If you look over to read my philosophy about entertaining you will see that small, intimate dinner parties is really where my passion for entertaining began. My favorite parties are those nights spent around our antique dinning table with good friends and yummy food, cackling over stories late, late into the night. Our dining room is the heart of the house. We eat supper in their every night so the dining table from the 1700 has lots of nicks, love that only adds the the antique patina. It is also where I sit after school, on the days we aren’t running from soccer to lacrosse to piano, with a bowl of popcorn and the paper, hoping to lure my kids to come and sit and actually tell me about their day. I have designed our dining room with purpose, there are board games, homework help and craft projects (no paint or glue, I’m not crazy) stashed in the antique sideboard and the chairs are super soft and comfy. If you don’t give a room a purpose, you won’t go in their. So I design clients dining rooms, and my own, to invite life in so they can enjoy the gorgeous wallpaper and dreamy drapes!
Back to the party…
These nights all start with the menu. I am usually planning them in my head as I drive to client meetings or field trips. If I am not working out furniture placement or fabric schemes for a client, my mind wanders to menu planning. I love to design a menu that weaves ingredients together and balances flavors. My friends know they are entering my test kitchen are very good sports. Although I typically love to cook something mouth watering from the glossy pages of Bon Appetite, I do have one menu that I use time and time again, especially if I have crazy busy week, not uncommon. It is so simple and so easy, I dare say, its foolproof!
On a crisp fall night want my house to feel extra cozy. I have fires roaring in the living room and the family room and lights on dimmers…I wish I could say that I light the delicious candles I have mounted up in my gift closet but, I am so afraid I would forget to blow them out and burn down the house! That is definitely something I would do. Ages ago, before kids so forever ago, we hosted a 100 person Christmas Party, which I would never do again (!!) and someone lit a hand towel on fire in the bathroom. That one wasn’t my fault but, you can see the kind of things that happen in my world. With my seasonal switch from Carolina Beach Music to Supremes Radio playing on Pandora the mood is set!
Here’s the menu:
-Hot Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Spread
-Milk and Cider Brined Pork Tenderloin with Sage
and Apricot Sauce
-The Best Cheddar Grits *recipe below
-Arugula Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette * recipe below
-Tate Cookie and Ice Cream Cake with Hot Fudge
What I am trying at my next dinner party:
Hot Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Spread
What you need:
-Shredded Mozzarella cheese, 2 bags (save 1/2 of bag for topping)
-12 oz Ricotta cheese (I go for full fat for both cheeses, this is a party!)
-3 shallots, sliced
-3 teaspoons thyme
-2 cans artichoke bottoms
Cut artichoke bottoms in quarters and put on a backing sheet and coat with olive oil and salt. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until artichokes start to get that beautiful brown roasted look. Put roasted artichokes in a bowl with all the other ingredients, stir to combine. Pour cheese mixture in a cast iron skillet, or another baking dish. Top with more shredded mozzarella. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until is it brown and bubbly on top.
What you need:
3 1/2 cup water
1 cup quick cook grits
1 stick butter
6 oz evaporated milk
1 block Dubliner aged cheddar, shredded
Bring water to a boil and add grits. Stir grits immediately so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. After 2-3 minutes add butter and evaporated milk. Once all ingredients are combined stir in cheddar cheese.
What you need:
1/2 cub good olive oil
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic – I like to use a press or you can chop really fine
Zest of 1 lemon
Slice shallots and put in a mason jar (or whatever container you are using) add all of the other ingredients, secure top and give it a few good shakes to combine.