Category Archives: dinner party

Thomas Keller’s Marinated Skirt Steak

We recently had some friends over for dinner so we’d have an excuse to open up some wine that we received as a present.  Our friend Jesse’s parents, who live in Boston, were kind enough to send us some T-Vine Psychedelic Rooser Zinfandel-Petite-Sirah, so we invited Jesse to come and share it with us.  What goes well with such big, bold red?  Beef!

Skirt steak.  It certainly isn’t the prettiest of cuts- all scraggly and uneven- thin in some places and thick in others.  However, it’s one of the most flavorful, beefy parts of the cow and also happens to be J’s favorite, so when I was trying to figure out what to cook for the meal, J jumped all over the gorgeous photo in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook and it was decided.  The unglamorous, unpopular kid in the class of steaks would be the main course.  Hmph.
I’ll admit that the amount of olive oil in Thomas Keller’s marinade made me gasp a bit…I mean, 2 CUPS?  I reassured myself that the cut of meat itself had little fat and that most of the marinade would be wiped off anyway, so I went ahead and used the entire 2 cups.  The oil is flavored with rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme before the steak bathes in it for a few hours.  Sounded good to me!  
I needed some pretty sides to go along with the steak, and found some gorgeous little heirloom potatoes at the Pasadena Farmer’s Market which I promptly picked up.  An array of colorful carrots and some fresh arugula also caught my eye, as did some apples and ruby grapefruit.  If you’re ever in a cooking slump,  just hit your local farmer’s market to get inspiration- it works for me every time!
So here’s what we had:
Beecher’s Honey Hazelnut crackers with gruyere cheese.  I’d never had these crackers before and picked them up since they were two for one at Whole Foods.  Holy cow- they are sturdy, nutty and really dangerous since it’s hard to stop eating them.  I like a nice, crunchy cracker and these went so well with the salty cheese.  Instant favorite.
Arugula, red onion and ruby grapefruit salad.  The combination of the spicy greens with the sweet, juicy grapefruit was a hit with the guests.
Salt roasted baby potatoes.  I’d seen this on many blogs before, and was intrigued by the idea of salt-baking, like you would a fish.  I mixed up some Kosher salt with rosemary, then set the potatoes in a bed of it.  My best friend said they looked like little, colorful stones, and the flavor of the rosemary really permeated the potatoes.
Roasted carrots tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I’m a total sucker for multicolored carrots, especially when they are smaller in size.  They are so visually stunning and make an easy side dish to pretty much any meat or fish.  
Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home Marinated Skirt Steak (with the potatoes!).  After wiping off most of the marinade, I just seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper, seared them for a minute on each side and finished them off in the oven for about seven minutes.  I skipped bathing them in butter part in the recipe because, after stewing in all of that olive oil for hours, I didn’t think it was necessary.  Not that I’d know anything about cooking better than Mr. Keller!  I just felt WE didn’t need it, let’s put it that way.  It was tender and tasty nonetheless.  After the potatoes were done I just tossed them with a little olive oil and chives.
French Apple Tart.  This month’s Saveur featured this recipe by Sara Moulton, along with a step-by-step pictorial on how to achieve the beautiful pattern.  It was actually really easy, and the only ingredients in this are flour, butter, apples and sugar.  Simplicity at its best.  
Everything turned out well, and the wine was amazing.  After a couple of hours eating and drinking, we called it a night, red teeth and all. 
Hope you all have a great weekend!

Sticky Toffee Pudding (and some other stuff)

Sticky. Toffee. Pudding. Each word is so appetizing, don’t you think? When you put them together, “sticky toffee pudding” is, in my opinion, quite possibly the most mouth-watering phrase on any dessert menu…and I’m not really a dessert girl. “Sticky toffee pudding” always conjures up sweet, caramelized, ooey-gooey, warm, luscious, moist, decadent, buttery rich goodness and it’s a wonder I’d never had it before I made it the other night for some friends. Strange, isn’t it? Especially since I’d consider myself to be a “brown” dessert type- anything with brown sugar, caramel, toffee, whiskey sauces or maple syrup always grabs me before anything of a chocolate variety. I guess I just don’t see it on menus often and usually find myself staring at some divine version on TV shows like The Best Thing I Ever Ate or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Go figure.

Well, I’ve popped my sticky toffee pudding cherry, folks- for both eating and making it! A friend of J’s brought over a bag of honey dates, and although that friend meant to take them home to New Jersey, he left them in our fridge, unfortunately for him, but lucky for ME! You see, dates are the key ingredient in sticky toffee pudding, and eyeing the bag of big, fat, plump dates and having a dinner party scheduled were all the reasons I needed to get baking.

After searching under “sticky toffee” on Tastespotting (thereby getting sucked into all the photos of deliciousness for way longer than I had planned!) and promptly settled on this recipe since it was easy and didn’t include “extras” like crystallized ginger or chocolate. I wanted my first sticky toffee pudding experience to be a pure one- no bells and whistles, please! I baked the puddings in individual ramekins and drizzled the sauce (to which I did add a splash of cognac….hey, booze makes everything better, ok?) onto the still warm cakes and tucked them away until dessert time.

Before we could dig into the sweets, we had to have dinner first. I think it came out well, but there were a couple of things I was unhappy about….

Seared scallops with fava beans, fresh corn, brown butter and white wine sauce:

Once again I found myself shucking a bunch of fava beans and asking the veggie gods WHY it’s such a process to get these tiny little green gems onto a plate. I almost always get enticed by fava beans if I see them at the farmer’s market and this time was no different, but after shucking, blanching, cooling and unpeeling them I made a mental note to not do this again for awhile, and since they are no longer in season, I won’t be! The corn was sweet and crisp, and the scallops were HUGE and incredibly sweet, but I was bummed that I just didn’t give them enough time and heat to get a really nice crust going. However, they tasted good and were tender so I guess that’s what matters.

Pasta with shrimp, zucchini and seafood marinara:

I was super pleased with this sauce- I basically took the gorgeous shrimp out of their shells, then fried the shells in a bit of olive oil slow and low, then added a ton of sweet garlic before straining the oil and adding it to crushed San Marzano tomatoes. It needed only a touch of salt and pepper to round it out. After caramelizing some chopped zucchini and searing the shrimp in more olive oil I just added the sauce to the shrimp, then the cooked pasta to the sauce. Unfortunately I overcooked the pasta a few seconds too long, and although it did retain a bit of a bite, I prefer my pasta super AL DENTE. Again, not a “fail” by any means, but in the future I’ll make sure to time my scallop searing/deglazing/plating and pasta cooking/dressing/plating better.

As always, a salad completed our meal (oh, and a baguette, of course!). I don’t know about you, but no supper is complete for us without a salad. We eat one every single night, whether we eat in or out. I guess it’s for health, but it’s mainly because I feel a deep, black hole on my menu if a salad isn’t included.

But back to our sticky toffee pudding, which basically erased any memories of overcooked pasta or under-seared scallops (and any health benefits of a green salad)! It was as rich, moist and sweet as I’d imagined and the hint of cognac in the warm sauce combined magically with the melting vanilla bean ice cream to create one, amazing party for our taste buds. You really live up to your name, Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Where have you had the best sticky toffee pudding?

Summer Dinner Party

As I mentioned in my last post, we had some friends over for a summer dinner party a couple of weekends ago. For once, I didn’t really have much of a plan and let the Farmer’s Market guide my menu. It turned out to be one of my favorite menus and just really fun to put together.

One thing I had decided was that I wanted to make a side dish with lobster. Since there were six people total for the dinner party I figured it best to not attempt a main course of lobster as to not break the bank; plus it’s a bit of work to get the meat out of the shells. After boiling the two Maine lobsters and extracting the meat, I decided on a salad of butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, freshly cut corn off the cob and the lobster with a creamy tarragon dressing. You know when you’re thinking of what to make and a dish just sort of comes to you instantly? This salad was like that and I just knew all of those components would work well together. Some fresh chives finished off the dish:

The main course was a variation on the many savory tarts I’ve made in the past. I used what has become my absolute favorite tart crust recipe (it is seriously a JOY to handle and roll out) and made a crème fraiche/egg yolk/cheese paste to spread (similar to the one Suzanne Goin uses in her savory tarts in her Lucques cookbook) on the dough…….

…….before topping that with sliced gruyere, different verities of heirloom tomatoes, grated parmesan and a good sprinkling of black pepper. I love this base which can be made with ricotta, sour crème, grated cheese, whatever- just spread it on your dough and top with anything from bacon to mushrooms to leeks to tomatoes, like I did here:

I did sprinkle the sliced tomatoes with sea salt and let them drain between two paper towels for about 20 minutes before arranging them onto the unbaked tart dough so that the water in them wouldn’t make the tart soggy. It worked very well and helped concentrate the flavor of the tomatoes once they baked:

Initially I thought to do a zucchini or other type of summer squash as a second side dish, but to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of either as they tend to be watery. Luckily I saw some gorgeous, multicolored carrots which I roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, then tossed with sliced avocado, red onion and a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, cumin, olive oil, agave nectar and lots of chopped cilantro:

Those of you who frequent Southern California farmers markets have probably seen the overabundance of big, juicy strawberries this summer- they are everywhere- so I picked up a bunch before figuring out what I was going to make. I’d purchased these really cute milk glasses at Anthropologie awhile ago and was inspired to make a vanilla bean panna cotta topped with the strawberries which I macerated in a bit of agave nectar and this amazing blackberry balsamic vinegar which I bought at Nicole’s:

A cheese plate and some prosciutto finished off the light menu and we had a great time sipping rose and catching up in the back yard. I hadn’t cooked for a group in awhile and it was like the shot in the arm I needed to get back in the kitchen. I love to cook, but when a menu comes together without recipes, based on inspiration gained from the local produce and ideas gained from years of cooking, it restores your faith in cooking, ha! I had as much fun cooking this as I did eating it and look forward to at least a couple more summer dinner parties before Autumn comes!

Pasadena Farmer’s Market
Victory Park
Saturdays 8:30 AM- 1:00 PM

The rest of the celebration meal………….

As you saw in my last post, we spent Saturday evening at our house celebrating both my dad’s birthday and my parents’ 37th anniversary. I love cooking for others, but particularly my family since they are some of the biggest food lovers I know. In fact, food is the focus of most of our family gatherings, and last weekend was no different.

I’m happy to report that I’ve streamlined my process of cooking a meal for guests. In the past I would look furiously through almost every cookbook I own (and that’s saying A LOT considering how many I have!) trying to find the perfect appetizer, the perfect salad, the perfect everything- and by perfect I mean choosing recipes that required me to make everything from scratch- and I mean everything. I don’t know why I thought slaving all day and preparing no less than five intricate creations was the only way to achieve the Perfect Dinner Party. Luckily I’ve seen the error of my ways, and although I love cooking more than ever before, I have calmed down a bit and realized that a good dinner party doesn’t have to be so difficult. Hmm, I sound like the Barefoot Contessa, don’t I?? Look, I am never going to pull a Sandra Lee and open up a can of beans, toss in some hot dogs and call it dinner, but I’ve began to embrace the idea that buying a few pre-made items or keeping it really simple isn’t a sin.

That said, I went with a simple starter of Puree of Asparagus Soup which I made one day a few weeks back when I had an extra bunch of asparagus in my refrigerator. At the time I just made it up as I went along and was quite pleased with the results. It’s honestly one of the simplest things you will ever make (I posted the recipe below) but people seem to think you spent a lot of time on it. I topped each bowl of soup with tiny croutons made with 2 slices of multigrain bread that sat forlornly in the freezer- I just diced them up (still frozen- it’s much easier to cut) and tossed them with some olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them until they were golden.

The only thing I used a recipe on was the Young Onion Tart with Cantal, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and Herb Salad from my trusty and well-stained Sunday Suppers at Lucques Cookbook. I can’t tell you how much I adore it….it’s like the favorite child of my cookbook collection! Every dish I’ve ever made out of Suzanne Goin’s beautiful book has been outrageously delicious. I bought the puff pastry (my dad asked if I made it which made me laugh….I’m afraid that making puff pastry before a dinner party is a quick way of going stark raving mad) and layered it with a creamy mixture of ricotta, crème fraiche and egg yolk, slices of both young and cave-aged gruyere (I couldn’t find Cantal), a smattering of sautéed young onions and thick slices of smoked bacon. I actually used half the amount of bacon the recipe called for –sorry Michael Symon!- I love it but this tart is rich enough as it is. I did sauté the onions in the rendered bacon fat if that makes you feel any better! A nice showering of fresh tarragon, chives, chervil and parsley plus a drizzle of fresh lemon juice finished off the tart.

While on an excursion to the local farmer’s market to pick up the aforementioned herbs and young onions, I spotted some gorgeous baby carrots with the stalks still attached. I try not to mess too much with such amazing produce, so after tossing the trimmed carrots with some good olive oil, sea salt and pepper, a quick roast in the oven was all it took to bring out their natural sweetness. I especially loved how the slimmer parts of the carrots turned golden and crunchy. I also picked up a bag of some beautiful mixed greens which only needed a quick toss with a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard.

Everything was quite easy to make, and since the tart can be assembled and the soup made completely in advance, I got to sit and sip champagne with my family before we sat down for the meal. No sweat, no running around…it was lovely!

Puree of Asparagus Soup

1 TBS olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 sage leaves roughly chopped – optional
2 bunches of asparagus- about 15 spears total (I prefer to use the fat, meaty ones for soup as opposed to the pencil thin ones)- cut into smaller pieces
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock- divided
Salt & pepper

Note: I purposely leave out carrots which are usually used as aromatics because I don’t want the orange of them to taint the pure, green color of this soup. I also do not use garlic since I really wanted the flavor of the asparagus to shine through. You can certainly add both during the sautéing stage if you prefer.

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat and add the onions and celery; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sage leaves if you are using and heat through. Add cut asparagus and sauté about an additional 5 minutes. Add the chicken or veggie stock until it reaches about an inch above the vegetables, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to a blender, and, holding the lid with a thick towel, very carefully blend the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puree to a large, clean mixing bowl and repeat with remaining mixture until all of it is pureed. Return entire puree to the stock pot, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and serve. Garnish with croutons if you like.


Tapas Party

It’s been awhile since I really rolled up my sleeves and got cooking, so I used one of the years most boring and unentertaining reasons to get a few friends together. If you guessed Emmys 2008, you just won your category. Unfortunately I didn’t realize just how brain-numbingly dull this year’s telecast would be (save for a hilarious bit by genius Ricky Gervais and his American counterpart Steve Carell) before we had to actually sit through it. Had I known I would have changed it to a Sunday Night Football viewing party since the game would have been way more exciting.

I recently got a book called Wine Bar Food, and although I didn’t really use any exact recipes from it for my party, I took a lot of inspiration from it and decided on a finger-food-only menu. Personally, I love going to restaurants with a friend in tow and ordering a few appetizers- they almost always seem more interesting to me than main dishes. It also gives me a chance to sample several different tastes, textures and preparations without getting too stuffed. I wonder if chefs need to make appetizers more interesting since they are the smaller, less-famous items on any menu and can’t stand up and be bold alone like a porterhouse steak or king salmon could. Whatever the reason, I love small bites packed with flavor and had a lot of fun creating several tapas-style dishes for my friends.

I did most of my prep the day before- seasoning the baby lamb chops, making the porcini risotto then creating balls with it, whipping up a batch of the always-trusty Batali tomato sauce (with an extra touch of a few squeezes of anchovy paste), and lightly blanching and shocking some vegetables for my crudités platter. After roughly slicing up some Japanese eggplant, yellow squash, sweet onions and zucchini I tossed it all with herbes de provence and whole garlic cloves and slow roasted it all together. A few pulses with the food processor and an addition of marinara turned it into a ratatouille spread which topped some soft goat cheese on toasted crostini. The day of the party I simply whipped together a white bean dip with cannellini beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and Italian parsley and tossed together some panko, olive oil, garlic and parsley to top off some littlenecks I got at Bristol Farms. Thank god I asked the fish monger there to shuck them for me- I had it in my head that I could give it a go but after watching his face turn bright red trying to force those suckers open, I was happy I didn’t.

For dessert I just plopped a hunk of soft, silken tofu along with a bar of melted 72% dark chocolate, 1 TBS cognac, the zest of one orange and a bit of powdered sugar into my Cuisinart, processed until smooth and poured the mixture into five small glasses. You’ll be surprised but I guarantee you that silken tofu + melted chocolate makes wonderful vegan desserts- and I don’t make them because they’re vegan, I make them because they are all fast, easy and incredibly rich.

I think the clear winner in the food category was the lamb chops, with the clams coming in a close second. Ironically those two dishes were the simplest to create. Trader Joe’s has gorgeous little Frenched racks of baby lamb and all I did was trim more of the fat off (there was quite a lot), season overnight, sear and finish off in the oven. I had some salsa verde left over from the Summer Squash Gratin (from the brilliant Lucques cookbook) that I made for my dad’s retirement party which went well with the meat. The clams involved topping each with the breadcrumb mixture and a dab of butter, then baking. Hard, I know, but someone has to do it right?!?!

To make the evening a bit more interesting I had everyone fill out an Emmy ballot, and my friend T ended up taking the prize of five mini bottles of various types of booze. So congrats T! Hope you and your mini bottle of Limoncello continued the party at your place!

Forgotten dishes

I had meant to blog about the rest of the dishes I made for a family dinner the day after I posted about the main course, but I just plain forgot. I don’t have much time for a proper post today, so I’ll share what we ate in addition to the lasagna that evening.

As Ina Garten often recommends, I went to the Italian deli and bought my appetizers instead of trying to make five things by myself. I picked up some prosciutto di Parma, sopressata, bocconcini , sun dried tomatoes, bread sticks and a tub of seasoned, roasted bell peppers and simply arranged them to create an antipasto platter. I did spear the bocconcini with the sun dried tomatoes and a basil leaf but short of that, I didn’t do much and it was fantastic.

To serve alongside the lasagna, I just roasted some asparagus with lemon zest, olive oil and sea salt. The beef carpaccio was made by freezing some filets, rubbing the outside of the steaks with salt & pepper, then searing them all over before sticking them back in the freezer. After about an hour, I just took them out and sliced them on my mandoline- it was so easy. Fanned around a pile of arugula crowned with parmesan and drizzled with some basil olive oil and capers, it was done.

For dessert I made Mario Batali’s Meyer Lemon Semiffredo with a bluberry sauce the night before. It was light, lemony and delicious.

More cooking adventures later this week!

Dinner Party

After mulling it over for the last couple of months, I finally had a proper dinner party this past weekend. My only regret is that I didn’t have one sooner! Every aspect was great- the prep work and cooking leading up to it was thoroughly enjoyable, the party was immensely fun, and the happy looks on the guests faces were truly rewarding. The fact that I now have some tasty leftovers in my fridge is just the icing on the cake.

Getting the table ready……

J being out of town for a month has resulted in my not cooking much, so that was the final motivation I needed to get off my butt and throw a party. I have many coworkers with whom I’d like to socialize more and thought a dinner party would be a nice way to spend some quality time with my friends. With a vegetarian in the bunch, meat and seafood were out which posed a welcomed challenge. I sifted through my gigantic cookbook collection, looked at endless old issues of Gourmet, Bon Appetite and Food & Wine but came back to the one cookbook that has never let me down. Yep- you guessed it- Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Yes, I know…food bloggers the world over have gushed over Goin’s popular book but there is a good reason why. The flavor combinations don’t just work- they shine. The steps are explained in a clear and concise manner and you see WHY certain techniques are used. The results are delicious, in large part due to the fact that the recipes are categorized by season so you know the ingredients you are using are the best at that time of year (for example, you won’t find any tomato recipes in the Winter Menu section!).

I told you I am a big nerd……

After trips to both the Pasadena and South Pasadena Farmer’s Markets, I was ready to start cooking. For hors ‘d oeuvres, I decided on Endive Cups with Goat Cheese, Orange Segments, Candied Pecans and Balsamic Glaze. It’s something I’ve been making for awhile now, and seeing the cara cara oranges at the market sealed the deal. I also picked up two perfectly white heads of cauliflower for a Pureed Roasted Cauliflower Soup I’d planned as a started. For the main course, I opted for the Wild Mushroom Tart with Gruyere, Young Onions and Herb Salad and the Baby Roasted Beets with Horseradish Crème Fraiche as a side. I also added an old staple of mine- a simple salad of puy lentils, red onions, parsley and a light vinaigrette to finish up the dish. Of course, what’s a dinner party without a sweet ending? I once again pulled from the Lucques book and decided on the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Sautéed Pears. I mean- I’ve never met a brown butter cake I didn’t like…in fact, I’ve never met a brown butter ANYTHING I didn’t like….and it all felt so wintery.

Endive cups with Goat Cheese, Orange Segments, Candied Pecans and Balsamic Glaze

I started the day before so that I could actually enjoy hanging out with my guests on the night of the party. Another great thing about the Lucques book is that it tells you everything you can do in advance for each recipe. On Saturday, I roasted the beets, made the horseradish crème fraiche, the vinaigrette, the cake and the lentils….and had a blast. Maybe “blast” isn’t the right word for it….but it’s times like those that I think of how much I love to cook. I know this sounds cheesy, but as I was peeling the beautiful, deep purple/maroon beets, I was thinking about how you hardly ever see a color in all its glory like that- bleeding all over your fingers, as bright and gorgeous as can be. As I’m thinking this, my nose picks up the heady scent of toasted hazelnuts and brown butter wafting from the oven and think of how nothing could possibly smell better. Cooking gives you all kinds of wonderful, sensory experiences. I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold Saturday than to putter around the kitchen, peeling this, baking that… yes, you can label me a Big Nerd but I truly enjoyed every minute.

Soup for starters……..

The next day was spent doing some final prep and cleaning the house. At around 7:00 pm, my guests arrived and we uncorked what would be the first of six (hey- there were six of us, after all….well, M is pregnant and didn’t have any but still….) bottles of wine. After munching on the endive cups, we moved to the dining table and began with the soup course. The combination of roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic, sautéed white onions, thyme and vegetable stock all pureed together was a hit- although it was my first time making the soup (I sort of just made it up) but I’m a huge roasted cauliflower fan so I wasn’t rolling the dice too much. After we cleared away the bowls, it was time for the main course.

Before and after….Wild Mushroom Tart with Gruyere, Young Onions and Herb Salad

How did it all turn out? Well, you can’t go wrong with roasted baby beets- they’re just beautiful to look at, sweet and wonderfully tender. The horseradish crème fraiche was a nice compliment to the sweetness. The lentils were good as well. But the real star was Goin’s mushroom tart. Wow. I suppose anything that starts with puff pastry can’t be bad, but it really knocked my socks off. Underneath the gorgeous mushrooms lies a thin layer of gruyere, and underneath that is a layer of fresh, whole milk ricotta mixed with an egg and crème fraiche. Bake it all in the oven, toss some fresh tarragon, chives and parsley on top and drizzle with some truffled olive oil (my added touch since my boss gave me a nice bottle from Italy last year) and you get, well, a slice of heaven. I’ll definitely have to make this again.

The dinner plate……..

The lovely dinner guests!

We retired once again to the living room to start a rousing game of Scrabble. Unfortunately, my team lost but after that much wine, who cares?! We definitely needed something to soak up the vine so dessert was served. Another winner here- the brown butter cake was amazing, and soaked in the caramelized pear juices, it was divine. The cake takes a bit of a light hand to make, but the end result is truly worth it. The pears, on the other hand, are absolutely simple and can be made in advance (thanks Yoony- for answering my questions on that one!). You simply heat some butter and vanilla seeds (plus the pod) in a pan, add the pears and let them sauté until they’re golden brown. It would be perfect over a big bowl of vanilla ice cream….or even on its own. Another keeper.

Scrabble begins……

Before and after….Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Sautéed Pears

To end the night, I stole an idea from one of my favorite restaurants- Grace. J and I had Valentine’s Day dinner there one year, and they presented us with a “Morning After” box- filled with mini versions of various Grace pastries to be enjoyed the next morning. I thought it was so clever to have the guest extend the dining experience until the next morning like that, so I made some lemon raspberry muffins and put two of them, plus a mini pack of Kona coffee, into little bags and gave them out as the guests left to go home.

There’s got to be a morning after….(I couldn’t resist!)

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. I am hoping that I’ll be able to host more dinner parties in the future…it’d been a long time and I guess I forgot how much I enjoyed them. There’s something so satisfying about rolling up your sleeves and diving into the cooking process- I want to make sure I keep it up! It’s so easy to get lazy about cooking sometimes….but then you remember why you fell in love with it in the first place and you make a resolution to do it more often. I definitely will!

Thanks to all of my friends that came, and here’s to more dinner parties in the future!