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Ain’t No Party Like a Dinner Party

January 30, 2011

Dinner party…West Coast party…same thing.

Hello, hello! When last we spoke, things were a little crazy over here.  They only continued to get crazier.

On Friday night, Ryan worked on sanding the floors:

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While I started cooking for the dinner party we were having on Saturday (last night).  There were mushrooms to roast:

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And then fill and wrap in puff pastry:

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There were tomatoes and garlic to roast:

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Which turned into a delicious, bruschetta-style dip for the party appetizer:

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This appetizer could not be easier—I simply roasted two pints of cherry tomatoes with garlic cloves, a few basil leaves, and1/3 cup of olive oil until the tomatoes were bursting.  Then, I pulsed it in the food processor a few times and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  You could serve this warm, but we served it room temperature, and it was delicious!

And on Saturday, the cooking continued, with the chocolate tart as the main focus.  Confession: on Friday, as I was grocery shopping for the party, I bought a bunch of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry shells, thinking, “You know what? Screw the tart.  I’m just going to make the filling, and take the easy way out and put it in these shells.” 

Well, on Saturday morning, I woke up and thought, “You know what? Screw the easy way out. I’m making the tart!!”  Sometimes I think I allow myself to get too intimidated by recipes that seem tough, or are new to me.  I’d never made a tart before in my life, so I think I just kind of psyched myself out.  BUT—I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, got it together, and decided to just give it a go—if I failed, at least I’d fail knowing that I tried, right?

Luckily, it didn’t fail! The tart was, I believe the hit of the night—and, it wasn’t tough to make at all! Lesson learned—sometimes, taking the easy way out is a good thing.  But sometimes, you have to challenge yourself to do something (or cook something) that scares you—because the result might be awesome!

I kind of got in pre-Valentine’s Day mode and used the excess tart dough to roll out some heart-shaped cookies, which I decorated the top of the tart with:

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The tart did have a small crack in it—argh! Eh, let’s just call it “rustic.”

Before the guests arrived, we put a big roasting pan full of veggies in the oven, tossed with olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper.  These, I think, should have been the easiest dish—roasted veggies are a no fail, right? Unfortunately, I think I crowded the pan too much (I had to, due to a lack of oven space), and they ended up being less roasted and more steamed.  They were also a little undercooked when I took them out—still pretty crunchy.  Oh well…live and learn.

We also had salad with mixed greens, red and golden beets, and a fresh goat cheese that we picked up at Reading market. This goat cheese was really interesting—salty and piquant, almost like a feta.  I liked it!

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One thing I’ve learned from watching my mom host dinner parties over the years is to do absolutely EVERYTHING that you can in advance, so that you don’t spend the first half of the evening stuck in the kitchen.  So, with all of the cooking that I’d gotten done that afternoon and the night before, the only thing I had to do once the guests arrived was put the puff pastry mushrooms and the veggies in the oven to bake.  Everything else was ready to go!

I had fun setting our table:

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That’s our new chandelier! It has SO much more light than our old one (the one that came with the house).  Eating in the dining room seriously used to be like that show, Dating in the Dark.  We are very happy with how the new chandelier turned out. I also recovered our chairs last week—it’s a little hard to see, but they’re a soft, powder blue.  This color goes much better with the scheme of the room—plus, it matches our china perfectly!

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When we were registering for our wedding, my mom kind of forced me (us) to register for fine china, saying that I would be glad to have it eventually.  Well, I hate to say this (I really hate to say this), but she was right.  Mom—you were RIGHT.  There.  Okay?

We don’t use our china that often, but when we want to have a nice dinner, or when we have guests over, it really does have a way of making the meal feel more special:

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Plus…it’s just so pretty!  

Okay…this post is officially too long.  To wrap things up, here’s my dinner party plate:

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The mushrooms were really, really good. I based it off of a recipe in last month’s Cuisine at Home magazine. I roasted eight portabellas, then made a filling with button mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, leeks, onions, and sunflower seeds.    After roasting the portabellas, I topped them with a big scoop of the stuffing, and then wrapped the entire mushroom in puff pastry.  This dish was a little labor-intensive, but it was a pretty easy process, and made for an impressive vegetarian entree, which can be hard to find. 

The dinner party was a great success…much wine was enjoyed as we discussed pressing issues like and Charlie Sheen’s trip to rehab. 

Off to clean the kitchen, and then…time to work on the room project!

Hope you’re having a great Sunday!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2011 3:13 pm

    We still haven’t used our china. Maybe one day!

  2. January 30, 2011 3:37 pm

    You two sure know how to host a dinner party! Seriously, everything was tasty (I never would have guessed that was your first tart!), the table looked perfect, and the conversation was entertaining, as always. Thanks again for having us!

  3. January 30, 2011 3:45 pm

    Oh wow, girl everything looks incredible! Kudos to you – and um, when are you having me over 😉

  4. January 30, 2011 4:19 pm

    Wow! Everything looks amazing! I absolutely love the table setting! What beautiful dishes!!

  5. Emo permalink
    January 30, 2011 4:24 pm

    What a lovely party! Jon and I are talking about embarking on a renovation involving a new chandelier and recovering kitchen chairs — was it a do-able project for y’all? (I mean, obviously it was, but how difficult was it?)
    Aren’t you glad you listened to your mom?! I really wanted wedding china, but I didn’t go there, because I thought my mom would say “you don’t have any room!” And she’s right, too.
    See you Saturday!

    • January 31, 2011 7:20 pm

      Sorry it took me so long to write back and answer– we can talk about this more at AWP!! The recovering of the chairs is TOTALLY DIY-able. Takes only a few hours, and is really easy. The chandelier was not DIY…we actually tried! We took down our old chandelier, but when it came to hanging the new one, there were just electrical issues that we didn’t want to mess with– we have really old wiring in our house, so we figured it was better safe than sorry, and we hired an electrician to come do it.

      That being said, it only took him about two hours, and it was pretty inexpensive, so I think it was definitely the right choice!

  6. January 30, 2011 4:45 pm

    Yum, the appetizer sounds awesome, great pics. The tart looks wonderful, awesome job! ANd just wow on the dinning room and place settings, very nice and formal.

  7. January 30, 2011 4:58 pm

    Looks like a pretty successful evening – and that tart looks stunning! I am constantly trying to improve my hosting skills by preparing as much as possible in advance. Every time we have guests, it’s like a little test to see how to make things more efficient.

  8. January 30, 2011 5:10 pm

    What a gorgeous table setting 🙂

  9. January 30, 2011 5:40 pm


  10. January 30, 2011 6:58 pm

    Everything looks wonderful! And your house is so BEAUTIFUL!!

  11. patti permalink
    January 30, 2011 8:58 pm

    The good looks amazing and I’m sure it tastes just as good as it looks. It is fun to see the remodel and also fun to see Ryan pushing the floor sander!

  12. January 30, 2011 9:02 pm

    whoa! What a gorgeous meal! Those tomatoes look SO fresh- such a simple but elegant dip. And the tart is beautiful. The little hearts are a nice touch 🙂

  13. January 30, 2011 9:11 pm

    Wow that looks like an amazing dinner party! I love the idea of that dip – so simple, yet sounds so delicious. I bet I could do that with a bunch of different kinds of roasted veggies to make a similar dip. Yum!

    • January 31, 2011 7:17 pm

      Definitely! I think you could do it with almost any veggie– I bet it would be really good with caramelized onions!

  14. January 30, 2011 9:29 pm

    How fun! I love the picture of the tomatoes and garlic roasting with the basil. Your “spread” looks beautiful. 🙂 AND – totally true about spending the first half of the night in the kitchen if you’re not prepared. It’s so worth the energy you put in ahead of time!

  15. January 31, 2011 12:26 am

    Sigh, when is Charlie Sheen going to learn that briefcases of coke and parties wih prostitutes are not the answer??

    Eveyhing looks great, I cant believe how easy it was to make that bruschetta, who knew??

  16. January 31, 2011 1:38 am

    The tomato dip looks awesome…I’ve been seeing so many roasted tomatoes in the blogosphere lately and it’s making me want some! And I love your china. My parents have been married for 38 years and still have their original set!

    • January 31, 2011 7:16 pm

      I love stuff like that– my parents have their original too!

  17. January 31, 2011 1:42 am

    Beautiful!! Love the table setting.

    Good luck with the floors!

  18. January 31, 2011 2:11 am

    That china pattern is just the most beautiful setting I’ve ever seen! Where is it from?

    Also, that tart is equally gorgeous. You really know how to throw a dinner party!

    • January 31, 2011 7:16 pm

      Thank you! We got it at a small local shop in my hometown of Shreveport, La– they do a ton of bridal registries, so people usually go there instead of a bigger department store!

  19. January 31, 2011 8:10 pm

    Your table setting is gorgeous. I dream of the day when I can throw a dinner party and have people all sit at one table and not on couches, floors, etc.

    • January 31, 2011 8:19 pm

      Aw, thank you! The dining room table was actually my great-grandmother’s– my parents gave it to us when we moved to Pennsylvania because they’d been needing a new one for a while. It’s old and rickety and creaky…but I love the history behind it!

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