Sunday, October 3, 2010

Project Food Blog- Challenge #3-Dinner in Provence



Who doesn't love to throw a party ? I know I do, it's such a great excuse to combine what I love to do with the people I love. And when I saw this challenge I was very happy and also a little stressed. The window of preparation and execution was going to be very narrow for me. I knew I couldn't wait to see if  I made it to Round 3 or else the dinner party would turn into take out from my favorite Metropolitan Market. Nothing wrong with that-you could build a beautiful five course dinner with their take out and no one would be the wiser! However this is a CHALLENGE. For my tips on planning and preparation see my notes at the end of this post.

When deciding what type of dinner party I wanted to have, I didn't hesitate for a moment- Provence and the foods of Provence. If you know me you know I love Provence. I left my heart there on our first visit in 2004.



It was during that trip that we stayed in St. Remy-de-Provence for a week. I loved the countryside, the sunflowers, the trees, the lavender and open market. And being a former art major I was enamored with the history surrounding Vincent Van Gogh and that area of Provence. When we arrived we quickly dropped off our suitcases at the Inn. Then we headed out to wander . Usually when we arrive somewhere new, we spend the first day wandering..We ended up on the same pathway that Vincent Van Gogh wandered when he lived and painted in that area of Provence. I was mesmerized by the fact that the olive trees and fields I was looking at were the same ones he had painted.





I was standing in the middle of small little path on the edge of the forest which surrounds Glanum , an ancient Roman village, when a warm, dry wind blew through the olive trees. I know this may sound silly but I felt caressed by that wind and in my heart I knew in that moment, that sometime in another life I had walked this very same path I was standing on . No I haven't been drinking too much Eau de Vie ! Yes I'm a hopeless romantic and quite proud of it !

Now you have a little understanding of why I love Provence. And because Provence holds a special place in my heart and because the food of Provence is the Food of Farmer's markets and gardens, I knew it would be perfect for my dinner. I also wanted to take advantage of what could be some our last sunny days and dine out in the garden.


I took a few liberties when preparing the menu but I think when dining in Provence there is a whimsy which accompanies the meal. And besides it's more about the people sharing the meal and the love that goes into the meal.






What we consider the cocktail party before dinner , in France it is L'Aperitif. A friendly ritual involving cocktails with guests. "Aperitif" designates both the drink and that convivial moment before a meal. My L'Aperitif began with a champagne toast to my wonderful guests for the evening, Debbie,Jorge,Curt, Julie, and my sweetheart. We then enjoyed a selection of Provencal olives, pickled cippolini,apricot nut crostini,sweet pickled peppers,cornichons,Lecake aux olives et au reblochonons, fig and olive tapenade,goose liver pate, Baker's Foie-a chicken liver pate with cognac butter; a tomato and olive oil tapenade with garlic toasted crostini, and bread sticks. We drank and laughed and ate delicious little bites. While everyone was enjoying themselves, I snuck away for a few minutes to sear the lamb and place it into the oven and set the soup on warm and promptly re-joined my guests. My plan was to enjoy this dinner party as much as them while spending as little time in the kitchen !













After a few more champagne toasts and few more little bites we sat down for our Dinner in Provence. Surrounded by the garden and twinkling lights and the music emanating from the backyard of my neighbor-thank goodness we have the same taste in music !














The menu came together beautifully, the butternut squash soup with chestnuts and whipped cream is definitely a keeper. The roasted lamb with fresh tomatoes and roasted potatoes -perfect!



And the Pear Cake-heaven is the only way to describe it-moist with a slight sugar and Pear Eau de vie crust,, and layer after layer of thinly sliced pears-my mouth is watering just describing it!



I served Le cake aux olives et au reblochon with the soup-the peppery seasoned bread complimented the sweetness of the soup. The salad dressed with anchovies,a fruity extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs was light and satisfying.









Oh my gosh -the cheese selection never made it to the table ! But no one noticed. We were sharing stories,laughing and enjoying the evening so much I forgot to set it out. I think I was so focused on tasting that incredible pear cake I forgot all about the cheese platter ! To my French friends, I beg your forgiveness . J and I will enjoy it Sunday night with some wine and fresh bread as we remember this perfect evening with much fondness.




And what a perfect evening-the weather spirits, the garden spirits,the spirits from Provence all came together that evening for me. How blessed I felt sitting there with my family and friends,lights twinkling around us,the sound of the fountain gurgling in the background, wine flowing, candles flickering in gentle breezes that blew through the garden. We all felt transported to a garden in Provence, if just for an evening. No matter what your menu, no matter what your surrounding-as long as you have put your heart into it and are sharing your meal with people you care for and love, it will be a success. Bon Appetit.




Party Planning ala Seattle Pastry Girl:

My first rule for party planning is always:



PLAN ON VERY LIMITED TIME IN THE KITCHEN ONCE THE GUESTS ARRIVE


I have a very small kitchen, a tiny prep area, non existent counter space and no beautiful island that guests could mill around with wine in hand while munching on appetizers, while I cook. I would love to have a kitchen that invites guests participation. But since I don't have one, I adjust and work with what I have. Thus my Rule #1.

That rule drives my menu preparation hand in hand with the season and what is available at the local farmer's market. When planning my menu, my next rule is :

PLAN YOUR MENU SO THAT YOU CAN PREP AND PREPARE THE MAJORITY OF WHAT YOU ARE SERVING ANYWHERE FROM 1 WEEK TO 1 DAY BEFORE.

You don't want to have to wake up at 3 in the morning to bake that cake only to have it burn. This rule frees you up on the day of the party so that you can deal with those last minute emergencies and not feel tired,rushed and harried when your guests do arrive.

And that brings me to a huge stress reliever when planning dinner parties. And guess what ? It's my third rule !

ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE , ORGANIZE.

From writing out your menu, to breaking out your grocery shopping list by produce,meats,etc.; to creating a time line for preparation-basically your party to do list ! Rule #3 eliminates that speeding run to the grocery store because you forget to get the chickpeas.Spontaneity is fun when someone calls at 4pm and says let's get together for dinner. But when you have a week to prepare-take advantage of the time. Create your time line and your grocery list. Your organization and preparation will enable you to enjoy your dinner and loved ones much more if you aren't stressing over dinner.

And finally NO MORE RULES-enjoy. Any type of dinner planning or party planning shouldn't cause unnecessary stress. After all your guests are your friends and loved ones. They already love your cooking and how you do the fabulous things you do . The fact that you take the extra time to prepare a dinner like this just lets them know how much you care about them ! Enjoy yourself ! You know how creative and talented you are. Take the bows when they oh and ah over the dinner-no false modesty here. And leave the dishes for the next day.




PS Tomorrow's post will contain some fabulous recipes from this party !













33 comments:

Megan@foodalution.com said...

This is an absolutely lovely meal! Beautiful.... - best of luck... megan @foodalution

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Megan,
Thanks for stopping by!

bellini valli said...

It has been perfect weather for a lovely dinner al fresco Sandy. Good luck in this next round of the competition!!!!

Lisa Orgler said...

Absolutely beautiful!! I really love those sunflowers and your photos are lovely!

Amelia PS said...

so so lovely! absolutely voted.

(see my entry here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1094)

FOODalogue said...

Very nice entry. I would have loved to sit at the lovely table and enjoy the food. Good luck.

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

I love all the sunflowers and the inspiration behind this meal! Great story. What a beautiful outdoor dinner party. Good luck!

jen cheung said...

VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

jen @ www.passion4food.ca

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Girl, you have it all: fantastic concept, fantastic menu, fantastic writing, fantastic photos. And definitely my vote :) Thanks for sharing!

My dinner party was designed to take the diner food from Gooch's Diner, where my parents first met over 40 years ago, and elevate it to luxury for their 39th wedding anniversary. Come see if you'd like :)

Deb said...

This dinner was more than fabulous! It was better than any exquisite 5 star rated restaurant! I am hungry right now and would love some of those appetizers! And you captured the evening ambience and dinner just perfectly on your blog. Good luck with the votes!!!!!

Sarah said...

I really love the way you have shared your dinner ambience through your pictures and stories. what kind of camera do you use? Good luck with your future challenges!

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and vote and Sarah I use a Canon EOS 50D !
Sandy

Butter said...

FAB-U-LOUS! This was an absolutely amazing post. Gorgeous, looked delicious, relaxing warm fun - you have it all. The style of the spread, flowers, picture of you laughing, your guests smiling, the menu, wine.. Just great and a pleasure to read :) Thank you. Off to the voting booths for this one for sure!
-Butter
(from Running On Butter)

Julie Hoagland said...

I am still in awe of your handi-work! It was a magical night....beauty, laughter and fabulous food. Curt and I have eaten all over the country and the last time we had anything that was half way close to this was in the wine country over-looking a vineyard.

A truly amazing evening!

Julie and Curt

Lighthearted Locavore (Lexi) said...

I love your dinner in Provence. Great job. I voted for you - hope you'll check out my New Orleans Creole dinner. Best of luck, Lexi

http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1167

Tender Is the Bite said...

I really want to try that pear cake - I have a feeling there is a delicious secret under that crust! Good luck in the challenge.

Stay-At-Home-Chef said...

Wonderful post! You made me feel as if I were in Provence through your words and beautiful photos. Good luck! Hope to join you in round four :)

Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } said...

All of your menu items look SO tasty! I have not had dinner yet (I know - we eat late) and you have made me so HUNGRY! Nice job!

riceandwheat said...

Your Dinner in Provence looks absolutely lovely and the food looks delicious. Even I feel transported to Provence and I wasn't even at your dinner! Agree that as long as you're eating with people you love, doesn't matter what you're serving - just sit back and enjoy! Good luck in PFB!

Peggy said...

Lovely presentation of your dinner party! I love the dishes, they sound so warming and truly inspired by Provence! Good job and good luck!

~Lisa~ said...

Lovely menu! I adore french cuisine! Voted.

Food, she thought. said...

Voted! You can never go wrong with Feuillate and a beautiful backyard!

Jessica said...

Looks beautiful! And tasty! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

The Cilantropist said...

This looks so elegant, I would definitely like to be invited or to host a party like this one! Sunflowers were a perfect, bright touch to your table. Good luck with PFB!

Natalie said...

voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)

http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1080

maria said...

Mi teacher showed us many prety pictures of food on computer becaause we study food and health at school. and now we make blog sights your food is vary prety. i [cooked much in Mexico but not now. and now I want to do that agen after I wach your pictures. very pretty. i vote you. Good luck.

Wheels and Lollipops said...

Well done ! Happy to see others creating French meals and showing how simply it can be done. Everything looked amazing and you are so right, the key to a successful evening is to prepare as much as possible in advance! Good Luck

Jacob's Kitchen said...

Gorgeous. Really, really nicely done. The sunflowers at each place setting is such a lovely touch. And the food looks amazing. great party! I voted for you.

Good luck! Fingers crossed that we both make it to the next round! =)

Ruby said...

Your post takes me back to my year in Provence, where almost every family dinner was a luxury feast for me. Looks like a beautiful evening - well done!

Natty said...

What a stunning and inspiring location! Your guests were extremely lucky that night. Well done!

Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

The food looks divine and I love those place cards! You have my vote!

danasfoodforthought said...

It looks like you did a great job capturing the essence of Provence! The food looks delicious and the sunflowers are so beautiful! Good luck!

onlinepastrychef said...

It all looks wonderful! Best of luck in getting to round 4--you have one of my votes:)