inner chef/sommelier/baker/entertainer without the restaurant.

The first one filled up in a matter of days.  The next is Memorial Weekend.  The ideas and inspiration keeps gathering force like stardust, and enchantment is all around.

 

Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Farmgirl Dinner Party (with homemade pasta)

I am looking forward to more alfresco meals.  To show you pictures of meals taken next to the lilac bushes in bloom, with votives in canning jars, and flowers gracing the table but until then, we are still indoors!  It is cozy indoors and the cold is certainly keeping us in.  Nothing warms the soul quite like laughter, wine, and friends around the table.

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The china shown was Doug’s Great-grandma’s.  Probably over a hundred years old.  I ought to be seeing what it is worth instead of setting the table with it but isn’t that the point of nice things, to use them?  If they break, then they are but a memory but a better testament to their use than placed in the attic.  Great Grandma would be pleased that we are using her china and it would be interesting to see what she had to say if she were at the table today.

Before guests arrive I always light every candle in the house and every oil lamp.  No overhead lighting.  Sure, it’s dim, but luxuriously calming and beautiful.  A bit of jazz or classical music will be put on and guests will arrive to an open bottle of wine and instant serenity.  I will have out and ready a plate of cheese and crackers and an assortment of olives.  I particularly like the ones stuffed with garlic! I don’t wait too long to serve dinner, maybe only twenty minutes but a snack and a drink calm the senses and make one feel welcome.

I raided the root cellar for ingredients for this meal. It takes awhile but it is very easy to prepare.  You could just stop at the pasta and add homemade sauce instead of the squash/apple one that I made up.  But if you have produce or veggies in the freezer or root cellar that need using up, this is a great recipe, both savory and sweet in each bite.

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Homemade Pasta

First make the pasta so that it can sit in the fridge for an hour or so.

1 cup of wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour

5 eggs

1 T of olive oil

1/2 t salt

Combine all ingredients making a nice dough.  Wrap and place in fridge.

When you are ready for it, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch and use a pizza cutter to slice into 1/4 inch x 5 inch pieces

Boil for about 6 minutes.

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Sweet and Savory Squash and Apple Pasta Sauce

2 1/2 cups of peeled, diced butternut squash

2 small apples, diced

4 T of pesto (I had walnut and basil pesto in the freezer but you could whip some up in the food processor. Just throw in a cup of basil, 1/4 cup of walnuts, and enough olive oil drizzled in to make a chunky paste)

1 1/2 cups of diced mushrooms (mine were frozen)

3 T of mushroom and sage infused olive oil or regular olive oil (there are stores that only sell olive oils. I get mine at the Olive Tap)

Saute squash and mushrooms in olive oil covered for 8 minutes

Add apples, pesto, plus 1 T maple syrup, 2 t of sage or 4 leaves chopped, 1 T porcini oil and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

Add 3/4 t salt, 1/2 t each pepper and garlic powder, 1 t onion powder, and a pinch of cayenne

Blend well and drizzle with maple syrup and salt to taste.  Pour over pasta

Pasta Topper

Spread 2 cups of walnuts on cookie sheet

Drizzle with olive oil, ancho or cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, and salt and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Also serve with shredded cheese.  I used Drunken Goat wine infused cheese.

Wine

A California grown Cabernet Sauvignon will stand up to this meal.  It’s richness and earthy complexity will shine with the sweet and savory sauce and thick, hearty noodles.

Enjoy your dinner party!  A good board game is always a fun way to end the evening.  See you around the Scrabble board!