Tastes of Spring: Appetizers

Goat cheese lollipops and fried artichoke hearts with lemon-thyme aioli

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Peach sangria, alcoholic and virgin versions

Tastes of Spring: Leek and Brioche Bread Pudding

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Tastes of Spring Dinner Party – Invite & Menu

My husband, Matthew, and his friend, Phil, have enjoyed planning and hosting quarterly dinner parties on a grand scale. Tomorrow is the Tastes of Spring party. Matthew is picking up the final wine pairings tonight, and Phil has been cooking for the past couple days. They’ll be posting updates and pictures as the weekend goes on.

Here is the invite reminder they sent out to the 10 guests today:

It’s that time. Springtime! There’s a sweetness in the air, the frost is long off the pumpkin, and after a bitter, cold winter Phil Monte and Matthew Miller have emerged bleary-eyed from their caves. And they are hungry.

And what better way to satisfy that hunger than with the Tastes of Spring 2011 Dinner Party!

That’s why it is our pleasure to formally invite you to join us tomorrow, Saturday, April 9, at 6 pm. The amazing, mouth-watering, eye-glazing, soul-stirring menu for Saturday’s dinner includes:

hor d’oeuvres
Goat Cheese Lollipops
Fried Baby Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Thyme aioli
Ferrari Brut Italian Sparkling Wine NV

first course

Fried Oysters
Red and Green Leaf Lettuce with Balsamic Shallot Vinaigrette
Chaudoux Verdigny Sancerre 2008

second course
Green Eggs and Ham
Indian Asparagus Salad
White Asparagus Soup
Meyer-Fonne Reserve Riesling 2008 Vin D’Alsace
Alsace Trimbach Pinot Gris (2001)

third course
Truffled Potato Gnocchi with Peas and Chanterelles
Cooper Mountain Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

fourth course
Sous Vide Duck Breast and Duck Confit – Raspberry Sauce
Leek and Brioche Bread Pudding
Truchard Syrah 2007 Carneros
Clos du Mont-Olivet 2007
Fratelli Revello, Vigna Gattera 2001

dessert
Strawberry Mousse Puff with Chocolate Drizzle
Chocolate Raspberry Tart
Chateau Laoupiac Gaudiet 2006
Warres Port LBV 2000
Dow’s LBV Porto 2003

Party Tips from Food Writer Ruth Reichl

“I was not prepared for the feel of the noodles in my mouth, or the purity of the taste. The noodles quivered as if they were alive, and leapt into my mouth where they vibrated as if playing inaudible music….The restaurant’s sea urchins were fabulous too: great soft piles of orange roe as succulent and perfumed as hunks of ripe mango. Claudia refused to taste them. She merely shuddered when I offered her raw shrimps, which melted beneath the teeth with the lush generosity of milk chocolate.”

I think even a non-sushi-lover could be persuaded to eat Japanese food by Ruth Reichl. The above excerpt is from her food memoir Garlic and Sapphires, about her time as restaurant critic for the New York Times.

I have a terrible writer-crush on Ms. Reichl…even her tweets make my mouth water. Who knew you could pack so much descriptive power into 140 characters?

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Cena Internazionale: Buon Appetito!

An Italian, a Mexican, and an American walk into a flat, where they meet a Dutch woman and a Congolese man.

Not the set-up for a joke, I swear! It was the introduction to one of the most fun hospitality experiences I’ve had recently.

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Happy 2011 Party

About a week and a half before the end of 2010, Matthew and I decided we should have a little New Year’s Eve party. We did a Facebook event invite, and since event invitations aren’t very noticeable in the latest iteration of Facebook, we used the “Message Guests” feature to send FB messages about the party. We also texted/called the guest list.

Lesson 1: New Year’s Eve is one of those occasions that require advance invites. Many of the guests we invited already had plans for the evening. Next year, we’ll decide sooner to have a party so we can give more advance notice.

We still had a nice group of nine friends attend. Which gave us 11 people total at the party…that’s kind of cool for a party welcoming 2011!

The main attraction of the evening was Pucket, a British pub game Matthew’s sister Amy imported for him for Christmas.

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International Communion Meal

The Communion Meal at Damascus Road International Church in Maastricht, Netherlands, went really well, from all the reports I’ve heard! They plan to do it again at Easter time.

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Harry Potter Party Pictures Part 1

I am delighted with the way the details and decorations turned out for the party!

My friend Gwyneth is a wedding photographer in New Hampshire, (how’s that for Google-friendly link text?) and she is also a basically awesome friend. She drove down from NH for the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows party and offered to shoot the party in addition to helping me decorate and clean up. So most of these pictures are from her. (I did bring my good camera, but I didn’t even take it out of the case. I did take a few pics with my cheap-but-durable camera. Any of the crappy pictures in this post are mine.)

Gwyn isn’t big on playing dress-up, but she likes me enough that she has agreed to a rule of “I wear a costume for Becky once each year.” I played that card last year for the Half-Blood Prince opening night, and forced her to accompany me to the theater dressed as Rita Skeeter. (I was Tonks.) She broke out the cat-eye glasses and quill pen again this year for the Deathly Hallows party.

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Communion Meal Brainstorming

Tonight I’ve been working on ideas for a communion meal at a church. Here’s the brainstorming document I put together after Googling and thinking. I’m quite curious to hear your creative/unique/symbolic ideas for communion services or meals.

My youth pastor from high school is planting an international church in the Netherlands. Kent and his wife, Leslie, have been missionaries in the NL for seven years, and they’ve been in Maastricht since January, starting Damascus Road International Church. I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in little ways from a distance, and Matthew and I had an incredible visit with them when we were in Europe in September.

I remember from the beginning, back in January, Kent has talked about wanting to host communion meals with the church, where it’s more than just taking communion in a church service–it’s a full meal, shared together. They’re doing it for the first time on December 12. Kent and I got talking about it via email a few days ago, and I ended up putting together some ideas.

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Harry Potter Party Plan

I kept a running list of ideas for the Harry Potter Party in a text document in the Parties folder on my laptop. When the party finally came together for the Deathly Hallows premiere, I just opened the doc, added new ideas, created to-do lists, and organized it. I was able to send it to the hosts a few days before to keep them in the loop.

Here’s the plan for the party. I had to make some alterations the day of the party–those notes are in green.

Party Order:
Guests arrive on platform (7 pm)
Photos against backdrop
Sorting into houses (teams)
Muggle quidditch relay (back yard)
Feast (dessert – dining room)
OWLs trivia game (dining room)
Reading from Deathly Hallows (library)
Astronomy tower (upstairs balcony) We ended up switching the library and the astronomy tower for flow reasons.
Awarding of prizes – House Cup (dining room)
Movie (Theater – several of us got tickets for the 12:05 showing)

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