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An intimate dinner party for four: a plan for success

What happens when people find out you have a cooking blog? They expect you to cook for them...because after all, you love food and cooking, right? Oy the memories of certain ex boyfriends who did not understand why I did not want to buy the groceries, make the meal and then clean the wonder they are ex.

But then there are occasions when cooking for someone is really appreciated and something I don't mind doing at all. This past week I was visiting my family in Seattle and together with Anna we cooked a few meals for our family together with our brother Misha. This, however, is not a blog about those meals.

Instead, this is a blog about an early intimate dinner party Anna and I cooked for our good friend Lera who will be turning 30 in November. God, I remember when we met at the University of Washington and she was a few years younger and it seemed like we had decades separating ours...not so much anymore. We've traveled to Portland together, celebrated mine and Anna's 30th birthdays (we are twins!) in Vegas, went to wineries, had dinners in and out, and I've even been bitten by Lera when I did not want to share my food...I'm not even kidding: the girl LOVES food. And we love her.

So when Lera suggested Anna and I cook dinner for her and she'll provide the wine, we were in. Lera asked for beets, fennel, lentils and duck. We had to figure out the recipes. Let's just say this wasn't the easiest task: both Anna and I have our own ideas and despite being twins don't share the same brain ;) Plus, we are Aries: stubbornness is something we share.

Below are the wines and sparkling wine: the sparkling wine was opened as soon as Anna and I arrived at Lera's. The wines were masterfully paired by Lera for each course.

First course: roasted beets, segments of oranges and grapefruit, goat cheese and toasted pecans on a bed of arugula. The dressing is a combination of orange and grapefruit juice with a bit of olive oil. Anna, Lera and Lera's boyfriend Travis, who did ALL the dishes from dinner (!!!), also had fennel (it was thinly sliced and marinated in the citrus juice). To go with the salad we had a French baguette, sliced, drizzled with chile & garlic oil and crisped up in the oven.

For the French lentils, we washed them, then cooked them in salted water with a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme. We then sauteed them in oil with garlic and shallots.

Here is the second course: a pot of polenta cooked in salted water. We then flavored the polenta with goat cheese and cream. The duck was all Anna's doing. I was a bit frightened of it, but Anna did a superb job. We bought duck breasts, which Anna scored (on the skin side), seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared on both sides (skin side first). Cook the duck till it's medium rare: about 130.

Here's the full second course: goat cheese polenta with French lentils, roasted carrots and duck with pomegranate molasses. I can't even tell you how spectacular this was.

And then it was time for dessert. Earlier that day Anna went to the store while I slept and made lemon grass & ginger panna cotta. Check out her recipe! But that would not have been festive enough. I suggested we serve it with mangoes (shocking!). So we made a mango topping: chop a few mangoes, brown them in butter with brown sugar, crystallized ginger, and sparkling wine.

This was such a successful dinner party and allowed us time to hang out, drink, chat, and relax. Best part, other than friends and food, was that Travis cleaned up the entire kitchen: he's definitely a keeper!

Have you thrown an intimate birthday party for a friend? What was on the menu?


Monica Bhide said...


Cecilia said...

Your friend Lera is so lucky! Everything sounds delicious, I would have loved to have a bit of that polenta. Goat cheese and cream must have made the most amazing polenta ever!

Lighthousegal said...

I am not real sure about the duck,(I've ried it before and didn't really care for it), but it sure looks good.
Your dinner almost sounds like a challenge, with the request of certain food items and you coming up with a receipe for them. I love it! It shows creativity!! I think you enjoy that somewhat!!
Anyway, it all looks Great, (As Usual).
Oh, and if Travis cleans or even helps clean the better keep him!! They are few and far between.

Unknown said...

I have had dinners for my husbands family and relatives. Actually i found it very stressful. I had to make loads of dishes (and I even passed off some restaurant dishes as my own LOL because it just got to be too much). The menu was all indian food. I think i made like 2 curries (and bought one), salad, kebabs, a rice dish, and cake.
You look like you pulled yours off with great elegance. What a lovely meal!
*kisses* HH

Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray said...

WOW! Everything looks beyond fantastic! You guys did a wonderful job!

Valeria said...

Thank you-thank you-thank you guys!! I'm almost tearing up reading this post. I am so grateful for this awesome deliciousness! What a great gift. Love to you both.

Tasha said...

This is such a wonderful menu. Everything looks amazing.

The Poet Herself said...

Gorgeous meal! And how do you get those mangos to look so nice? I mutilate mine trying to get them out of the skin.

Reem | Simply Reem said...

Absolutely gorgeous meal!!
Your friend is so lucky...
I am actually drooling right now over all the pictures LOL.
Great Job I must say....

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Your friend is very lucky! The goat cheese polenta sounds divine. I haven't yet thrown an intimate birthday party but you are inspiring me to :)

FOODalogue said...

Excellent menu and execution.

Small dinner parties make it easier to enjoy the food and company.

nicole said...

everything looks great and I loved the stories! I think my favorite dish is the entree, the duck and the polenta look great together with the lentils and carrots.

I don't know why people say they don't like duck -- it's one of my favorite meats (other than pork), but it's also a dish that seems to only work in extremes - extremely good or extremely bad! Dan used to say he "didn't like duck", and then he had some excellent, crispy duck buns at the source and his eyes were opened to what it could be (not flabby skin with a layer of congealed fat under it!)

Anonymous said...

You ladies are good friends : )
Good job with the duck. I'm so intimidated by it!

Anonymous said...

I've only been to Denver a few times, and I can really appreciate the handblown glass, I like the play on the maki rolls too, everything looks splendid, and fun.