Project Food Blog 2010: Luxury Dinner Party

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?)

And designed and printed special menus….

It was a crazy, fun, whirlwind trip, complete with delicious food. Proof?

It’s not a true dinner party unless some glass gets broken, right?

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:

Vietnamese caramelized chili prawns:

Italian popette d’uova (a new favourite of ours – you can find the recipe here):

Australian micro meat pies:

Served with Krone Rosé Cuvée Brut Sparkling 2002.

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:

Served with Cave Spring Riesling 2007

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!):

Served with Cornellana Barrel Reserve Carmenère 2006.

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:

Québec blue cheese, a Salt Spring Island goat cheese and a washed-rind cheese from Québec, served with Messias 10 Años Tawny Port.

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

124 thoughts on “Project Food Blog 2010: Luxury Dinner Party”

  1. What a perfect theme for a dinner party! Love the look of all of these dishes, they look fantastic! Super creative take for “Antarctica”!

  2. What a great idea to feature dishes from every continent. Everything looks delicious and it seems like a innovative and well-rounded meal. Best of luck with Project Food Blog!

  3. Looks fabulous! I so wish I could have completed my entry for this round, but there was just no way for me to get it done. Best of luck. Hope to see you move forward

  4. What an amazing spread Mardi, everything looks fantastic. I even got chills when I saw ropa vieja on your menu, that was one of my dads favorite dishes to make for us. Congrats! You better start working on your picture perfect challenge. Knowing you though, you’re probably halfway done with it. 😉

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  6. Love those printed menus, your table looks great and your food looks even better! Those palm plates set off each of your dishes beautifully, and you were so creative with planning your ‘world’ menu. I esp like the ‘iceberg’ floating in the blue water. 😉 Great dinner party!!!

  7. Mardi, this is truly exceptional! Gorgeous, as always, and really inspired. You’ve got so many of my favorites packed into one space (ropa vieja, ice wine, pigeon peas). Seriously? Those bamboo dishes are disposable?!? Lovelovelovelovelove!

    P.S. – We have a dining room, and usually wind up having our dinner parties on the pool table in the living room. 😀

  8. Great post, Mardi! The dishes sound absolutely delicious… plus, your photos are downright gorgeous.
    I can’t believe you actually pulled off seven different dishes. You’ve totally got my vote for this go-round!

  9. Well done Mardi, well done indeed! I absolutely LOVE that all these different flavor components work so well together – just a stunning menu! Sure wish I lived in Canada and had been invited to this gig – fabulous!

  10. What an absolute feast!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You really did an incredible job! 😉

    The quality of the pictures and the descriptions are brilliant. Plus I love how you paired every course with a wine. So very luxe!

    I will not only vote for you, I’ll also add you to my google reader.

    Congratulations again!

  11. The fact that Neil has been to Antarctica seals the deal for me- I am OBSESSED with that continent and all its splendor. His wine pairings sound genius, of course they pale in comparison to the thought, precision & outstanding talent that went into developing and creating the food. You’d better start planning for the next challenge, as after reading this I know unequivocally you’ll be there! xxx, l

  12. For someone who loves to travel, this is an absolute dream dinner! Your food looks amazing (as usual) but I really love the concept of your party and incorporating all the different continents as well as wine to pair. I really enjoyed your luxury dinner party from afar 🙂

  13. Certainly an ambitious menu with 9 courses, wow! Loving all these delicious bites from around the world, everything looks amazing and the presentations with those gorgeous dishes are fantastic! See you in the next round 🙂

  14. Mardi!

    You never cease to amaze me. You keep me inspired for sure.

    P.S. You can get pigeon peas in Toronto. My mom only buys the dried ones but you can find cans too. 🙂

  15. Well done! Can’t imagine that both of you pulled that off. Amazing. I can see future dinners 😛


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  17. Ha!!! I see you have struck a chord with us readers. I love the blue sticky notes on your kitchen splash back….and neil’s jamaican jerk chicken looks like it is begging to be tasted. what a feat! cheers kari

  18. Wow! What a wonderful dinner party idea! I absolutely adore all of the dishes – totally gorgeous. How ambitious of you to do this all over again, but hey, lessons well learned, right? 😉

    Absolute luxury. Wish I could’ve been at your table too!

    Jax x

  19. wow! i am sooo impressed with all the plates and feel comforted as we don’t have a dining room or dishwasher either! 🙂

  20. Wonderful! I LOVE the iceberg, and I love that your guests were eating at Chez Cleo!!! Good luck! Just let me know when I need to vote again! 🙂

  21. What does one have to do to be invited to such a soiree? THE most impressive dinner party menu I’ve seen in, well, FOREVER!

  22. I LOVE this menu and it looks bloody fabulous.

    Two things to mention:
    – I have been trying to think of an interesting savoury dish to take in for a morning tea on Wednesday at uni, and I think I might actually make the popette d’uova! I can do it at home, then just take it in a saucepan then stick on a plate with some stabby things, right?
    – next time I stay with you I want some of that Jamaican jerk chicken, please.

  23. I didn’t think it possible but you have officially outdone yourself! I was going to say that I loved the spiced chickpeas but then I fell in love with everything after it as well! You definitely have my vote! 🙂

  24. Hi Mardi, Didn’t realise you were doing PFB too. Love the feast you prepared, especially the mini meat pies – beauty! For the record, we have to pull our table out into the living room every time we have guests over too 🙂

  25. Very nicely done; I love the transition between different regions of the world yet keeping everything so that they are courses that work beautifully with each other.

    Of course, you know I can attest to the popettes; simply one of my MOST favorite appetizers ever. Love the toothpicks too!

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  27. Hello, Mardi!
    I found your blog via FFwD (the arrival of her book brought me up from feeling miserable from the sinus cold).
    Great spread and a wonderful array of recipes! Cudos to both of you. Very creative way to connect Antarctica with Ile Flottante, btw. You’ve got my vote.

  28. The entire ambiance, and the beautiful wine pairings, must have been a night/feast to remember! But I was in awe when I came to your Antarctic region inspired dessert! So simple, yet very elegant.
    (and I LOVE bringing home canned goods from my travels; always have to decide whether I want to hand them out to friends and family or keep them all to myself!)
    Lick My Spoon

  29. Congrats on making to the 3rd challenge! I love your idea of a whirlwind travel around the globe in a plate ride. The dishes are fantastic and interesting! Lucky couple! You’re able to travel around the globe literally. Thanks you for taking us to your trips! Im voting for you!

  30. We were the lucky recipients of the “Traveling Luxury Dinner Party” at our house. It was indeed an evening of feasting and tasting. Each dish was as delicious as it was beautiful! And of course, knowing the story behind each dish made the evening extra special!

  31. Great post – your food looks wonderful! Oh and by the way I’m a fellow foodie with no dishwasher or dinning room either…shhhh!!!

  32. Gorgeous photos. And the food sounds mouthwatering. A global expedition all on one plate. genius. I voted for you! =)

    good luck! fingers crossed for us both to make it through to the next round.

  33. The living room/dining room looked great and the food looked delicious! Reading this post makes me wish I liked wine!

  34. Just voted for you! This is absolutely stunning, and such a creative theme that I wish I thought it up myself! Your photography is beautiful as is your writing – a winning combo. 🙂

  35. Beautiful photos and great theme! I love the honesty and so you get my vote. Hope to see you in round 4!

  36. Great dinner party! I love exploring different cultures through food (have sadly never travelled outside my own country though – will hopefully be remedied soon) so this dinner party would be like heaven for me. Ropa vieja – om nom nom.

  37. Once again excellent Mardi ! Everything looks amazing and can only begin to image how well everything tasted.

  38. You and Neil have outdone yourselves with this dinner! Simply amazing – a global food tour of dishes that complement each other with wine pairings to boot. I will be busy scheming how to score an invite to your next to-do! Best wishes for your continued success in Project Food Blog. Just voted!

  39. I absolutely LOVE your theme for the dinner party, how creative and not to mention, incredibly challenging! You did a fantastic job with the variety of the foods but what’s so great is that all of the different foods come together so nicely. Everything looks sooooo delicious. I wish I was at your dinner party! 🙂

  40. Makes me so happy to see an Aussie meatpie! My American boyfriend still can’t get his head around savoury pies but it would seem the Canadians are well ahead!!


  41. I love the walk through the continents! And we broke a glass during the party, too — I agree, it’s the mark of a good party!

    Thanks for the visit and you got our vote!

  42. *hands up* I don’t have a dining room either (or anywhere to put a dining table for that matter – my poor guests had to take their plates in their laps!) – but who cares about such things when presented with a menu like that – not I for one!

  43. Not only are all these dishes from all over the world, but the flavours & wine pairings are fabulous Mardi. Love the dessert & the Ice Wine would have been just the thing. Well done. Another vote from me for this one.

  44. AH! I love the concept of this party. You made a party that is befitting of your own blog name, too. Very, very nice.

  45. WOW! This post had me floored. I love traveling, and I think it’s incredible that you and your love have been to so many places. Your dishes are all enticing, and the presentation is beautiful. I’m sure your guests felt like VIP’s dining at your place 🙂 By the way, what bread did you use for your cheese platter? It looks like something I would thoroughly enjoy!!!

    “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.” That is a GREAT tip! I didn’t think of that! Luckily, my guests don’t mind it at all 😉

    XO you’ve got my vote! Best of luck!

  46. What an awesome dinner – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull off that many dishes (not even close), I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Gets my vote – good luck 🙂

  47. I am absolutely blown away by the response to this post. I was worried it wasn’t “enough” but it seems a virtual trip around the world on your plate struck a chord with so many of you. Thank you for reading and voting and tweeting – so, so appreciated….

  48. Congrats Congrats going onto challenge #4!!! Must be exciting for you! Good luck and all the best. Happy Thanksgiving to you! You’ll be getting the next vote form me as well 🙂 Your awesome!

    Have a happy thanksgiving!
    jen @

  49. you and neil are amazing, absolutely amazing. i swear i can’t wait to see where you go next in part just to see what you’re going to cook next! like another commenter said, i thought the chickpeas would be my favorite, until i kept reading . . . with each picture, i had a new favorite. oh, how i wish we lived closer . . .

  50. Why is it that one of your finest glasses always gets smashed at a dinner party? The food looks wonderful. Great job!

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