Archive for the ‘My Dinner Parties’ Category

For a long time I’ve been a summertime white Lillet fanatic.  Over ice and sitting on my deck.  It’s quite an old fashioned apéritif.  This was confirmed by my friend Frantz who informed me that it was also a favorite of his Grandmother’s…pffft…so, I guess that just makes me timeless.  In an effort to modernize my apéritif  habits, I’ve lately been sipping Virginia Vidal Blanc, but not just as an apéritif.

At one of my dinner parties, I served Old House Vineyards 2009 Vidal Blanc with a grilled curry shrimp, as an appetizer.  I even had Damien Blanchon, Old Field’s winemaker, grilling the shrimp for me.  The slight sweetness of the Vidal Blanc and spicy curry was a good combination, but of course, I have my critique.  And that is that I should have simmered the shrimp in the curry sauce, vs. marinating it and then grilling.  For the simple reason that it didn’t have enough spice.  I use Patak’s Curry Paste, which I buy at Cost Plus World Market.  It is really a simmering sauce and now I understand that is how the spice and heat develop, when I’ve previously used it.  So, next time I will let the curry paste simmer (add a bit of water) for 20 minutes and then put in the shrimp for 5 minutes to cook.  I bet it will then have the spice that I’m looking for.

The apéritif that evening was the Janisson et Fils ‘Bleu’ Champagne.  It was a gift from my friend, Pamela Margaux of Margaux & Company.  This champagne is divine.  Brilliantly fresh with subtle fruit and flower characteristics.  50% Pinot Noir, and 50% Chardonnay.

The main course was a Grilled Marinated Flank Steak and a Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs.  The marinade I used has become my favorite,  and makes an inexpensive cut like london broil or flank steak sing.  This was paired with King Family Vineyard’s 2007 Petit Verdot (sold out, you’ll have to wait for the 2008).  The rich, dark fruit of the PV paired beautifully with the steak.  The marinade makes a difference, and you will understand when you click through below, to the recipe.  Of course, one bottle wasn’t enough, so we also opened a bottle of Old House’s Bacchanalia, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Tannat, for the cheese course.


Dessert….one of my famous cakes!  A Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries, paired with a Prosecco. 

Frantz Ventre opening the Prosecco!

And then we finished off with Old House’s Chambourcin Port…..ahhh, a perfect evening!

Recipes are compliments of Epicurious.com:

Marinated Grilled London Broil/Flank Steak

Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

I am forever apologizing for the quality of my photos….so, why should now be any different!!  My other dinner guests:  Katy Bradley & Damien Blanchon, Jenn & Benoit Pineau were not done  justice by my very  blurry pics.  Never mind….I’ll get the hang of it someday!

Let me know how you like the recipes…and enjoy!



“I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens.”
Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of U.S.)


Read Full Post »

No, this wasn’t a romantic pre-Valentines dinner.  It was simply another of my dinner parties this past Saturday with my friends, Frantz and Karina.  The menu of Corned Beef and Cabbage, was made from James Beard’s 1965 recipe.  Sooo easy and it was delicious…recipe below.  Dessert was one of my specialities, Cherry Clafoutis.  For those who aren’t Francophiles, Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert; sort of like a baked custard and traditionally with cherries.  Although, being the adventurous recipe freak that I am, I have made it with white peach and blueberries, when in season, and my French friends have joyfully accepted this messing with tradition.  I poach the peaches in Lillet first….can’t wait for summer to return!

What did we drink??  Frantz is a fine winemaker and has made a fortified white dessert/apéritif wine from Muscat.  So we sipped a bit before dinner while noshing on hummus and olives.  With the main course, we started with a lovely Grenache from Domaine André Brunel, a new estate in Southern Rhone Valley.  A simple Vin de Pays, which pairs great with a workman’s dinner like corned beef and cabbage.  This wine is imported by Robert Kacher Selections   , one of my favorite portfolios.  If  I am browsing wines in a shop, looking to try something new, I always look for who the importer is, and if it’s a Robert Kacher, Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch…to name a few, for sure I will try that wine.  They focus on smaller, quality producers.

Then we moved on to a bolder, more complex 2006 Meritage, made by Frantz for Sweely Estate Winery and called ‘1867’.  Frantz is originally from St. Emilion, so his roots show forth in his winemaking.  The blend is 75% merlot aged for 12 months in new French oak, and 25% cabernet franc that stayed in stainless steel.  The fruit is rich with dark cherry, slight toast and leather, with a hefty structure and tannins just enough to tell you that this baby will age beautifully.  This wine garnered 3 Gold Medals, one from an international wine competition called The Dallas Morning News….., but I’ve been drinking this wine from inception and it was fabulous even before the medals arrived.

We continued to drink the Meritage with the cheese course, which was a buttery, soft Robiola from the Piedmont Region of Italy. A combination of sheep & cow’s milk.  I highly recommend this cheese. Be sure to let it sit out and ripen before serving.  And this could also pair with a full bodied white wine.    We went back to the fortifed Muscat for dessert and it paired beautifully.  Already you get lots of ripe pear and once the alcohol settles down, this wine will be fantastic.  Frantz will continue to nurture this wine along and I am always honored when a winemaker shares their work-in-progress with me.

My only Valentine story is that I received a dozen red roses from a “Secret Admirer.”  No kidding!  I think I may have figured out who the masked admirer is…but, regardless, I spent V-Day curled up on my sofa watching my favorite love story, Pride & Prejudice,  with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy….now why couldn’t Colin have been the secret admirer!

I haven’t forgotten…here is the Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe – serves 6 with some left overs. I made a smaller portion.

6 lbs. of corned brisket of beef (I just used a brisket of beef)

6 peppercorns, packet of pickling spice (I used  2 palmfuls of McCormick Pickling Spice)

3 carrots, peeled & quartered (I used more, because I love carrots cooked this way!)

3 onions, peeled & quartered

1 medium-size green cabbage, quartered or cut in wedges

Melted butter (4 tablespoons)

Place the corned beef/brisket in water to cover, with the peppercorns and pickling spices in a large pot.  Cover the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 hours or until tender, skimming occasionally. During the last hour, add the carrots and onions, and cover again.  During the last 15 minutes, add the cabbage.  Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and brush the vegetables with the melted butter.

 Serve with parsleyed boiled potatoes, cooked separately.

Recipe from House & Garden

January 1965

James A. Beard

 A cook from Auburn, CA suggested using Guinness while simmering, and I plan to try that next time.



Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: