You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘dinner party’ tag.

Just logged in quickly and realized it had been a month (plus!) since my last post. Yikes. No excuses and can’t promise it won’t happen again, but c’est la vie, no?

At least the fun hasn’t stopped during my online absence.

And what better welcome back than with a dinner party?


Moules Frites at home

This one was a few Saturdays ago – during a particularly busy weekend in San Francisco. It was Fleet Week with the Blue Angels of course, America’s Cup, the 49ers & Giants at home, plus Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in the Park, just to start.

Our good friends Katy, Michael, Alex & Zak came over — and we didn’t realize all that was on the books when we found an open night for all of us.  But the festivities all around seemed to just add to the merriment.

Pate, Crudite and Aioli

Dinner was simple fare, but my favorite kind.  Pâté and rillettes from Fatted Calf, farmer’s market crudité with homemade aioli and a martini or few started the night, and kept us lingering a bit while checking out the game.

Gents and the Giants

Once we moved to the table it was moules frites — with the mussels steamed with white wine, garlic, leeks and fennel and twice-fried fries.  Only hiccup was since I don’t often make fries, I didn’t realize how long they take.  I did the first fry earlier in the day, but even so, they may have been the reason for that extra martini before dinner.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Oh, and there was a simple green salad with a bunch of different greens and radicchio, but surprise, it didn’t receive too much attention.

I know we aren’t supposed to try out new things on guests, but let’s face it, I don’t really have fries on a Tuesday with just me and B on the agenda.  At least not at home anyway.

moules frites

Keeping in fall and the vaguely French take on dinner, dessert was tarte tatin.  I prefer mine with a puff pastry crust, but the carmel sauce didn’t get quite as dark as I like and the apples were a smidge soft, if being honest.  I read a post on Smitten Kitchen after the fact that speaks to this exact problem, so I may have to try her route next time.

But with enough wine and espresso and Armagnac come dessert time, who really noticed?

tarte tatin

It was a super fun night, and one I hope to repeat again soon.  And if I get my ducks in a row, I can share it too!


Whoops – thought this went up before I left for vacation, but apparently it did not.  Well. enjoy while I sort out a few photos from Mexico… xx

If it is not yet apparent, friends & dinner is my favorite thing ever – and I particularly love the combination at home.  On Saturday, we had a few friends over and did another version of spring favorites.  You may notice that the many of the ingredients below mimic those found at the first “spring dinner” – some in a new way, some the same.

It was much warmer this time around, so the overall feel was a bit lighter, but definitely just as good.


We started with ...

Fresh Pea & Fava Puree and Ricotta with Lemon Zest
Great with grilled bread – eaten solo or piled together for the perfect bite.  This is the same Jamie Oliver version as before (and several other dinners in the meantime), but with favas too, as they were available at my farmer’s market.  Good ricotta doesn’t need much, but a little sprinkling of lemon zest and a drizzle of good olive oil takes it over the top!


And for dinner ...

Little Gems with Pickled Green Strawberries
I saw the green strawberries at the market, and decided to attempt the same method from a recent salad at Cotogna – with a quick pickle.  I used the same recipe as when I pickled grapes, and added roasted beets and goat cheese to the little gems.  As for the vinaigrette, I added a few smashed ripe strawberries in place of honey for sweetness, and love the ying and yang of it.

Spring Risotto with Preserved Lemon
When looking around for different versions of spring risotto, I found one on Food 52 that added chopped preserved lemons at the end.  I loved that idea, and used it myself — I didn’t follow the whole recipe (which called for Pernod instead of the usual white wine) and just did a fairly traditional version with asparagus and spring peas, but I did sub green garlic and fennel for onions, which made it particularly “springy” too me.

yet, the pièce de résistance (in my book) was the ...

Whole Roasted Brazino with Caper Butter
I have never roasted whole fish before (grilled once) and must say, I am hooked. Super simple but so tender and delicious!  I stuffed it with lemon, fresh rosemary & oregano and followed this technique.  Served it with caper butter and it was perfect!  Added bonus it comes across as quite a showstopper.



And for dessert ...

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries
A truly perfect dessert for spring and summer.  In fact, it was such a hit that I had to make it again on Sunday when some friends dropped by.  Suffice it to say, we will be following up with our own post on this one.

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Have you had a chance to capture spring yet.  What are your favorties?  And can you believe that summer is almost here?

Spring Bounty

This past Saturday, we had a few friends over for an early Easter dinner.  After a few busy weekends with work, it was my first foray into the kitchen since spring goodies started to pop up at the markets.

And seeing has how it had been almost a year since we last saw English peas, baby artichokes, and the like, I may have gone a bit overboard.  But, truthfully, I hardly need such an excuse!

We started with ...

Fresh Pea & Mint Crostini
I essentially used this version from Jamie Oliver, but without the favas, as the one booth at my Farmer’s Market that had them this early sold out fast.  Also, he recommends keeping the peas raw, which I find to be a bit starchy, so I blanch half and keep half raw to keep it super fresh.

and for dinner...

Fried Baby Artichokes


Roasted Leg of Lamb
It was studded with bits of garlic and chopped anchovy — a tip I saw in a cookbook while buying the lamb [alas, I cannot remember the name] and from this Food 52 recipe — and a rosemary, parsley, lemon zest crust.  I am not sure if it was the anchovy or just Fatted Calf’s superb meat, but it was some of the best lamb any of us had ever had!!

Fried Baby Artichokes
So good – I rarely fry because it seems super decedent and what to do with all that oil – but wow, these were such a hit!  There were six of us and 8 baby artichokes since there was a full menu, but I should’ve done 12 for sure.  We could’ve all gone for more.  This step-by-step from Food 52 (of course) also makes them super easy.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Made simply with olive oil and flaky salt (I skipped the rosemary, as there was plenty with the lamb), but with a trick I picked up from GOOP – first boil, then drain and shake with the lid on, to fluff up the outsides, which allows for the perfect little crust once you roast. 

Asparagus Mimosa
This traditional method keeps asparagus super simple but the additional of grated eggs and capers makes it particularly springy.  You could wing it, but I used the recipe from Plenty (a favorite veg-centric cookbook).

Little Gems with Lemon Vinaigrette
This dressing from April Bloomfield is crazy good – and super puckery, which is a great balance to all the richness above. 


and for dessert...

lest you think we ended there, in addition to the copious amounts of wine, dessert was a riff on this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 cookbooks.  I didn’t think we needed a whole baked option, and rhubarb hasn’t shown up quite yet, so I turned it into a sundae of sorts.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries & Black Pepper-Pine Nut Crumble
I baked the crumb topping on its own from the recipe, and used it in place of nuts for the crunch in the sundaes, and the ice cream was my favorite vanilla from David Lebovitz

Spring Dinner Table

Such a feast, combined with good company (and perhaps an impromptu dance party) made for the perfect night!

Pizza, Pizza!

I have a long standing love affair with pizza — good pizzeria style, thin and blistery but a bit chewy being my favorite, with a close second coming to those made at home.  Now, without a wood burning oven, mine don’t always match the perfection of the professionals, but the fun of it all makes them seem almost better.

So it seemed obvious that we would have a little pizza party while at the beach.  Always on the look out for a good at-home crust, I have finally settled on one that I keep coming back to – the crust from Mozza as featured in Saveur.  They did a great write up, with tips as well as the recipe.  Bonus that you get 4 pies out of one recipe, which is perfect for a group!

Although, I have been reading quite a bit about Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza crust which I may have to sample, but it does require a 18 hour lead time. So basically, there is a good chance of more pizza posts in the future…

Burrata Pizza

pizza toppings

As for toppings, I think it is fun to mix it up.  Here is what we did:

  • Fresh tomato sauce {San Marzano, of course} with Burrata and Basil
  • Brussels Sprouts (shaved and whole leaves) with Lardons and Mozzarella (no sauce, just garlic and chili infused olive oil as a base)
  • Spicy Sausage with Sautéed Mushrooms and Mozzarella and Pecorino
  • Pepperoni with  Roasted Tomatoes and Mozzarella

We bypassed my usual favorite of broccoli rabe with oil-cured olives and I must say, I LOVED the brussels sprout and lardon combo.  So good!

Pizza party


What are your favorites for pizza night?

Sunset on the Bay

This past weekend, in a attempt to get some warmth and sunshine, we had plans to head south to the beach with some friends.  However the rain that poured down on all of California derailed the sunshine bit, so we were ‘forced’ to stay inside and cook.  And boy did we ever!

It was a weekend with lots of leisurely time in the kitchen, and long stretches at the table — engrossed in good conversation with plenty of food and wine.  It was such a treat that I can now (3 days later) face the fact that it is over and download a few pictures.  I was planning to put them all together, but there is so much goodness, I may space it out a bit, if you don’t mind…

Martinis upon arrival

And for the good part, Friday night’s menu:

Pimento Cheese (with homemade mayo) with radishes and celery
Panko Crusted Sole with lemon and tartar sauce
Roasted Potato Wedges
Coleslaw with a bit of blue cheese
Roasted Carrots

and, of course

Vanilla and Banana Ice Cream with Salted Caramel and Peanuts


Pimento Cheese

Fish Fry

And the decadence just continued from there …

Oscar Night Dinner


I’m not going to lie.  My friends spoil me.  They are ridculously talented in the kitchen, and I am lucky enough to regularly be on the receiving end of those gifts.

Take last night – our dear friends Melissa & Colin had us over for dinner and to watch the Oscars.  The spread was straight out of the Governor’s Ball, only difference being we licked our plates clean!

We had ricotta crostini two ways – one with pickled grapes, and one with olives and oranges.  With champagne cocktails, of course.  Well matched with the red carpet proceedings.

Dinner was beef roast with herbs, risotto milanese, a raw root vegetable salad, bagna cauda style, and roast brussel sprouts.  Hopefully we can get Colin to do a guest post on the risotto – bone marrow and saffron, are you kidding me??  Holy hell – it was divine!  The raw salad was a bright complement to the other earthy and rich offerings.

And less you thought it ended there, as the awards were concluding, we finished it off with Catie’s maple pots de crème, which she topped with a sprinkling of salt and fresh whipped cream.

So obviously dinner was a bit decadent, but who are we kidding – so it sitting around watching awards dedicated to a decadent industry.  But damn, if it isn’t pretty fun!

I advise you to tuck this menu away, and then bring it out on a cold night when you want to pull out all the stops.  Wolfgang would be proud.





Any big plans tonight?  Perhaps lots of yummy food, extra dessert and a cocktail or two?  Never mind that it is a Tuesday, it’s Fat Tuesday – more lovingly known as Mardi Gras – and a day of decadence.  It is the final night before 6+ weeks of the Lenten season, which includes fasting and self-denial, among other penitential preparations prior to Easter Sunday.  At least for those good Catholics among us.  For many – it is signal to wear yellow, green and purple, down the beverages and celebrate New Orleans!

We were lucky enough to begin the celebrations early, as our dear friends Catie & Jimmy had us over for Jambalaya last night.  Catie is an excellent cook and happened to wing an out-of-this-world slow cooker version, but I believe she used this recipe and this one for inspiration.  It was loaded with shrimp, andouille, chicken, rice and lots of spice — so good.

So its not too late – cook up some jambalaya (or red beans and rice), mix up a batch of sazeracs, throw some Louis Armstrong on the speakers and have yourself your own little New Orleans party!


Next time you are looking for something to make for dinner with friends, I HIGHLY recommend David Chang’s Bo Ssam.  It’s perfectly caramelized slow-roasted pork, served with lettuce, rice, kimchi and two knock-your-socks-off sauces, one garlic scallion and another with a Korean chili-paste base.  And the oysters are a fun touch, if you live in a place they are easy to source.

Since reading about the Bo Ssam Miracle in the New York Times a few weeks ago, I have made it twice for friends and dreamed about it many times more.  It makes ideal dinner-party food – super easy but appears much more complicated, and as an added bonus pork butt is pretty inexpensive.

The only thing I add to the menu is sauteed chinese broccoli with garlic just to have a bit more veg.

As for drinks, while I love wine and cocktails (and think you may definitely want 1 or 2 during apps), I think this dinner is perfectly suited for {lots of} ice cold beer.  We had a fun mix of Singha, Tsingtao, Chang, Lucky Budda, Sapporo – but really just go with your fave.  With that, and lots of napkins, you are set.

Thursday night, B and I went to dinner at Nopa with our good friends Catie & Jimmy, and while at dinner, the boys made plans to go out on Saturday night.  By the time Saturday rolled around, their ‘wild plans’ had morphed into cooking at our house with a few beers and the UNC/Duke game.

It was a joint effort, as C+J picked up some some surf and turf (by way of skirt steak and sea bass) at the Ferry Building, we sort of split the veg based on our respective fridge’s, the farmer’s market selection (or lack there of) and the corner market, we covered drinks and sides and our friend Mike brought some goodies as well.

The spread turned out as follows:


Spicy roasted chickpeas, vegetable quesadillas and Micheladas {with a half-salted rim} à la Nopalito to start.


Steak Taco

Steak tacos with grilled grass-fed skirt steak, quick-pickled onions, avocado and cilantro.

Grilled Sea Bass

Fish tacos with sea bass that was so fresh it tasted like it was caught 5 minutes before dinner.  The bass was grilled with a chile-cumin-aleppo pepper dry rub {with a teeny dash of cinnamon} and piled on tortillas with everyone’s FAVORITE chipotle-lime cream and cabbage.

Taco Night

Rice & Beans - 2011

Rice, Beans and salsa ~ brown riceRancho Gordo cranberry beans, and store-bought fresh salsa doctored up with some of the leftover chipotles, to be exact.

Salad on taco night

Salad of butter lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and pepitas with cilantro-lime vinaigrette

Whether or not we made Kim Boyce’s oatmeal cookies later while watching a movie, I’ll never tell. But what is more disturbing, is that for what is possbily the first time ever, people were able to drive home from dinner at out house.  That combined with boys night equaling dinner and movie means I am likely much older than I think.

Don’t worry, I don’t expect this sort of maturity to last long.  And at least it tastes good!

Dinner Party with Arugula Lasagna

My love of a good dinner party is well documented.  As much as I love restaurants, nothing beats eating with friends and/or family in the comfort of your (or their) home.  You can sit and linger and open another bottle of wine long after the meal is finished, without worrying that someone is waiting for the table.

You can laugh loudly at stories without disturbing the awkward second date two tables over.

You open the wine during the cooking, so by the time we get to dinner, everyone is happy and relaxed. Restaurants and good chefs give me new ideas and turn out food that can be just about perfect, but it never feels as good as at home.

Cheese sauce for Arugula Lasagna

Arugula and garlic saute

So if you don’t yet have plans for this weekend, invite a few friends over for dinner.  Good peeps, good food & good tunes – what more could a gal want?

Ahhh … a menu perhaps!

May recommend this arugula lasagna?    Since it can be assembled in advance, it is a perfect when having friends over, as the work is done before they arrive. And unlike a traditional lasagna, this one is light and almost delicate – both from the fresh pasta and the ricotta tempered down with some milk and cream – but still bright and interesting – from the peppery arugula and the gorgonzola in the cheese mixture.


To keep it a vegetarian dinner, just serve it with a simple salad or roasted cherry tomatoes (for some color too) – but if you have meat or fish eaters in the crowd, it pairs nicely with mussels or a thinly sliced steak would also be great.

But let’s be honest, this lasagna is best complimented by good wine and friends.  And sitting at the table much longer than planned, enjoying the combination.

But then, that is {likely} why you are at home in the first place!

Dinner with friends - Arugula Lasagna

Arugula Lasagna
adapted ever so slightly from Food 52

Read the rest of this entry »


Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!


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