Saturday, June 5, 2010

Corino's Graduation Party

My family loves any reason for a party, or to just get together. Last night, we celebrated my nephew Corino's graduation from Servite High School, which is the all-boys school my brother attended; another nephew will graduate next year.

I had originally decided on an Italian paesano theme based on a grand format bottle of wine I've had. But this week Corino's paternal grandmother Cheri (who also lives here in town) was in the hospital; she and her husband are both Italian-American and still speak fluent Italian. Life seems so long, but it really is quite fragile. Until very recently, Cheri used to swim in the ocean daily; she is 88 years old, as is her husband; they were coming to our dinner too, so I decided to take it up a notch on the Italian theme.

Before the guests arrived, we settled in with a few gin & tonics; my two nieces came to help me, and my boyfriend R set up the bar (and brought the yellow lilies here) and kept us watered while the girls and I cooked:

The table was set Thursday and Friday; I did the base centerpiece greenery of ivy, iceberg roses, rosemary and vines, all from the garden; there was no wind so we skipped the hurricane shades on the pillar candles. Here is the table during the late afternoon:
I don't micromanage; I asked the girls to pick the jasmine and add it to the centerpiece, which ran the length of the 18ft table; they placed it in tiny sweet little groups, and on some of the napkins; I tend to do chunkier stuff for impact, but I loved and complimented their work:
When our graduate arrived, we presented him with the wine bottle for opening, all 4 litres:
He did a great job of opening it, though the cork broke in two; I have tutored my nephews and nieces for years on how to open wine and champagne bottles; his best friend's Dad gave him this crazy $$ lei; by the way, the wine was fantastic; good wine is a lesson in patience, but in this case it was worth it!
As we waited for the guests to arrive, we set the cheese tray, on marble and with grape leaves from the garden:
I bought a selection of Italian cheeses from Dominic at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store; it sounds fancy, but it is very reasonable, as is their shipping:
I had ample bread from Jean-Paul's here in Laguna;
R put the bread in front of the cheese, with the wine, to take a nice photo:
But a moment later, I thought maybe Stuart Little had escaped...but no, it was Grampy, loving the bread, instead of crackers, with the cheese:
We also tossed up some hot shrimp scampi for an appetizer; most of my hotel silver and ironstone platters got used yesterday:
The girls helped me grill up the mini-veggies and peaches from RSF market last Sunday; they were all devoured:
The baby greens from Maggie's (again RSF market last Sunday) were crisp and wonderful thanks to my cotton produce bags; I tossed the greens with raspberry balsamic and olive oil and topped the platter with the rainbow beets from RSF:
And also the yellow carrots from RSF, fabulous and extra sweet, boiled lightly and tossed with butter and herbs:
Night began to fall as we produced plate after plate; the girls then lit the votives on the table:
We had filet mignon (no photos) and a full bone-in leg of lamb ($25 for the leg, at our Persian market), which we crusted with a paste of garlic, olive oil, lemon, thyme, mint, flat leaf parsley, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper on Thursday night:
The green beans were from RSF market and they were amazing; cooked to Julia's Recipe, blanched then pan fried with a little butter and lemon:

Rather than a traditional first and second plate, we did all the food buffet/family style, and the girls and I kept cranking out the plates; the pastas were the last of the main meal, so they would be hot. I buy fresh pasta from Dominic at Palisades market, and this time we had linguine with pesto (which I made from the basil and arugula from RSF market last weekend), and fettuccine with homemade alfredo sauce ( a big hit), but the piece de resistance was the pappardelle with a mushroom medley, including the porcini butter and king oyster mushrooms from RSF last weekend; this was absolutely to die for!!

We also had rosemary potatoes and caprese salad but I didn't have time to shoot them.

After dinner, we moved on to all home-made desserts: Grammy's lemon pound cake, white cake with apricot filling and Chantilly creme, and devil's food with raspberry filling and Chantilly;

We ate under the loggia, with mostly candlelight:
I was worried because Mommy Finch has made a nest in the near lantern; I didn't want to turn the lanterns (on dimmer) up too much; never mind, there was lots of toasting and good cheer!
The glow of the candlelight was perfect and the weather was mild....
The last guest left at half past 12 and I fell into bed at 2am to get ready for the Corona del Mar Market in the morning, satisfied that I had done a great job. Sometimes we wonder if we should go out; would it be easier? Yes. Would it be cheaper? No. Would it be as fun? Definitely not!!!

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