Tag Archive: Appetizers

Tour de Kitchens

Our friend Ashley

is renovating her kitchen.  When I say “renovating” I mean “gutting”… as in knocking walls down, rewiring, moving the appliance locations, new cabinets – the works!  That means she will not have a working kitchen of her own for a least 8 weeks.  She and her roommate, Lauren, devised a brilliant plan to ensure that they won’t have to live off Ramen noodles and take out for two months.  It’s called the Tour de Kitchens.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Ashley and Lauren threw a big cookout for all their friends before the big kitchen demolition.
  2. While at said cookout, all the friends signed up for a schedule of dates to have the two lovely ladies over for dinner – touring the kitchens of their friends and blogging about it along the way.
  3. Ashley and Lauren throw a big dinner party for all these friends once the kitchen is complete.

In a sense, they feed us twice and we feed them once.  Not a bad deal.  And a super fun idea!  I highly recommend it to any of you planning a major kitchen reno in the future.

Well, Sunday was our turn to host.  I love to entertain and always want to leave my guests wanting more.  So, I always try to make my dinner parties memorable.  However, for this particular dinner party the stakes were especially high. Let me explain…

First, Ashley is a foodie.  A serious foodie.  In fact, she’s been writing a blog called The Charlotte Food Snob since 2006.  It chronicles her adventures in eating out in our fair city.  Secondly, she’s in our church community group which takes turns bringing wine and snacks to various events.  Through our years in this group, I’ve developed a reputation for bringing awesome snacks like this and great bottles of wine such as this and this to our gatherings.  Not to toot my own horn, but people tend to get really excited when they know it’s our week to bring snacks.  I mean REALLY excited.

So, I’m hosting The Charlotte Food Snob herself AND I’ve got a reputation to uphold.  That means, I had to bring my A-Game.  Nothing less would do.

I find that there are three basic elements that will make or break your dinner party, not including the guests.  I call them The Three M’s of  a Successful Dinner party – Music, aMbience, and Menu.

First, the Music.  I keep a playlist on my iPod appropriately titled “Dinner Party.”  It’s a list of nearly 70 songs ranging in artists from Coldplay, to The Beatles, to Diana Krall, to Ben Harper, to Dave Matthews Band.  They are all groovy, but unobtrusive so they play nicely in the background without being “noisy” per se.   I hit shuffle so the songs play randomly and repeat so the whole thing starts over again, should we work all the way through the play list.  I usually start playing it over the speakers in the living/dining area about 30 min before my guests arrive to start setting the mood in my head.

Secondly there’s aMbience…Well, you’ve got to set a lovely table

(dig my new chairs?) and lots of candles always help.

Finally, there’s the menu…Like I said, the stakes were high.  So this menu had to be FABULOUS.  It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

The Menu
Appetizers – Goat Cheese Crostinis with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinagrette
Salad – Baby Spinach with Goat Cheese, Raspberries, and Toasted Walnuts
in Warm Olive Oil and Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

Entree – Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce and Asparagus a la Plancha
Wine – 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert – Coffee Caramel Creme Brulee

And, yes, the menu was so fabulous that I printed it up on card stock and placed it at each place setting. Like I said, I had to bring my A-Game.  And speaking of my A-Game, here’s my handiwork up close:

Well, most of it anyway.  I didn’t exactly get any pics of it, but I used an old faithful recipe, Goat Cheese Bruschetta, for the appetizer with a couple minor adjustments.  First, I used small crostini bread v. a large artisan loaf.  This gave them perfect bite-sized proportions.  Secondly, I used Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar, rather than plain balsamic, for the vinaigrette.  Like I mentioned before…EPIC!

Next, there was a beautiful salad

The basis was a recipe for Baby Spinach with Warm Olive Oil and Toasted Walnuts that I saved from Martha Stewart Living months ago.  But, I wanted to add a little something extra to it.  Hence, the goat cheese and raspberries.  The recipe calls for white wine vinegar, but…I just happened to have this delicious Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar from Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. in Park City.  So why go with white wine vinegar when I’ve got a bottle of that within reach?  Much more interesting!

I have to give a shout out to my colleague, Sam, who gave me a head’s up on the entree recipe from Epicurious.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce

Sorry that the pic is kind of dark.  I was ready to dig in and did not have the patience for the subtleties of fine photography.   Nevertheless, it was as delicious and as it was easy to prepare, despite how fancy it sounds. However, in an effort to deliver the courses in a timely manner, I made the grits before our salad course and they weren’t quite as warm as I would have liked, despite keeping them in the “warming zone” of my range.  The grits cooked up very quickly.  Next time, I’ll just let the salad settle while I cook up both the grits AND the salmon.

Oh, I almost forgot about the asparagus.  It’s now one of my staples from my Spain cookbook.  So fresh!  So easy!  So YUMMY! (And it sounds super fancy if you are, I don’t know, say…printing it up on menu cards for your guests.  Just a thought…)  You basically drizzle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice on some beautiful asparagus, salt & pepper them, then grill them up for 2-3 min on each side.  You can use an actual grill or a grill pan.  I, personally, like to use my Cuisinart Griddler.

Of course, no dinner party is complete without The Wine.  Ashley and Lauren brought a bottle of 2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.


We sipped on that during apps and salads.  Epicurious especially recommended the 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc to accompany my chosen entree.

Plus, there was a little bit of it in the Caper Cream Sauce.  It was a perfect pairing.  Needless to say, both bottles were empty before the evening was over.   And for the Piece de Resistance (drum roll please…)

Homemade Caramel Coffee Creme Brulee!

Yes, to make this dish at home did require the purchase of a small blow torch.

What?  There’s a rumor going around that this whole Tour de Kitchens thing is a competition.  So, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  And if that means buying a blow torch…

then so be it! Seriously, though.  We had a blast hosting these ladies.

To hear their take on the evening, hop on over the The Charlotte Food Snob!  We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of their Tour pans out.  And if this IS a competition, then I think we might just have this one in the bag! ;)

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/734

Would It Be So Wrong…

if I just stuck my face in this?

I don’t think so.  I mean, it’s a baked brie.  When you really think about it, who would blame me?

Well, my church small group might not appreciate it since I made it for them.  It was our night to bring snack and I completely forgot about it until the night before.  Once I remembered, I somehow got it in my head that I wanted to take a baked brie.  A friend gave me her recipe last year and I took it to a couple of events where it was a huge hit.  Well…I apparently lost the recipe.  So what’s  girl to do when she’s got her heart set on serving a baked brie and she’s lost her recipe?

Google to the rescue of course!  What did we ever do without it?

The first Google listing was this recipe from The Food Network.   It looked yummy but, frankly, I just didn’t have time to cut the brie in half, stuff it, trim the pastry to the circumference of the brie, and make decorations out of the pastry trimmings.  So that recipe was quickly discarded.

The second listing was from Simply Recipes.   I took one look at the recipe pic and knew this recipe wouldn’t disappoint.  It had a very simple ingredient list.

First you lay out the pastry dough and set your brie wheel right in the middle.  Then cover said brie wheel with raspberry jam.

Next you fold the pastry around the cheese, like so…

Then top with maple syrup and brown sugar and bake it up.

I like to serve it with crackers or crostini and sliced apples with candied walnuts on the side.

If you are salivating like I am, pop on over to Simply Recipes and download this yummy, crowd pleasing recipe here.  People will think you slaved over it.  But, really, it only takes about 30 min.

Oh, I almost forgot the most crucial step in the process!  I can’t stress this enough –

DON’T STICK YOUR FACE IN IT BEFORE SERVING IT TO FRIENDS!

It’s tricky, but it can be done.  Trust me.

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/499

National Goat Cheese Month!  What?

August is National Goat Cheese Month! I certainly didn’t know that.  Did you?  My friend, Carmen, from Keeping Up Klapper mentioned it on her blog last week and that was the first I’ve ever heard of it.  After I reading her post , exclaiming “National Goat Cheese Month?!?!” at the top of my lungs and squealing with delight I thought,”Why isn’t this being more widely publicized? Why hasn’t this been mentioned on the Today Show or been a headline in the New York Times? Where are the county fairs in its honor? Where is the parade?”  Certainly something like National Goat Cheese Month is worthy of a parade!  With all the doom and gloom that’s constantly in the news, I think a national holiday devoted to Goat Cheese would be just the thing to cheer folks up!  Don’t you?

Goat Cheese just happens to be my FAVORITE cheese!  And something like National Goat Cheese Month sounds a heck of lot like a reason to work it into my diet every day for a month.  A quick Google search of National Goat Cheese Month informs me that this holiday is celebrated by making your favorite goat cheese recipes and sharing them with your friends and family.  SIGN. ME. UP.

Well, let’s see…So far I’ve had a salad for lunch every day this week which was topped with Goat Cheese.  That’s a start.

Then I made these mini Goat Cheese Empanadas to take as an appetizer to a Women’s Quarterly Dinner with my church.

(These were a recipe I got out of Real Simple magazine.  They were alright, but didn’t live up to my hopes.  True to form, they were “real simple” to make, but they just didn’t have a lot of pizzazz.  I kept thinking they’d be better with the goat cheese that comes with the dried cranberries in it, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and dipped in or topped with some sort of berry chutney.  I’ll work that one out and get back to you on that.)

How am I doing so far?  Keep in mind, I found out about National Goat Cheese Month 6 days into it, so I’m a little behind.  But where to go from here?  What’s a girl to do? Hhmmm. Should I…

A) gather Goat Cheese and some other soft cheeses and have one of my favorite dinners of cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, and wine (of course) while watching movies with the Beer Guy?

B) make some of these Deep Chocolate Brownies with Chevre Swirls or these Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles?

C) make this Pasta with Cheesy Pink Sauce?

D) find another reason to make and serve this Goat Cheese Bruschetta?

E) sample different local Goat Cheeses at my farmer’s market and establish a local go-to Goat Cheese favorite?

OR…

F) All of the above.

Yeah, I’m definitely thinking “F) All of the above.”  I’ll keep you posted on the “celebration” in the KDT household.  What about you?  Any suggestions or favorite Goat Cheese recipes?  I’d love to hear about them!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/236

Belated Dinner & A Bruschetta Faux Pas

We have had a very SOCIAL weekend this Memorial Day Weekend! Friday night we finally got around to doing dinner with our friends Suz and Matthew. They had their first baby in January. I intended to take them dinner when they were recently home from the hospital with a brand new baby…exhausted…not knowing which end was up. However, it had been so long since we had gotten to hang out, that Suz wanted us to stay and eat with them. I explained to her that this was supposed to be a gesture, not us inviting ourselves over for dinner. But she persisted. So we set a date and, wouldn’t you know it, it iced and snowed in the Queen City for that entire weekend. Our dinner date was cancelled as we couldn’t get out of our driveway. That was mid-January. We JUST got this thing rescheduled for last Friday! Seriously…are we THAT busy? That’s pathetic.

Oh, well. Better late than never, I guess. Suz supplied the vino, the salad, and the grill. We brought the salmon, our new cedar planks, and this awesome Goat Cheese Bruschetta for an appetizer.

For the main course we prepared this Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon and my special green bean recipe.

It was all a big hit! The bruschetta was so yummy delicious that I took it to two other events on Sunday: First to “drinks and hors d’oevres” with our friends Heather and Chris in their gorgeous new backyard and then to a cookout at our friend Aimee’s house. I should have coordinated with Heather, because she had prepared three other types of bruschetta for our get together.  For “foodies” like us that’s sort of like showing up to the Oscars in the same dress.

Judging by the empty serving trays at the end of our two hour visit, no one seemed to mind the bruschetta faux pas!

Today is Memorial Day and it’s gray and rainy here in CLT. So, the Beer Guy and I have decided to stay at home and made good use of the leftover veggies from the weekend while polishing off the remains of a Pork Tenderloin with Shallots.

Mmmm!

Cheers!
Wine Girl

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