First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who voted me this far. Your votes and support are so appreciated. Challenge 3′s prompt reads: Host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors.
In our household, dinner parties are a common occurrence. We love to entertain; from simple pot lucks to lavish multi-course dinners for more people than we can really fit around out table, our friends have experienced it all! For us, luxury is being able to share exotic flavours with our friends from places they have never been…
Our ultimate dinner party theme is “Around the World on a Plate”, taking our guests on a whirlwind trip over the seven continents throughout the evening (Neil has visited all seven, and I have managed six- I simply won’t do Antarctica). When we travel, we love discovering local specialties to replicate for friends at home, and this menu brings a little piece of each continent to the dining room. As my in-house sommelier in training, Neil, places a lot of emphasis on providing amazing wine pairings for our guests, so each course has a matching beverage, though I asked him to keep his choices budget-friendly.
With nine dishes, this is an ambitious menu to say the least, and Neil and I are crazy enough to have pulled this off not once, but twice. The first time around, it was sprung on us with very little time to prepare (a date mixup!). This is where my master organisations skills (and Post it notes!) came into play.
We were not able to prepare anything in advance, yet we still managed to make it work (though some dishes do benefit from being made in advance). For that occasion it was a formal dinner, and we transformed our living room into a dining room (I know, what foodie does not have a dining room?)
Though we *were* washing glasses for a week (no, this dinner party loving foodie does not own a dishwasher either!)
For Project Food Blog, we learned from our experience the first time – we started dishes well in advance and plated a few things differently. It was a much less formal evening - we cooked at our house and brought the food to a friends for a tasting pot-luck. We didn’t change any of the dishes from the first time because this IS the ultimate dinner party. Are you ready to take a trip around the world? Well pack your bags and let’s go!
We began the evening with a mélange of flavours from four corners of the globe. Our “home continents” of Australia & Europe are represented as is Africa, where we met (we actually met in Casablanca – the complete story can be seen in December 2009′s Foodbuzz 24×24 post), and Asia, where we’ve had some stupendous food experiences.
Moroccan spiced chick peas:
Italian popette d’uova (a new favourite of ours – you can find the recipe here):
Tip: Whilst these are finger foods, make sure your guests have somewhere to place their glasses as they snack. There’s nothing worse than juggling napkins, glasses and food…
For our soup course, we travel to North America. What a challenge – what to pick? There is such a plethora of food styles across the vast expanse of landscape between Alaska to Panama. We finally decided on a favourite soup from Mexico, tortilla chicken soup:
Tip: If you are serving soup, try to warm your plates beforehand. Nothing worse than a bowl of cold soup.
For the main course, we went to South and Central America. We chose a classic Cuban dish, ropa vieja:
This packs a lot of flavour with not much preparation. The secret is braising the beef for a long time so it is literally falling apart (hence the name “old clothes/ rags”). We served it with Panamanian (coconut) rice with pigeon peas:
A favourite from our trip to Panama, where we ate this often. We fell in love with pigeon peas and even brought some back:
(Yes, you know you’re a foodie when you bring canned goods back from a holiday..)
Jamaican jerk chicken (one of Neil’s specialties!):
Tip: When serving large numbers, it’s good to choose dishes that can be served a little less than piping hot so you are not worried about the food going cold as you serve.
For dessert, we head to the Antarctic region – cosmically beautiful, rendering visitors speechless at every turn. Ice abounds! We thought long and hard about this and came up with a twist on the French classic île flottante. A meringue normally served floating in crème anglaise, ours is in a blueberry coulis representing an iceberg in the blue water…
Served with Niagara Ice Wine “Cuvée Simpson” – ice wine made by a budding wine-maker friend of ours. This was surprisingly good!
Tip: If you’ve had a lot of courses, a lighter dessert that cleanses the palate will be appreciated by your guests.
We end our dinner at home, in Canada, where wonderful adventures—and great food—can be found in our own back yard with a Canadian cheese tray:
Tip: Always serve cheese. And Port.
Special food blogger tip: Don’t try to photograph your food during the dinner. The day before or after works so much better. I know this from experience.
The beauty of this menu is that it worked for both a formal dinner and a less formal pot-luck. It’s accessible for even novice cooks. It’s a moveable feast. Versatile. Budget-friendly. Hosting a dinner can be costly, yet this menu (including wines, some of which we had already, so we calculated according to purchase price) came in at around $350 for 8 people, which, as dinner parties go is extremely reasonable (including all organic meats). If you wanted to amp up the luxury factor, you can certainly pair with more expensive wines.
However, a luxury trip around the world without the luxury pricetag – what could be better?
If you liked this post, I would so appreciate your vote to go through to the next round. I have a fabulous step-by-step photo recipe planned and can’t wait to share it with you… Voting begins at 6AM Pacific Time on October 4th and runs through 6PM Pacific Time October 7th. I will post a link to vote when it goes live. Simply click here to place your vote for me. You have to be a Foodbuzz member to vote but it’s a simple signup process. Once you’re signed up, click the red heart to vote me through to the next round.
Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: The gorgeous bamboo disposable serving dishes depicted in the photos of each dish were provided at no cost by RestaurantWare.com.