Sunday, October 3, 2010

PFB #3 | An Evening Celebrating Figs & Friends


Entertaining is one of my true passions. The pure thought of planning an event in my head from who to invite to the menu to the details of designing the table, simply makes me happy. There is an art to entertaining that I have discovered over the years which makes it seem effortless to your guests and greatly reduces any stress for the hostess. I have threaded several of my entertaining tips throughout this blog post. Nothing gets my creative juices invigorated, than planning and hosting a dinner party. It is a fantastic reason to bring friends or family together to celebrate a season, event or simply celebrate each others company.


















For the third challenge we were asked to host a Luxurious Dinner Party for at least four guests and be creative while sharing new tastes and entertaining secrets. While contemplating ideas in my mind about how I would execute this third challenge - I thought since we are officially in the fall season and it was the tail end of the magnificent fig season, I decided to go with the theme – “An Evening Celebrating Figs & Friends”. Often one small idea or item will trigger my creativity and then the details begin to explode from all angles. I have discovered that keys to a successful dinner party boil down to planning, paying attention to details and making your guests feel welcome and comfortable.





































Speaking of guests, I put careful thought into who to invite for this special dinner, since I would have loved to invite everyone I know, but unfortunately that would not be practical. Of course, this would give me many reasons to host multiple future dinner parties for many of my wonderful friends. The invitation is often the sneak peek into type of party that your guests will be enjoying. With the vast popularity of social media and quickness, I sent a personalized invitation via the internet with the tone of the dinner party to my guests. Within a very short period of time, everyone was confirmed and now the excitement was mounting.



















With any project that has a deadline, it is best to work backwards to develop your timelines and task list. Three words are the keys to creating a successful party – “Planning, Preparation and Presentation”. Several years ago I created my “Entertaining Worksheet” which keeps me extremely organized with planning the theme, menu, shopping list, preparing the menu items, getting the house ready along with myself. If I have at least one hour of downtime prior to my guests arrival, the checklist and planning was successful.
















Planning, Preparation and Presentation Tips:

The Basics: Determine date, location, venue, number of guests and type of invitation. Include in the invitation the theme of the event along with hints how to dress if important.
Menus: Create a menu around your theme, number of guests and use a combination of prepared and ready made foods. Prepare menu’s to be placed at each place setting. Personalize with the guest’s names and date of the event. Your guests can take home as a memoir to the evening.
Variety and Preparation: Think about different colors and textures to your menu, so you have visual variety along with tastes. Prepare as much food ahead of time and store in reusable containers for ease of entertaining.  Then you need to simply assemble, heat or cook.
Checklist: Use your checklist to map out a timeline for purchasing your food and wine, selecting linens and dishes, preparing your house, picking music and leaving time for you to get ready and look fantastic.
Wine and Beverages: Chill wine the night before, have plenty of ice on hand for water and other beverages and create a signature cocktail to kick off the evenings festivities. 
Water tip: Fill the water glasses about twenty minutes prior to serving dinner and then use a big pitcher without ice to fill each glass. Add a slice of lemon or cucumber for extra punch.
Get ready: Empty the dishwasher and trash receptacle prior to the event.
“People eat with their eyes first” – Food should have “negative space” or empty space around it. Ensure various colors and textures are utilized.
Presentation: Ensure tablecloths are pressed and stain free. Use chargers or placemats for added dimension to the table. Select centerpieces that coincide with the theme of the party and are below the guest’s eye level.
Personalize: Be creative with place cards and mix up the seating arrangements to encourage conversation.
Table: Set the table the night before your event, add flowers the day of the event and light candles just before your guests arrive.
Music: Create cocktail party music along with dinner music on your ipod – helps to enhance the mood of your event.
Coffee: Have the coffee pot pre-loaded with beans and water, so all you need to do is press the button.




















One part of this process that is my favorite is creating the menu along with the wines that will pair with the dishes. Incorporating figs into each aspect of the menu was both fun and challenging. I decided to use both the black mission and totato varietals of figs and incorporate them into the centerpieces along with the place card holders to further embody the theme.


A copy of the menu was placed in the entrance of our home to give my guests an opportunity to gain a glimpse into the evening. I carefully selected various wines that were already in our wine cellar which were both unique and would pair beautifully with the menu.

Use something that designates who owns the wine glasses, so there is not a question as to who it belongs to. I enjoy personalizing with each guest's name.

























Going back ten years, I decided to create custom menus for my dinner parties and store them in a decorative binder to bring back the wonderful memories. For this dinner party, I created a pretty menu along with a tasting note card giving hints about each wine. It was a wonderful conversation starter for everyone to discuss the aromas and flavors they discovered with each wine. Especially with the Pinot Noir which had a distinct aroma of cola – after reading that detail each guest immediately recognized the hint of cola in the wine. Perhaps the power of suggestion made a difference.























For "An Evening Celebrating Figs & Friends", each course was carefully paired with a special wine to enhance the experience.


{ Rosemary and Brown Sugar Cashews + 2009 Vermentino -  Blair Fox Cellars}


















{ Caramelized Onion, Fig, Blue Cheese Crostini + 2009 Vermentino - Blair Fox Cellars }

























{Amuse Bouche - Grilled Figs with Bacon + 2006 Riesling - Bex }



















{ Mixed Greens, Arugula, Fennel, Shaved Parmesan, Figs and Sherry Vinaigrette + 2007 L'Avion - Stolpman Vineyards }

















{ Maple-Rosemary Brinded Pork Tenderloin, Port Infused Fig Chutney with Parsley Fingerling Potatoes + 2005 Pinot Noir - Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Highliner }






















{Fig and Apple Tart + 2006 Far Niente "Dolce" Napa Valley Dessert Wine }

Amuse Bouche

An amuse-bouche is typically a one or two bite offering by the chef that offers a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking and often accompanied by a complementing wine. It is referred to sometimes as a chef’s surprise and adds that extra special touch to a dinner. With my theme, I found a recipe for Grilled Figs Wrapped with Bacon from The Vineyard Restaurant located in Madera California and paired with the Bex Riesling.

Grilled Figs Wrapped with Bacon

8 slices bacon, center cut
1 C. Balsamic vinegar
8 Fresh figs
8 Wooden skewers, soaked in water

Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on a baking pan and precook for 5 minutes at 400 degree oven. Meanwhile, measure the vinegar into a small saucepan; heat and simmer over medium heat until reduced by one half. Set aside.

Wrap each fig with one slice of bacon and secure with a skewer’ grill over open fire or on a grill pan till bacon is crisp. Drizzle vinegar reduction and serve warm.





















Overall the evening was filled with great friends, much laughter and of course delicious food and wine. After we concluded with dessert, the evening was winding down and I wanted to give a little gift to each of my guests. Continuing with the fig theme, I presented each person with a jar of my handmade fig jam. With jam and menus in hand, we said good night to our fabulous guests and proceeded to relax and reminisce about the wonderful dinner party.

























A special BIG thank you to everyone who voted for my challenge #2 post.  Challenge #3 - Creating and executing a Luxurious Dinner Party was extremely fun and rewarding.  Voting opens: 6AM pacific time October 4th through 6PM pacific time October 7th. 

50 comments:

  1. It fig-ures your post would be beautiful! Those cashews look delicious!

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  2. WOW WOW, where do you live? Can we be friends! What a great party

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  3. Looks AMAZING!! I started drooling on my keyboard a little! Good luck in PFB!

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  4. Lisa, you *are* the entertaining queen! Perhaps I can call you West Coast Martha? All kidding aside, I LOVE your fig theme, the clever place cards, the pairings, and all the extremely helpful tips. And I am proud to attest to the deliciousness of your jam favors. SO good!

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  5. Absolutely beautiful! I love the colors and the table setting. Great job Lisa!

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  6. What a well thought dinner party theme! Everything looks so beautiful and the tone, mood and settings of the whole evening match perfectly! Your use of figs is incredible, I absolutely love figs!

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  7. Lisa, I didn't expect to see anything less than this but still--it blew me away! What a simply delicious menu and your presentation was spot on. I have so much to learn from you. Very, very nice. :-)

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  8. What a lovely dinner! Love the theme, and such a great table setting. Good Luck!
    -Gina-

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  9. Thanks for including so many tips with your post. My husband and I have been wanting to host a dinner party since we just bought our first home, but it's always seemed such a daunting task. Your tips are so helpful and inspirational :) And your party sounds and looks like a definite success!

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  10. Great job... everything looks delicious, I loved the figs place card idea.

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  11. wonderful party!!! I would have love to have been a guest. And I REALLY love that checklist you have! Very organized :)

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  12. Awe, figs and friends...such alliteration and perfection. I love it! Love the lavishness of this party and yes, I shall RSVP with a vote for you, Lisa! BTW: You and your hubby are so darling! Tell him he has a fine gem in his hands :)

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  13. Wonderful! I love that you incorporated figs into every dish!

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  14. LOVED your dinner party, I would defintely want to be a guest and I am sure all your friends had a fabulous time! I esp like your decor and place settings, your ideas for the figs as placecard holders is amazing, and your table looks so beautiful. I will be taking decorating advice from you next time I have a party! :)

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  15. You are truly in your element. Gorgeous table top and fabulous wine pairings with each delicious course. Thanks for sharing your beautiful dinner and entertaining tips!

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  16. Those bacon wrapped figs look sinful! Congrats on a great dinner party! sending some love your way!

    http://whitneysamusebouche.blogspot.com/

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  17. Looks like it was a gorgeous party. With your worksheet you definitely look like you have things down! I especially love the fit placecard holders. How adorable.

    It's so fun seeing how we all got the same challenge and took it in so many different ways. You have my vote.

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  18. Figs figs figs! You have them in every nook and cranny. Your figs as placecard holders are genius!

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  19. Just voted for you I love figs any old time!

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  20. Lisa, this is absolutely stunning! You clearly thought of everything, all the way up to the fabulous party favors. Voted! :)

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  21. you're awesome! what a fantastic party! absolutely divine, you have my vote!
    Leila @BarbarianTable

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  22. What a lovely dinner party! I love your theme :) Your table looked gorgeous as well.. and your tips I think have been the best so far!

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  23. Oh my! Lisa, I'm so very impressed. From the name tags to the wine pairings to the fig jam!!! Please invite us over next time, pretty please!! :-) And I loved the fig theme! Well done! You certainly know how to host!!

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  24. This is my kind of dinner party. From the decor to the food. You get my vote!

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  25. You definitely are organized...and a very gracious hostess. I like that you kept a theme to the menu. I'm voting. Good luck.

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  26. Oh my goodness , you make Martha Stewart look like an amateur ! What a gorgeous post and party ! Good Luck

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  27. An absolutely delightful evening!!!! Excellent, outstanding-- a culinary masterpiece matched perfectly with divine wines. 5 out of 5 gold stars and 2 thumbs WAY UP!!!!

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  28. I've learned of your blog from reading Liren's. A great dinner party, so well-thought of. I am off to vote for you.

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  29. First of all, your table settings are BEAUTIFUL! Everything looks like so much fun and since I'm a sucker for figs, I'm totally obsessed with all the foods. Especially the crostini and grilled figs with bacon :) Awesome job! :)

    Sues

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  30. lovely. adore the fig name tags!!! voted.

    (see my post here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1094)

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  31. Lisa, I'm speechless ! Everything looked and sounded perfect. Perfect attention to detail - that's luxury :) Voted

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  32. Your menu, planning/organizational tips, table (gorgeous!), all add up to a winning post. Nice job!

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  33. Loved all your detailed "how to" tips. The food and photos are beautiful--sounds like a Very Successful Evening! You have one of my votes:)

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  34. Amazing job Lisa! Your menu looks delicious and your table is very elegant. Congratulations on another first class evening.

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  35. i'm jealous of all those figs!! what an amazing dinner :)

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  36. You did a spreadsheet too?! Haha! That's awesome! Now I don't feel like such a nerd for doing that too. Oh and I LOVE that fig idea. So simple yet so elegant. Fabulous!

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  37. Love all the photos! Everything looks great! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

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  38. This looks fantastic... You got one of my votes!

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  39. love the theme. voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1080

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  40. Great pictures and you have my vote!

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  41. It looks like you had a great dinner party - the menu is making my mouth water! Good luck.

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  42. Great tips. V. envious of the figs, especially the take-home gifts!

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  43. I love all the figs and that party favour is adorable! You have my vote!

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  44. Love the colors, love the menu, and love your organization! This party sounds like it was relaxing and luxurious - excellent work! I'm voting for you right now.

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  45. How do I get a copy of that amazing entertaining worksheet?? Brilliant idea!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by! I changed computers and somewhere in the transition I lost this document - it is such a bummer. You reminded me that I need to re-create it. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!!

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