I absolutely LOVE a great dinner party! The idea of planning a dinner party exhilarates me beyond my imagination. Making people happy through my food and entertaining prowess, is one of the great pleasures I have to share. The idea of great friends gathering around the table to break bread, savor wine, share stories, laugh a lot and leave feeling better than when they arrived through our front door simply makes me blissful.
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Back in December, I know, it was a while ago – I threw a wine pairing dinner party for a long time friend Helen. Helen had a milestone birthday and I wanted to give her a gift that was an event rather than an object. An event would provide lifetime memories and I believe means so much more than an expensive candle or keep sake. Don’t hear me wrong, those things are nice but an event of sorts is just something out of the ordinary and bordering on the extraordinary in my mind.
I shared in my dinner certificate gift with Helen that she could invite two other couples and we would make it a dinner party. She invited Meg and Alex from our book club along with their hubbies and hers. It made for a fun night with many laughs. Alex’s hubby brought a game that he had created. It was on a large white board with photos of famous people and our job was to guess who they all were. We laughed and laughed and thought it was so cleaver for him to create and share with all of us. We then played table topics – the dinner party version and it created great conversation and more laughs.
For the menu I relied on classic recipes that I have made over and over again. I will often try new things, but this time I wanted it to be perfect and share dishes that are proven winners. We pulled a 2002 Vine Cliff Magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon from our wine cellar to get the festivities started. This wine was simply divine. To accompany the wine, we had Roasted Grapes with Thyme, Fresh Ricotta and Grilled Bread, Shaved Brussels Sprout Crostini with Parmesan and Truffle Oil and a cheese platter with Gruyere, Le Tur and Dry Aged Jack with homemade Balsamic Fig Jam.
The starter course was Roasted Carrot Soup Shooter with Sage Gruyere Biscuit and served with Acacia 2012 Chardonnay from the Carneros region. We then enjoyed a Baby Kale Salad with Port Plumped Cranberries, Persimmon, Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Vinaigrette and was served with Helen’s favorite wine from Peju called
Since Helen and her hubby Phil have been long time friends, I wanted to also incorporate one of Phil’s favorites – The Salty Dog! Instead of a cocktail, I made a palate cleanser from a handmade Grapefruit Sorbet. Let’s just say, this was the star of the dinner party. We then moved into the main course with my infamous Asian Braised Short ribs with Orange Hoisin Glaze with Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes and Haricot Verts. This course we enjoyed a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Faust. It was simply perfect with this dish.
Instead of a fancy dessert, I wanted to go classic and make a handmade chocolate cake that would be the final touch to this brilliant dinner. The key to this cake is the coffee that is added to the cake and espresso powder to the chocolate frosting. Happy, Happy Birthday my dear friend Helen – may you have a fantastic year ahead!
Salty Dog Palate Cleanser
To make the Salty Dog Sorbet Palate Cleansers, take a shot glass and dip a bit into water and then into a bowl of Himalayan pink salt. Use a very small ice cream scooper to pop two scoops into the shot glass and drizzle a touch of your favorite vodka on top. Repeat until you have made as many as you need for your dinner party guests. Serve immediately with a small spoon to cleanse the palate before your next course. It is best to be served right before the main course.
3 Cups Pink Grapefruit Juice
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
½ Cup Light Corn Syrup
2/3 Cup Sugar
Combine the grapefruit juice, lemon juice, corn syrup and sugar in a 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heart, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Place the sorbet base in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours and overnight is best.
Remove the sorbet base from the refrigerator. Next, process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions. It should be the consistency of very softly whipped cream. Transfer to an airtight storage container and chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours until firm. Makes about 1 quart.