Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rick’s Dinner Party

I have sisters aplenty but just one brother, and we've always been close.  So when Rick comes to town, I like to roll out my finest.  There are just not enough hours in the day, even over a long weekend, to catch up on everything, to have the kind of personal visit that you just can’t do over the phone.  Sunday night it was my turn to host dinner, and I wanted something special.  I spent the morning at the market in Rancho Santa Fe, then raced home, to set this table in half an hour.  Some tried & true from the recent farm to table; I still love the burlap runners, especially for fall.  I debated using vintage Booth’s Real Old Willow dishes, but in the end went with my favorite white & gold Limoges. The napkins are some lightly moth-eaten Buchannan wool tartan, part of Mom’s clan, that used to hang in Rick’s bedroom.  After 40 years, I replaced the drapes, but he caught the reference right away on Sunday night, and the family loved it~


We were going to be just ten, so I set a 16 foot table with generously spaced black & white chairs under the loggia in the 75 degree weather, lit the candles and also the overhead lanterns.  Love this glow, everyone looks good & feels good~


You know I love to have a few nibbles set out…I found some cheddar and sea salt grissini at Bristol Farms, and added a trio of dips: fresh ricotta, homemade Roman tomato sauce and roasted salsa.  A moment after this photo I added appetizer-size blue willow plates~


When half the family had arrived, I brought out a hot appetizer of butternut squash crostini.  This recipe is from Nancy Silverton and you can read about her book signing HERE.  I didn’t toast the bread and I put the bacon below the squash, not on top.  I went a little crazy trying to find bread for the dinner; Louie had a wedding and was not at any market, and Bristol Farms sold out of their Poilane; so in the end I used baguette from Loiic at the Sunday market; torn in half for a rustic bite, two trays were all eaten~


For the first course I wanted a great presentation and something that really said Fall…..luckily Don just started selling his Fairytale pumpkins on Saturday.  They look rather grey, but have these nice fat ribs~


I’m going to show you the classic version of this soup this week, but I cheated, and cut and roasted a pumpkin ahead of time in the oven and added fresh cream to the puree; put the soup into yet another pumpkin, and baked for an hour~


To keep the soup from tasting like baby food, add salt & pepper & nutmeg, and roasted garlic to your taste; notch the lid and add a pretty French silver ladle; the pumpkin will change color in the oven; the color deepens and the skin looks a little waxy; I really love the presentation for a dinner party and everyone ooh’d and ahh’d over it~


I set the pumpkin on a tray covered by a generous French linen towel and had my niece ladle the soup into the bowls at the table and add a few croutons on top~


The soup will stay nicely insulated in the pumpkin, but in our case it was all eaten then moved to the serving table~


For main course we had a full leg of lamb on the bone with an herb & Dijon mustard crust; sliced and on the tray, I added fresh lima beans from Chino Ranch sauteed in butter, along with a large dish of potatoes Dauphinois~


I suppose it was because our brother was in town and there was so much to talk about, but I was pleasantly surprised that the meal stretched out to a leisurely pace, rather than everyone hoovering through.  After a garden salad of my favorite hydroponic butter lettuce and more baguette, we moved on to dessert; the day before I made a burnt butter layer cake and pine nut & rosemary tarte~ 


At the last minute I made a peach and berry galette, and there were two large bowls of crème Chantilly and vanilla bean ice cream floating around the table to top the desserts off.  Dinner for ten for me is fine, though it was just me in the kitchen and there isn’t a lot of time in between for photos.  These will give you an idea though~


My favorite time of the meal is the end, when I can stop hopping out of my seat and just relax.  The pile of crates and my pine desk are still outside, and I can’t get enough of the glow of the candles and the patina of the 80 year old crates.  The dogs are always in the kitchen while I am serving the next course, but at the end of the meal, they are always anxious to get outside, and Biscuit always wants to be right on my lap and Honey wants to drape over my left shoulder.  My brother grabbed my camera for a pic; I hate having my picture taken, but tonight, whatever~


The guests all loved the corn stalk arch, lit to bid them goodbye for the night~


At 11pm, I could survey the damage; my niece and sister had helped clear the plates to the kitchen, but it was still a nice scene.  My Dad was there for the whole dinner, at his usual place at the far end of the table….doing so much better, and made me so happy~


The dogs and I sat outside for another half hour, enjoying the sounds of the crickets and the glow of the candles.  Honey is technically a “red” dog, but my, doesn’t she match the tones of the crates and cutting boards so well?


I have been very very busy lately but will try to get some recipes (soup and tartes) up soon.  We are also planning a farm to table in San Diego and possibly one in Laguna this fall.  Beaune has been pushed to early December.  Enjoy the last half of the week~


  1. What a priceless pic of Honey............gorgeous! Should be her official portrait. Funny how all the pets are the same, when dinner is over and mommy settles down, up go the dogs onto your lap. Such polite creatures when you think about it. Your dinner looks delicious Andrea, by my count you have been cooking up a storm most weekends. Bravo! xx

  2. I do not recall ever having see a photo of you or your cute pups. all beautiful!

    What a beautiful dinner for your favorite and only brother! I love the crates and the desk with the candle light. And of course the beautiful food.

    I am happy to hear your dad is getting better, what about your mom?

    Have a great week, looking forward to more of your culinary adventures.


  3. What a lovely dinner plan and execution for your family! You really honor your guests with your attention to details, beauty, comfort and good tastes.

  4. My friend everything looked absolutely divine!! from the gorgeous setting you created to the scrumptious meal you prepared! Your furbabies are adorable!! xo

  5. Dear Andrea, Rick must have been so happy to have some time at home; especially with you having a dinner party like this!! So happy your Dad is better and hope Mom is as well.

    You, Honey and Biscuit look so darling together. You need not be camera shy at all!

    Call soon!
    Art by Karena

  6. Looks beautiful, what a lovely night!!

  7. Perfect evening, beautiful dinner, great all around!

  8. Hello!

    This looks so great! I love the pumpkin- I have been too chicken to try that.

    I hope all is well with you!


  9. Andrea, you constantly amaze me. What a night for your family to enjoy tremendous food and your love of each other. I'm really happy to read your dad is doing better. Honey almost steals the show but your menu I think won in the end. I'm anxious to try your pumpkin soup if I can find a decent pumpkin here. I hope all is well and you're not working too hard? You have me longing for CA.

    All my best to you
    x Deb
    by the way, great photo of you and your adorable pups!

  10. AWESOME! I have a Staub pumpkin cast iron and enamel pot that I just pulled out...but I love the idea of roasting the soup in the pumpkin. Great presentation.

  11. Bonjour ANdrea,
    Your Rick is a lucky brother indeed. Everything looks marvelous as always, your flair for presentation is second to none - I can only imagine what it all tastes like.