Earlier this past week, my Mother in Law celebrated her birthday. Normally our family will go over to their place, which is just down the road and have a casual evening together. This usually consists of cake and coffee before munchies (in true Dutch fashion), drinks by the fire or on the back deck if the weather is nice, and then a game of cards.
For this birthday, I wanted to do something different for her. I wanted to celebrate with a full blown dinner party. Good china, massive place settings, four courses and of course, good wine.
Pulling off a meal like this is something I've only done once before. I'm not a chef and I am by no means trained in any culinary field. But I love cooking, and I've collected and read enough cookbooks to know basic techniques. Practise helps, but really, it's all about the passion. I thrive on planning things. Planning a dinner party is no exception. I love the list making, the menu tweaking, the scouting out good bottles of wine, the shopping, the prepping, the setting up and of course, the actual preparing and serving. Each part is just as fun as the next and I find great satisfaction in presenting each course. Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and, I'm my worst critic. But, I still love every minute of it.
This was the menu for the evening, as well as each wine pairing.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Maple and Pecans
- Trius Brut -
Crisp, Elegant and Rare
Seared Diver Scallops with an Orange Reduction
-Thirty Bench Vintage 2008 Riesling -
Dry, Refreshingly Crisp with Citrus Notes
on a bed of Celeriac and Potato Puree
with Roasted Vegetables
- Hillebrand Limited Edition Artist Series Cabernet Merlot -
Rich Aromas of Dark Plum and Smoke
Birthday Cake Three Ways
Vanilla Bean Butter Cake with a Vanilla Bean Buttercream and Blackberry Sauce
Dark Chocolate with a Mocha Frosting
Rose with a Mint Buttercream
- 2007 Vidal Icewine -
I was also really excited to finish off the evening with a rich, foamy cappuccino, something that's the cherry on top of a dinner like this for me. My new espresso machine, my big gift from my husband this Christmas, could actually keep up with making more than one drink at a time!
But the end of the night, we were stuffed. Each course turned out just the way I had hoped and each bottle of wine was paired nicely. It's nice to sip something different with each course, but it's something we can only afford to do on an occasion as special as something like this.
Here are a few photos from before they arrived. Usually I'm going mad in the kitchen at this point but this time, I had all day to prep and was relaxed and really enjoyed myself. I had just enough time to grab my camera and snap a few photos (forgive the dull lighting, but it was this or nothing!).
There were only four of us last night. My son was being occupied by his youngest Auntie in the basement, much to his delight, and my Father in Law unfortunately couldn't make it. He didn't know what he was missing, though he did get a small doggy bag brought home for him (which wasn't exactly the "turkey dinner" he was expecting me to serve!). It was probably a good thing because by the time each place was set, room on our little circle table was limited!
My mom and I have similar tastes. Usually, I just decorate how I would love it and she's always pleased! I wanted to keep things crisp and elegant so I just chose classic cream roses and plan white linens.
These pretty little clay birds came in different shades of cream and gray and where Christmas ornaments from Target. They doubled nicely as little napkin rings.
I had a lot of fun using my sets of stemware and full place settings. It's not too often they all come out, but it makes it really special when they do!