Priceless: A Dinner Party Adventure

Jeremy here...for those who know me, it's no surprise that Halloween is my favorite time of year. I love all things "horror"—including movies, books, music—so it's great fun to see the rest of the world participating in my genre, if only for a few weeks. Of course, growing up watching old horror flicks, you're bound to bump into a particular actor on more than one occasion: Mr. Vincent Price. Most of you know him as the creepy character in many a scary movie, but did you know he was also a highly regarded collector of art? Would it also surprise you to learn that he dabbled in culinary adventures, together with his wife, Mary? And that they actually authored cookbooks, once upon a time? When I discovered this little tidbit of information, I was eager to obtain one, just to see if the dishes would include baby's brains, curdled eyeball of newt, or any number of myriad other spooky recipes. All copies were long out of print, but thanks to eBay I managed to snag a hefty tome entitled A TREASURY OF GREAT RECIPES. It assembled concoctions from around the world, culled from famous chefs and restaurants, and then given a "modern" spin (if you can call 1965 modern). As I read these very straightforward dishes, an idea formed: a private dinner party, featuring the recipes from this book. And what better time than Halloween! And, so, with Juliet's cooking skills at the forefront, we set about planning...

We wanted this to be a more formalized dinner party, three courses, no buffet service, with wine pairings. Once we had selected our guests, we chose dishes that would not deeply offend anyone, but would also offer up a unique experience. No run of the mill recipes here!

To start, we set out bowls of Marcona almonds, olives, and a huge wedge of Parmesan cheese. We got a great deal on Mo√ęt & Chandon Champagne, which paired nicely but also offered a kind of thematic when added to the chicken dish.

Our first actual course was Carrot Vichyssoise. Carrots, potatoes, leeks, and lots of heavy cream, whipped up nice and creamy then chilled. Cold soup isn't everybody's cup of tea and for some of our guests it was a new experience. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We paired a 2009 Simi Sonoma Chardonnay, whose sweetness faded pleasantly when met by the soup's creamy textures on the tongue.

Chicken in Champagne Sauce came next, with a 2009 Rodney Strong Sonoma Pinot Noir. The wine stood up straight and proud all through the course. Juliet had baked and basted the chicken breasts and thighs in the heavy cream, butter, and champagne sauce, adding some roasted potatoes to the mix. Very rustic and French. The chicken skin had a nice golden snap to it, and you could practically drink the champagne sauce.

After a slight detour into deep discussion and a couple of spontaneously opened bottles of GlenLyon Syrah, we served dessert: Grand Marnier Cake. We baked the almond cake in a bundt pan, poured a Grand Marnier "cocktail" on the bottom, then let it soak all the way through. Sweet, rich, and a bit tipsy, it was the ultimate show-stopper. We opened a bottle of 2006 Rodney Strong Port and brewed coffee to "fill in the cracks".

In the end, our dinner party adventure was declared a success. Everyone seemed to like the food and we got just the right mix of interests for great conversation.

Until next time!

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