Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dinner for Jacquie

Once a hostess gets north of 40, I think an equal amount of time can be allocated to dinner preparations as dinner recovery time. Saturday night I hosted our family for dinner, including my sister Jacquie and her family from Minneapolis. I’ll admit it, Sunday I was tired!


We started with Brie en croute, which Eddie Ross reminded me makes a great cold-weather appetizer. I don’t have any leaf cookie cutters like Eddie’s, so I used hearts instead; big hit with my little niece Lauren~


For main course, we had a large platter of veal chops, with a medley of potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, caramelized pearl onions and bacon; from Patricia Wells’ Simply French cookbook~


Because my family are chow hounds, I also made twin roast ducks with delicious sauteed apples and a citrus sauce of orange, lime and grapefruit, with a little vinegar and honey; I will be making this sauce again soon, but for chicken. Email me if I can send you the recipe, also from Simply French, it’s too long to retype here! These are the apples, sauteed in a little butter~

IMG_3951 I had the table set with what flowers I found at the market in the morning; simple and fragrant sweet peas in a rich mix of pinks & purples~


With deep pink 12” tapers from Point a la Ligne; it made a very pretty table, unfussy but perfect for a cool late-winter evening~


I finished the last presentation plate and sat down; it seemed like I was in my chair for 10 minutes when everyone finished their plates and said they were now ready for dessert, twin apple tartes on puff pastry~


The slices of tarte were topped with homemade cinnamon ice cream, also from Patricia Wells, and a very simple caramel sauce (sugar, butter & cream) that everyone loved so much they put it on their brie and bread before dinner.


The next thing I knew, Jacquie was blowing out the candles on the dinner table (!) and Dad was opening the door to the patio “to let the smoke out” though with the smoke went the two little dogs. Good thing they know the command “inside!”


I had thought to have coffee or tea in the living room and play Bach’s simple minuet on my harp, but everyone seemed to be in an “eat and run” mode and was busy jockeying for leftovers or fussing with the kids. No matter, I sent them all on their way, then relit the candles, and played the minuet and some other melodies by myself. IMG_3968

I spent most of the next morning cleaning up and for a few minutes wondered why I felt dissatisfied with dinner. Or was I? In the end, perhaps I like to host dinner as much for myself as for my guests…While it was work, didn’t I love the dinner preparation, and didn’t we enjoy the leftovers at the same pretty table on Sunday as well? And won’t we be smelling the sweet peas all week? Is there some reason, the challenge perhaps, that I like to prove to myself that I can cook “good” food and host a pretty party? Some inner drive to flex my creative & culinary muscles?

Yes, I think so. Jacquie offered to make dinner of tri-tip roast in a crock pot. Um, I don’t own a crock pot I told her, slightly embarrassed. She may have been happy to have had a tri-tip for dinner, but I would not. Family dinners (especially when we have out of town guests) are special occasions and as such I like to prepare food that we wouldn't eat during the usual week. So...Dinner for my family, dinner for Jacquie but also for myself….What do you think, am I silly? Do you entertain for yourself as much as for your family and guests? IMG_3962


  1. Oh my goodness I'm exhausted just reading how much work you did, amazing. I'm a vegetarain and I want to eat that meal :)
    I think - yes I entertain for myself and for my guests. I'm afraid my dinners are not this fancy and I've used a crock pot many times. I don't even think I could prepare such an elegant meal. Bravo.

  2. I love reading about your entertaining and decorating but I know what you mean, there was a time when I went all out and then a few years ago it suddenly seemed like work to me........kind of sad, but I think life shifts at times. I figure I am in an entertaining hiatus, hope the mood will come back, I certainly get in the mood when I read about your lovely evenings. XO

  3. Yes, you are absolutely right! And you helped me to realize it. We do put on these lavish dinners for ourselves as much as our guests. I am having a dinner/birthday party here this Sat. for a friend and I have thought oh no, why am I putting myself through this? I don't do the big parties for 60 anymore and I think I feel out of sink with putting it all together and doubt whether I can pull it off for just 16 people! But then I get my groove going and it all falls into place. And then I love it when everyone is just enjoying themselves and it's all clicking.
    Ok, so thanks for letting me know why I do it!

  4. I definitely entertain for myself as well! Although, I had found that the pressure I put on myself was making me NOT entertain as much... hence my New Year's resolution to entertain once a month... your dinner looks sensational, what a lovely setting.

  5. that apple tart with ice cream looked delicious! and the tablescape looks beautiful!

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  6. I, too, made a New Year's resolution to entertain at least once a month...It seems the more you entertain the easier it gets.
    Your duck sounds so delicious I am going to try it using duck breasts.
    I am not sure if I like setting the table or cooking better! Maybe both! Thanks for all you inspiration...

  7. Oh my heart! To think what they missed! If only they had lingered. For all the fuss and preparation that goes into a meal (which I also enjoy) I truly treasure the conversations, moments and memories that come after a meal. Perhaps we are too European in our thoughts?

    I believe that is what your heart might have been missing.

  8. Yes, Laura, exactly....I was thinking, if we were in France, we would still be on the first course!

  9. Do you know that on Christmas Eve we had a six course meal which lasted from 7 pm until midnite. It was a bit long but the memories of that evening will last a life time. I am so sorry they blew out the candles and ran. That was bad. I appreciated all the hard work you put into that fantastic dinner right down to the home made icecream. I am glad you relit the candles and played your music. :0 xoxo

  10. Fit for Royalty. I have some very old goblets with etching and gold just like that one. Never put the gold rims in the dish washer. Everything was gorgeous, and what a menu..

  11. I can't tell you how many times after entertaining, late at night by the sink, I've said to my husband, "All that time planning preparing, and it's over in a blink!" I must do it for myself, for the rest of the universe seems to be on the "simple" mode these days. That just wouldn't be me (although I eat very simply when not entertaining). Life is in the details -- let's never forget it, ok?

  12. Dinner looks delicious..... That took some effort. I love Point a la Ligne's tapers, I use the pearl and silver... and I would have stayed for the harp.:) Maryanne

  13. Oh Andrea, I agree with Laura, you went to so much work in preparation for a most beautiful meal.

    I think guests should stay a bit. I even serve desert after leaving the table and retiring to the living room for music (and yours would have been so memorable)!

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  14. That dinner still looks good,
    Hope all had a grand time