Thursday, January 17, 2013

Virtual Wine & Appetizer Party for 4 Year Blogoversary + Avocado Toast with Chili Flakes and Lemon

How does time go by so fast?  Someone please explain.  Smile.  Today is my 4 year Blogoversary. I remember the day that I hit the button to click my first post live to the internet – a bit scary but moreover super exciting.  Little did I know; how that first click would change and enhance my life in such a positive way. Big smile.

I said to one of my co-workers that I had a goal to become more technically savvy and learn something new.  That was a few months before the birth of Authentic Suburban Gourmet.  Several, several months later she said to me – you did it!  You accomplished your goal and she was right.  Along with that I pushed myself to continue to learn about photography, finding my voice and mastering the whole social media trend.  I have to say that my photography has improved significantly since day one.  (I quiver a bit looking at the old photos, but it keeps me humble and pushes me to continually strive to the next level)  I understand the social media influence and benefits to helping my blog and connecting with new readers and friends.  Always learning about new things, and that is the fun part.

(Click "Read More" below to continue post)

If when I started this blog four years ago, I would have looked into a crystal ball and learned that I would meet a bunch of wonderful new friends along the way, I would not have believed it.  That I have to say is the BEST part of having this blog.  I have met and built brilliant friendships with some absolutely outstanding individuals.  Cheers to all of you!

In a recent post, I posed a question about my blog anniversary and if anyone had ideas on how I should celebrate.  Rose from Magpies Recipes mentioned I should throw a virtual appetizer party – she got my creative juices going.  With my blogoversary landing on my “Friday Night Bites” regular posting schedule, it was a perfect opportunity to incorporate this idea and invite food blogger friends to a Virtual Wine and Appetizer Party.  It was the next best thing to actually having everyone over to my house to be part of our Friday night tradition of wine and appetizers. 

I asked each friend to share a favorite appetizer, a wine pairing and to share a favorite entertaining tip.  Not too mention each person had such kind words to share and I was extremely grateful.  I was smiling from ear to ear.  Smile.

So here goes ...... I will kick off the Wine and Appetizer Party with a quick toast to all of YOU – my readers, followers and fans of Authentic Suburban Gourmet.  I raise my glass of bubbly to thank each of you and look forward to a fantastic 2013.  May each of you have a happy, healthy and personally prosperous year ahead.  Cheers!!!

Let’s head over to the party and enjoy what all of my friends have brought to the Virtual Wine and Appetizer Party!  Thank you to EVERYONE for the tasty treats and delish adult beverages!

Come join the party and enjoy a glass of wine and a bite or two or three of the tasty appetizers!!!

Kim from LivLife is sharing her newest signature drink and will kick off the party with a toast. She has a wonderful blog and beautiful daughter, and is originally from the Bay Area. Kim -  If a house goes for sale on my street, I will let you know. Smile. Her smile and positiveness is infectious!  

Here is Kim’s contribution to the party:  “Lisa!!  So you know I've always wanted to come to one of your fabulous appetizer parties.  Your weekend events leave me at the opposite end of the state and purely envious.  Hearty congratulations on your blog anniversary, and thank you so much for including me in the Virtual party!  I know you have plenty of wine, but I thought that since it's a celebration, I'd bring my new favorite sparkling cocktail... A nice bubbly Champagne Pomegranate Cocktail.  Bubbles always make me think of celebrations, so here's toasting your and The Authentic Suburban Gourmet's 4 year Anniversary!”

Jean from Lemon and Anchovies is someone I met early on and began to comment on each other’s blogs. We became friends in the real world and have quite a bit in common.  It turns out that both of our hubby’s share the same love for flying small planes and get together to fly together – never would have thought that my hubby gained a new friends through my blog.  Small world!  I admire Jean’s travel, stunning photos and creative dishes. 

Here is Jean’s contribution:  Hi, Lisa.  Congrats on 4 years of blogging, wow!  You just keep getting better and better! Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your celebration.   Prawns on Crisp Polenta Rounds with Sun-Dried Tomato Dipping Sauce -This is the kind of stress-free appetizer we all need to add to our entertaining arsenals.  The polenta and dipping sauce can be prepared in advance.  All you would need to do is cut the polenta into rounds and crisp them up under the broiler before the guests arrive, cook the shrimp (which only takes a couple of minutes on the stove) and assemble with the dipping sauce.  They are easy to prepare in large quantities and make for a hearty appetizer, eliminating the need to prepare several dishes for one party.  A light, crisp Pinot Grigio would complement these polenta rounds very nicely.  

As for my entertaining tip?  Do as much as you can before the guests arrive so you don't miss enjoying your own party. Prepare a shopping and to-do list at least a week in advance and get as much prep-work and cooking done a day or two before

Liren from Kitchen Confidante is a wonderfully talented food blogger and photographer.  I am in AWE of her photography prowess.  Several years ago Liren opened her home to host a bunch of bloggers for a dinner party when she participated in the Food Buzz Contest.  The dinner was amazing but the best part was meeting her in person and the other food bloggers. BTW Liren literally lives less than 30 minutes away from me.  Here is Liren’s contribution to the party:

I love these croquettes I recently shared: These Shrimp and Potato Croquettes are like a marriage between potato knishes and hush puppies - old favorites that bring back to my childhood back on the East coast. But while they remind me of what many consider rustic snacks, these croquettes have enough elegance to be served at a party, especially with good friends. I would pair these with a hearty Zinfandel or Rioja; these would be perfect to wash down these little pillows of heaven! Happy Blog Birthday Lisa! Liren ox

Gina from SPcookiequeen is someone I had interacted early on in my blogging days.  At that time, I would have never thought we’d meet in person until Jean hosted a blogger brunch a few years later.  It is a bit surreal meeting a fellow blogger that you only know in the “web world” and of course it is better in person.  Gina is full of life and has such a wonderful smile.  She is one heck of a cookie baker and jam maker!  I recently told her she needs to open a bakery called – “Gina’s Cookie Palace” – I hope one day she does. (I would be a frequent customer)  Here is Gina’s contribution:

Congrats on making it 4 years, that's amazing.   Thank you Lisa for letting me celebrate your 4th anniversary with you.  It's quite an accomplishment and I know I'm always hungry and inspired when I stop by over here. I love how your appetizers can sub for a meal.  I was hoping something summery, crunchy and a bit spicy (Sweet Corn and Black Bean Baked Egg Rolls)  would be great for your party.  There is a Gamay Rouge from V. Sattui in St. Helena with it's fruitiness and slight sweetness that would round out those egg rolls perfectly.  Thanks again Lisa, can't wait to see what next year brings for you.  Hope it's all fabulous.

Patty from Patty’s Food is someone I have known for a while.  When we finally met in person at Jean’s blogger brunch, it was like seeing an old friend you have not seen in long time.  We realized we had quite a bit in common and only lived about an hour away.  Patty makes some delicious treats and I can attest to tasting quite few.  She loves her family and just has a wonderful spirit about her.  I was thrilled when she said she was bringing her tasty cheese puffs to the party.  

Here is Patty’s contribution: Mini Goat Cheese Puffs forFrench Fridays with Dorie. I am bringing an icy cold bottle of Russian River Valley J Vintage Brut sparkling wine to Lisa's virtual wine and appetizer party along with a tray of my favorite mini goat cheese puffs.  The J sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and I have to say that's it's one of my favorite bottles to bring to a party.  My mini puffs have a small filling inside that includes soft goat's milk cheese with minced fresh herbs-they pair very well with a flute of sparkling wine and are a lovely way to tease the appetite before dining.  Congratulations Lisa on your 4 year blogoversary and I can't wait to see what everyone else brought to the party!

Priscilla from She’s Cookin lives in Southern California but I wished she lived here in the Bay Area.  She finds the BEST restaurants to eat and my mouth waters every time I read her reviews or see what she posts on Facebook.  Priscilla is a very positive and friendly person.  We have yet to meet face to face BUT I know that will happen.  Smile.  Here is Priscilla’s contribution to the party:  "I'm bringing Blini & Caviar - with champagne of course!"

I always love a party - especially one thrown by such a warm and thoughtful person as Lisa! Plus, I wouldn't want to miss toasting to her 4-year milestone and experiencing what is sure to be a delicious spread of appetizers since I have an inkling as to the guest list ;)

To celebrate I'm bringing my favorite Mad Men inspired appetizer because I adore that era of elegant parties and I have a feeling Lisa does to. Blini & Caviar will Wow your guests, but is actually very easy to make. The appetizer-size blini are quick and easy to make, then simply top with a dollop of sour cream and spoonful of caviar, garnish with rosemary, dill, or chives and you're set.

For special occasions I would share a bottle of Veuve Cllicquot Brut Yellow Label - awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator, it evokes flavors of apricot, peach, vanilla pastry and mineral; racy, with a snappy acidity that complements the saltiness of caviar and luscious sour cream perfectly.

My entertaining tip is to read Lisa's blog for her tips :) Be organized, plan ahead, simple dishes made with quality ingredients always shine, and prepare as much in advance as you can so you can enjoy the party and your guests, too. Also, rule #1 - don't make anything complicated that you've never made before.

Azmina from Lawyer Loves Lunch has been someone whose blog I have read for many years.  When I read her post years ago talking about her time on Master Chef, I knew she was a talented cook.  After meeting her in person, she a petite and lovely person who is always smiling and her smile is infectious.  During the holidays at our lunch and cookie exchange, she shared some delicious cookies and could certainly sell these, they were that good.  Here is Azmina’s contribution to the party:  Congratulations again on your four year blog'versary! I'm bringing my Crunchy Beef Samosas to your appetizer party. Thanks again for inviting me :) 

These crunchy, savory beef samosas are the perfect appetizer for any party, be it a large bash with your friends or a cozy date night with your significant other. The flavorful beef mixture is neatly tucked in a wonton wrapper pouch and fried so each samosa is perfectly hot and crispy. The samosas are also totally adaptable so if ground beef is not your thing, fear not because they are equally tasty stuffed with a chicken or vegetable filling. Serve the samosas with fresh cilantro chutney, a cool cucumber raita, or as the hubster likes 'em, with a squirt of ketchup. Make a giant batch, pop 'em in your freezer, and fry them up at a moment's notice. With samosas at the ready, you're ready to have a fantastic party anytime! 

Lisa from Ravishing Hunger is someone that I met while taking a cooking class in San Francisco earlier in 2012.  We were paired together to make an Orange and Olive OilCake.  While chopping and mixing, we engaged in conversation and soon learned that she also had a food blog.  What are the odds – right?  She had put it on hold, but I guess the conversation got her energized again and she brought it to life again.  It was fun for me to share what I had learned and sort of be a mentor for her.  Not too mention she is one heck of a nice girl and very interesting to talk too.  Smile.  

Here is Lisa’s contribution to the party: Thanks for including me in your upcoming post! Attached is a photo and a link to one of my favorite appetizers for your Virtual Wine and Appetizer Party: Baked Herb Ricotta and Roasted TomatoCrostini is one of my favorite appetizers to make. This recipe is about taking simple ingredients and turning them into something wonderfully delicious. Ricotta is given a boost by the addition of fresh herbs, lemon, and a bit of heat from the crushed red pepper flakes. I add a few roasted tomatoes on top to give a burst of sweetness. Perfect for spreading on top of crostini and finished with a drizzle of olive oil. This appetizer can be prepared the morning of your party and heated in the oven right before guests arrived.

I would pair this appetizer with a bottle of fruity Pinot Gris keeping in the line with the bright flavors of the herbs and lemon. 

The one entertaining tip that I try to abide by whenever I have guests over to my home is to do as much of the cooking in advance so that I can spend quality time with my guests instead of in the kitchen. Having a host or hostess that isn't stressed about making sure everything is perfect or is stuck in the kitchen all evening makes for guests that are relaxed and feel right at home! All my best, Lisa

Last but certainly not least is Rose from Magpies Recipes to whom gave me inspiration for this Virtual Wine and Appetizer Party – thank you Rose!  I recently met Rose at a holiday lunch and gift exchange with fellow food bloggers that Patty arranged.  Rose has a lovely blog and is a gifted photographer.  She has the most adorable son who I swear is a 35 year old man trapped in a 3 year old body.  He is well poised, encompasses the best manners and is super intelligent.  Just darling!  Here is Rose’s contribution to the party:

So excited about your party! Here is my entry: Melted Brie Balsamic Bruschetta Dip.  My one entertaining tip and something I constantly remind myself to do, is to plan well and get as much done prior to the day of the party so that I am not tired or stressed and am able to enjoy friends and family which is of course the most important part of getting together. I am always looking for quick and easy to make appetizer ideas, and was very happy to have found this dip, which has quickly become my favorite and I see myself making it often. 

This appetizer was inspired from a wonderful picnic in Sonoma. It is very easy, effortless and quick to put together and yet, very flavorful and I think looks elaborate and sophisticated. The warmed, gooey round of Brie cheese topped with fresh, juicy bruschetta is a great combination to dip your baguette, crackers or my personal favorite- garlic bagel chips into. We enjoyed it with a bottle of chilled Gewürztraminer from the nearby Gundlach Bundschu. Have a wonderful year ahead Lisa! Look forward to partying with you again :)  

Since it is also my weekly Friday Night Bites series AND we are having a party AND I love making appetizers, I have a super simple one that I am bringing to the party.  Over the weekend I went to lunch with my restaurant club and we ventured to San Francisco to check out ParkTavern in North Beach.  One word – DIVINE!  We shared a bunch of things but I have to say the Avocado Toast with Lemon, Chili and Sea Salt just sang to me.  I could have eaten four or five more of them, but refrained.  Decided to recreate it for all of you!

Avocado Toast with Chili Flakes and Lemon

Makes 4 (simply double or triple to increase amounts)

2 Slices of whole wheat or similar bread with crusts removed
1 Avocado
Chili flakes
Sea Salt

Toast on both sides the crustless whole wheat bread.  Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit.  With a sharp knife loosen the avocado half from the shell and lay flat on a cutting board.  Slice thin. 

Spread out the desired amount of thin slices on top of the toasted bread, in two rows worked best.  Next squeeze a bit of lemon on top of the avocado and sprinkle with desired amount of chili flakes.  I removed a lot of the white seeds to reduce the heat and simply have the flake portion.  Next sprinkle with salt and then with a sharp knife cut on the diagonal. 

Wine suggestion: Great to serve with a prosecco, dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.  Enjoy!


  1. Wow everything in this post looks divine! I want to try them all. Thanks for sharing :)

    Happy Valley Chow

  2. Happy 4 years! What an acheivement. Well done.

  3. Happy blog birthday, Lisa! So loving all these pretty and delish bites...keep it coming!!

  4. Wow one dish is more appetizing than the next! So nice that you did this and included your friends. Happy 4 years Lisa!! Your your blog looks beautiful and your recipes are forever mouth-watering. Let's get together soon. Cheers!

  5. Congrats on 4 years! What a prefect way to celebrate.

  6. Wow 4 years, great job! The food looks wonderful!

  7. A very warm congratulations to you, Lisa. I am so lucky to have gained you as a friend these last three years and to have become part of such a wonderful circle of bloggers--yes, everyone who's in this virtual party!

    You, Ms. Martha Stewart of the West, are going to have a wonderful year in blogging--I just know it. Keep up the wonderful work. I've learned so much from you about entertaining and your are truly one of the nicest people I have ever met. Cheers to many, many more years of happy blogging! xoxo Jean

  8. Happy Blogoversary, Lisa!!!! You are an inspiration to me and I can't wait for my 1-year Blogoversary this Spring! These recipes and pictures are DIVINE!!!

  9. This post with all these beautiful foods and drinks is just wonderful!!! Warmest congratulations to you! I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to meet you through're a lovely person!!!

  10. Happy Blogiversary, Lisa!! XO (I think the 4th is in fact, avocado.) :D

    That toast looks amazing!

  11. Congrats to you Lisa, your avocado toast is right up my alley since I adore avocados. Also lovely recipes from some great food bloggers too. So jealous that you live so close to many of them.

  12. hi lisa first time here...falling in love with it...Happy blog birthday, Lisa! So loving all these pretty and delish bites...keep it coming!!

  13. Four years! Wow Lisa, that is wonderful! Many Congrats to you. You have a fabulous blog, I always get excited when I click on your link as I know there will be something wonderful! All of your party dishes look fabulous, I love celebrating with you virtually, wish I could give you a hug and see that beautiful smile in person!
    Kind Regards, Chris

  14. There are so many things on your blog that I want to try and now here are 9 more all at once :) My avocado loving little man will love your avocado toast! He so enjoyed meeting all you awesome ladies that day.
    And I so agree with Jean, it was an absolute honor to be invited to the nicer and more fabulous Martha Stewart of the West's party :) So happy to have met you over Christmas Lisa, and hope I get to again soon!

  15. Congratulations on your accomplishment Lisa, 4 years is a good number;-)
    I agree with Jean-you are the Martha Stewart of California and I always find inspiration from your blog and lovely photos!!! I've really enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to your future posts;-)
    The virtual appetizer party rocks- everyone's contribution here is wonderful-we really know how to throw a great party!!!!
    I have to try your avocado toasts- great appetizer to celebrate your 4 year anniversary-congrats again ;-)

  16. Congratulations on four years, Lisa! It's been such a pleasure getting to know you as a person and a blogger :) Your entertaining tips have been so helpful and have encouraged me to move away from my normal chaotic style of hosting :) Thanks for inviting me to your appetizer party, and I hope we see each other for a "live" appetizer party soon!

  17. awesome collection of party bites!! Looking fwd to using some of these!

  18. A big congratulations on 4 years of blogging, Lisa! Wish we could all get together for an appetizer party to celebrate, but your virtual party is the next best thing. Love your avocado toast! :)

  19. Four years... amazing! Congratulations on your blog anniversary... an accomplishment to be proud of, plus some fabulous party fare. You're right... the best part of blogging is people, although the food (& photos) rank right up there. ;) Enjoy!

  20. Happy Happy Happy Blog Birthday Lisa!!! I am so glad our worlds collided, and it has been wonderful knowing someone else in this crazy food blogging world just up the road :) And not just someone else, but someone who I am honored to call a friend. I agree with Jean and Patty - you are MS-West to me. My only wish is that this virtual party were real - everything looks delicious. Thank you for hosting, and here's to another amazing year, full of deliciousness! xoxo

  21. Happy 4 years, Lisa! I am looking forward to seeing what other yummy surprises you have cooking up in your kitchen. It's been a pleasure getting to know you and I truly appreciate the guidance you've given me over the past year. Hope to meet up again at another cooking class :)

  22. Happy blog anniversary to you!!! You have the BEST group of friends...and everything looks DELISH!!!! Congrats on all your success!!!

  23. A wonderfully happy blog anniversary! Four years is quite an achievement!! And besides a great blog you do have some very interesting friends: have had my fingers tapping :D !

  24. Congrats Lisa!!!! One suggestion though, that everyone bring these mouthwatering items to the next get together. You are indeed the Martha of the West, much better looking and nicer too. I love all your party tips and I know just where to go when I'm in need of a quick and super tasty app. If only it was in a book sitting on my counter that I could just reach for (hint, hint). I'm sure you could do whatever you set your heart to. So glad to call you a friend.

  25. Just discovered your blog - congratulations to you! I know many of your wonderful friends here and what a treat to see such a line-up of tempting treats. Wishing you plenty of bubbles - cheers from Paris.

  26. Congrats on 4 amazing years Lisa! I am so glad that I have gotten to know you better over these last few months. What great friends you have gather for the party, can't imagine what that would be like in real life!

  27. Cheers and congratulations, Lisa! This is the perfect way to celebrate and I'm so glad to be included! You know I consider you the Queen of appetizers and have visited your blog often for party bites and tips. I had similar goals when I started my website, and have learned so much along the way and it continues to challenge, surprise, and educate me. Most gratifying are the virtual friendships made along the way and I'm sure we shall meet IRL soon :) P.S. I should have said more - sending you an addendum :)

  28. A huge Congratulations on your 4yr Blogoversary Lisa! And what a way to celebrate...beautiful!

  29. Happy blog anniversary Lisa! What a great achievement! I hope I stay around long enough to celebrate my 4th.
    The avocado toasts sound perfect for the occasion.

  30. Happy, Happy, Happy Anniversary!!! I'm so excited to finally be a part of one of your events, and what an event it is... names I've always wanted to meet IRL, and the food? Well... I can only describe it as fabulous. Thank you so much for including me!!

  31. What a great post, so many lovely appetizer ideas!Those avocado toasts are calling me now! Congratulations on 4 years!


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