Saturday, October 2, 2010

This is dinner, not delivering a baby...

Luxury Dinner Party.  Now those three words, I can get down with. You see up to now, the Project Food Blog challenges have actually been challenges because I typically don’t go around talking about how I am the next big thing, and I don’t make foods that are out of my comfort palate – but a dinner party, well let’s just say if it’s a holiday, there’s a dinner party at Casa Bouche.  National ‘Talk like a Pirate Day?’ Oh, well that calls for Turducken, don’t you think?  

I love dinner parties as much as I love carbs. I think you get the point that I FLOVE dinner parties. 

Having people over for a nice dinner really gets people freaked out sometimes, and with good reason – it’s a lot to take on.  I have created a list of things for you to remember when planning a dinner party that can take away some of this stress.  That being said, this is dinner, not delivering a baby, kids.

 Amuse Bouche's Top Five Party Planning Tips, a-here we go now:
Number 1: Plan. Ahead.  Like AHEAD. Not 2 days, not a week. 2 weeks minimum.  Do this for a few reasons. 

A) Things pop up and you get distracted from the task at hand, at least with a few weeks of time you won’t feel it’s keeping you from having a life.
B) You need to give your guests ample time to clear their schedule and rsvp.
C) You WILL forget something, so the more time you have to remember it beforehand, the better.  

Get a good sense of what it is that you want to accomplish for this dinner and make a timeline.  Some things will need to be prepped a day or even a few days before.  This gives you more time with your guests and makes you feel less stressed during the actual dinner.  (Red wine also helps this.)  For this dinner party, I planned out the week with tasks-  Sunday to roast, puree and freeze pumpkin, Monday to send the menus to print, Thursday night to make the ice cream and go to the grocery store to buy the meat fresh.  A timeline of the DOD (day of dinner) helped to make sure every dish was prepped to its furthest step that I could do ahead of time. This is so important.  No one wants to go to a dinner party where the host is either stressed out or not around because they are stuck in the kitchen. Plan ahead guys!

Number 2: Set the mood baby.  Dad and I are both into the music scene, and we really think that music sets the mood for a dinner.  He loves to feel involved and he can’t overcook a playlist…so I had him make a playlist for me that lasted the whole night.  Below you’ll find a few songs that we used, feel free to use this as a starting point for your next dinner party! (please ignore the awkward album cover... or not. whatever works for you...)

Number 3: Get your guests involved.  I know.  You’re a control freak. So am I.  But give them something they can contribute that you are comfortable with.  This time around, I picked types of wines that paired well with each meal, and let my guests decide which dish they wanted to bring the wine for. This gives them some choice and ownership.  Maybe they know of a wonderful Pinot Grigio that would pair perfectly with your pasta dish.  Great! Then you have just given them something to be excited about. 

Number 4: RED WINE. Have I not said it enough? It makes you happy, it makes me happy.  Just have it. 

 Number 5: The best advice I can give you, is to just know that They. Don’t. Care.  These are your friends or your family we are talking about, so short of you lighting the place on fire with their cat slash child in it, I think you’re gonna be okay.  If something goes un-according to plan (invariably, it will) you are probably the only person who is going to notice or even care.  So let that go, and have fun already.  Stop stressing out, I can feel it through the computer.    

( I seriously look at this picture and start laughing!)

Now that you’re prepped and ready to throw the dinner party of a century, let’s have some pictures and recipes for inspiration!

By the time foodbuzz had sent us their menu template, mine was already done!  Below you’ll find the menu with the template they made as well as my own menu. My invitations also matched the menu because DUH! Menus and invitations are supposed to match!

(double sided menu, Amen sister!)
(aww HEY gourdeous table! BHAHAHAH!)

As you saw on the menu, we started our night with an Amuse Bouche (oh how appropriate!)  Do you remember when I mentioned that Food & Wine 99 was the best year? Yea. It is.  Our first two dishes were out of that amazing specimen of a cook book.  
Pumpkin-Parmesan Toasts with Herb-Pesto 
paired with Prosecco brought by Emily McIntyre
Modified from Rori Spinelli Food & Wine 1999

1 loaf 7 grain bread – crusts trimmed, bread cut into bite sized squares
¼ cup walnuts
1 and ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
1 cup of fresh pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 cup cilantro
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh dill
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and toast the bread on a baking sheet for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Then toast the walnuts for 3 – 4 minutes and let cool. 

In a medium bowl combine 1 cup of parmesan and the pumpkin puree and ½ teaspoon of cumin.  Season with salt and pepper. 

In a food processor, pulse ½ cup of the parmesan, the parsley, cilantro, oil, dill and toasted walnuts until minced.  Add the cayenne and remaining cumin and season with salt and pepper.  Spread each of the toasts with the pesto and top with a teaspoon of the pumpkin-parmesan mixture.  Broil for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.

Curried Scallops on Pumpkin Polenta Cakes and Pea Puree
paired with a Gruner Veltliner brought by Kaylin Goldstein 
 Modified from Theodora van den Beld Food & Wine 1999
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup polenta (not instant)
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
10 large bay scallops
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
2 cups frozen peas
1 clove garlic
¼ cup greek yogurt

In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin with the water and bring to a boil. Add the cream, butter, honey and a generous pinch of salt. Add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Cook over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened and tender, about 20 minutes. Scrape the polenta into a 9-inch-square pan and refrigerate until firm. In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil with the curry powder. Pour the curry oil into a small bowl and let cool. Spoon off the yellow oil and discard the curry powder.  
Run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the polenta. Cut it into 2 inch squares. Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Fry the polenta cakes in batches, turning once, until deep golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet to drain.  
Cook the peas in a skillet with the clove of garlic. When they turn bright green (about 3 minutes) put them in the food processor along with the garlic and the yogurt.  Process until smooth, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the curry oil until shimmering. Season the scallops with salt. Add scallops to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining scallops and curry oil.
Arrange the scallops on the polenta, garnish with cilantro and drizzle very lightly with the remaining curry oil. Serve over the pea puree. 

Watch out for people trying to steal your pea puree.. evidently, its all the rage these days.
 (what the FLIP!)

Butternut Squash Ravioli filled with Pumpkin, Ricotta, Sage and Pine Nuts
paired with a Pinot Grigio brought by Taylor O'Shaughnessy

6 ounces fresh pureed butternut squash
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Coarse salt
Semolina flour, for storage

To see my process on how to make ravioli and fresh pasta, please see my previous posts on pasta making here.

For this pasta, roast the butternut squash in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Let it cool and puree in the food processor.  Then mix the squash with the eggs and continue the process noted here.

½ cup fresh pumpkin puree
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon semolina flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage leaves
½ cup chopped pine nuts

Mix all ingredients together to fill the pasta. For stuffing ravioli instructions, see this previous post.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season with salt. Add ravioli; cook until it just floats, 3 to 4 minutes.
In a large sauté pan, melt butter over high heat. Add sage; cook until butter begins to brown and sizzle, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to pan, tossing to combine.

Palate Cleanser – Champagne Orange Granita
Modified  from

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup chilled Champagne
2 tablespoons strained fresh orange juice

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water, bring the mixture to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes. Let the syrup cool and chill it, covered, for 2 hours, or until it is cold. 
In a bowl stir together 1 cup chilled syrup, the Champagne, the orange juice. Freeze the granita in the freezer until it is firm, checking on it every few hours to scrape with a fork and separate.

Rack of Lamb in a Fig - Port Sauce  
paired with a Zinfandel brought by Ethan Goodman and Jen North
by Allison Attenborough, Food & Wine 2002
Two 1 1/4-pound racks of lamb, bones Frenched
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 cup tawny port
15 fresh Mission figs, halved 
3/4 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the lamb with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and rub with rosemary and thyme. 
Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet. Add the lamb, fat-side down, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the port. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the lamb for 18 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 125° for medium-rare meat. 
Transfer the racks to a carving board; cover loosely with foil. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of port and the figs to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and vinegar and simmer over moderately high heat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the racks into chops and set 4 on each plate. Top with the figs, spoon on the sauce and serve. 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Ice Cream Served in Hallowed Pumpkins
paired with a Oloroso Sherry brought by Tim Lamkin
You can see the recipe for this dessert in my previous post on pumpkin ice cream, here.

I'd like to thank my incredible friends for being the best kinds of guests for a dinner party - the ones who always keep filling your glass!  Hence the following photos:
(crazy much?)
(derek zoolander in training.)
 ( I guess I'm a little late on the supermodel hair flip...)
Thank you all for making sure my wine glass and heart are never empty!




  1. yeay! that's an awesome dinner and you look like you had so much fun ;) congrats!

  2. What a fabulous and fun-looking dinner party! I loved the pumpkin theme. And I totally agree that you need an evening-long playlist of good music. Well done! You've got my vote!

  3. Looks fab...can't wait to give some love on Monday, Whit!

  4. Very well done! I like that you not only provided a spectacular meal and a warm/fun atmosphere, but you provided some great advice on how to organize a successful dinner party. Would have loved to have been there! :-) Vote for you, m'lady.

  5. The food looked utterly fabulous and fall-like! One small thing--it was a little tough to read your menu with all of the orange and black in the photo as well as with the text--if you can, try to reformat it to make it just a little more readable. I wouldn't want the judges to overlook such a wonderful meal because of something like that!

  6. I.Miss.You. and I am still waiting for my copy of this play list... Dad? Amazing job as always Whitney. From a pal (and a confidant) of hers... her dinner parties are amazing - great food, great wine, great music, great company. Congrats and voting for round 4!

  7. @themanhattanfoodproject, noted and corrected! thanks for the advice!

  8. OMG! What fun and it all looks so DELICIOUS! I must make some, too. And have friends over to share. Yet another vote for you and get through the finish line!

  9. I loved foods and also table.. and seems had much fun... i m a bit jelous:)

  10. You have the right emphasis for a dinner party - fun has got to be the most abundant ingredient!! I am with you on the planning, minimizing stress. Great post and I think you are going the distance!

  11. What a fun dinner party! Good luck and I hope we can both advance to the next round of #PFB2010!

  12. okay...another amazing included pictures of the dinner party which added to this of course looks WILL have my vote!

    much success!

  13. Looks like diner was just fantastic, great food! And everyone is just so happy and having fun! Congrats. Working on my post.

  14. Love the fact that you used the pumpkins for serving the ice cream. It really adds some class to the dessert. Lots of luck tomorrow.

  15. Haha, I almost did a pea puree just so I could make a pea puree joke! Top Chef must still be fresh in a lot of people's minds because I talked about Amanda and her tuna tartare at the basebal game. Well done!

  16. You seem to have had lots of fun...The food was great! This pumpkin icecream is something I must try !!! Thank you!!!

  17. What a great party! Heck, I had fun just reading about it. Good advice too. Love the kitty pic. Always got to be worked in.

  18. I love this post! You have my vote!
    Thumbs up for the Top Chef reference! :)


  19. Beautiful menu! You know it's a good party when the kitty gets involved.

  20. wow it looks like you had a TOTAL good time - you guys are a lot of fun it seems - you get my vote and my tweet - good luck!

  21. looks like you had a fabulous night!!! you totally had me laughing too :) voting!

  22. Great party, looks like you had tones of fun. Loved the pumpkin idea. Have a great week.

  23. You did Great! Got my vote!

  24. Ha!! How fun!! You had a great party...made me wanna be there, for sure =)

  25. This post made me laugh, made me drool, and made me wish I could have attended this party! You did an amazing job from the decor to the menu to the execution. You certainly have my vote! Thanks for sharing with me.

  26. I love the pumpkin/squash theme! Good luck (again)!

  27. VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

    jen @

  28. More than just being beautiful, it looks like the evening was also a lot of fun! And you know I can never resist anything served in a pumpkin! Genius. I voted for you too! Good luck! Fingers crossed for us both. =)

  29. Butternut squash ravioli?!? I wish I were cool enough to be a guest at this party :)

  30. The menu looks great - but that album cover is priceless....And, tell your fiance that if he wants every piece of clothing and furniture in your 700 square foot apartment to smell of pork for a week, then you absolutely can roast a whole pig in there!

    Good luck!

  31. I would definitely want an invitation to this party! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I voted and I have a new blog for my reader. Thanks for the smiles!

  32. Looks amazing! And great party tips too! You got my vote - best of luck!

  33. YUM!! Love all the food! Looks fantastic!! Love all the steps you have too because it's all true!! Voting for you right now!! :) Thanks for checking out my post.

  34. what a fun dinner! voted.
    (see my post here:

  35. You really hit the mark on this challenge:
    ~wonderful, seasonal menu
    ~Plan ahead tips/advice for your readers
    ~Table decor/ambiance
    ~Recipes included
    ~photos that tell your story---it is evident your careful planning paid off and that everyone had a fabulous time. Isn't that the goal?
    Great job!

  36. Looks like a fun dinner party. The food looks delicious and I love the pea puree reference. Great job, you got my vote! Good luck!

  37. That's the funnest dinner party ever. Love all the seasonal ingredients and your no-nonsense tips. You're right--nothing to get Unduly stressed over; it's just food, not a cure for cancer. Think I would've had a great time at your party; you certainly have one of my votes.

  38. Just sent my vote, thank you your too, round 4 here we come!

  39. Just sent you a vote! Everything looks great, good luck!

  40. I love the cinnamon ice cream in the pumpkin bowls--very cute! Looks like dinner was delicious AND FUN!! When my fiance and I move back to his hometown of Chicago, let's hang out! Please!

  41. What a fun post! I can tell that you had so much fun with this challenge (bloopers and all). I would have loved to have attended this party! The pumpkin bowls are my favorite.

  42. The "they're your friends, they don't care" tip is absolutely spot on - you've nailed it. And I'm so with you on the red wine policy - have a glass and a vote on me!

  43. OMG You are just too funny - I am officially hooked on this blog. My face hurts. I read about your "special" cat before this one - you are just too much. This was a great entry and by the laughter on your friends faces, your evening was a success! Gorgeous work with the menu template and table setting. The food itself looks like a home run! Good times! Already voted...and I will be back regularly :)

    (from Running On Butter)

  44. Absolutely wonderfully entertaining party! I read the blooper reel afterward, too, and it sounds just as fun! You got our vote!

    (And thanks for vising our entry!)

  45. Your party looks like it rocked! Any girl that loves red wine has my vote!

  46. What a fabulous party. Looks like everyone had a blast! Best wishes Whitney!

  47. Gorgeous! What a great party! I love the ice cream in the pumpkin idea. So stinkin' cute. You've got my vote! Good luck! :)

  48. It looks like you all had a blast! Loving those ravioli and the ice cream pumpkins - so cute!

  49. This post makes me want to make homemade ravioli so badly. Also, I like the use of a palate cleanser, I haven't seen enough of them from these posts. Good luck this week, you've got a vote of ours.

    Lick My Spoon

  50. An excellent menu, looks like the party was so much fun! Voted!

  51. Looks like it was a fabulous dinner party! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

  52. Outstanding post once again! I voted for you :)

  53. Ravioli sounded awesome ! Looks like everyone had a great time !

  54. Fig. Port. Sauce. Oh my! :-) Looks like you throw a great party - well done!

  55. wow, what a meal! loving all the pumpkin deliciousness here :) great dinner!

  56. mmmmm butternut squash ravioli is my FAVORITE!! SO good. And your table is so, so pretty. I would obviously RSVP to this party ASAP! Especially since you're a Martha Stewart fan, too and everyone at your party looks like they're having soooo much fun!!


  57. Your tips cracked me up. They're so true! Particularly #5.

  58. Absolutely love it! You know I voted :) Great job girl...

  59. Looks like a ton of fun and your menus/invites are super cute! Good luck in round 3!

  60. Great job with the menus and with the hollowed pumpkins! You're so right about the planning — the more the better, which I always find to my dismay. Got my vote!

  61. Oh my heavens I love pumpkin everything. And you made pumpkin everything. Thus, by means of the transitive property I love you? Or maybe just your dinner party? Meh - I majored in journalism, not math, either way this looks like so much fun and so insanely delicious. *Voted*