05 October 2011

Dinner Party at my Parents' House

My parents moved into a new and much larger home late last year, and have been wanting to entertain guests. And they also wanted to have dinner with my brother and me for our recent birthdays. I had a lot of wine on hand and felt like cooking, so we arrived at a compromise in which I planned the meal, they got the ingredients and had all of them ready and waiting for me. Everything came together spectacularly, and we all had a great time throughout the long evening.

In attendance last Saturday night were my friend Michelle, her charming boyfriend from France, my parents, my brother, and the elusive Lady A, making a surprise last minute appearance.

I'll be writing about the wines later so that I can keep them together with their respective groupings. As I write it all out, I realize there's no great theme with this dinner--I bounce from Spain to France to Greece to generic Mediterranean... I think I just wanted one last hurrah of fresh produce here at the end of summer. On with the food!

After a round of good cheeses and crackers with the Cru Beaujolais, I began things with a teacup of gazpacho I'd made the night before. I lucked out on a few pounds of heirloom tomatoes for a song (Cherokee Purples, Yellow Brandywines, and others, all nice and soft). Yes, I toasted the cumin seed and ground it by hand, and had just the right number of jalapeños to give it zing without heat. Here I served the Conundrum and Brancott Pinot Grigio, two light wines to begin the evening.

The next course involved saumon en papillote although this time I didn't cook it on the car engine. Chopped fennel bulb on the bottom, then a salmon filet, then seasonings and olive oil and sliced Meyer lemons and fennel fronds. I cooked it just so it was a little rare in the center, and it was light and delicate. Here I opened up a trio of wines that would go well, all from the Benziger Signaterra line: a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir.

Καρπούζι με φέτα again! I haven't quite made it for everyone I know yet, so I can cycle through it at various dinners. But I'm craving it, and it's fun and easy to make. Everyone loved it, and I hope more people give it a shot. I tossed it all with chopped mint, a little olive oil and vinegar, black pepper, and some pink Himalayan salt. I let it drain through a colander during the prior courses, so that the final salad was not soggy but had a concentrated fruit and salt flavor.

The main course was designed to show off Dad's new grilling and smoking rigs. The leg of lamb was covered in Dijon mustard and fresh rosemary and then trussed up and smoked for a few hours at low temperature on Dad's new Big Green Egg. While resting, the fire was cranked up to allow for a quick grilling of yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, radicchio, and endive, each of which had been marinated in a variety of vinaigrettes. There at the end of the table are the two standbys for roasted meat in the summer: homemade horseradish sauce and parsley-cilantro-mint chimichurri.

Here the big reds came out: Signaterra Three Blocks and Signaterra Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect pairings, and as stated, I'll have links and details and tasting notes later. We finished up the evening with a wonderful apple pie and a couple of Ports.

As good as all the food was, I think everyone really enjoyed the 30 minute pauses between courses, allowing for leisurely digestion, much sampling of wine, and boisterous conversation that sometimes involved the whole table and sometimes broke off into separate groups. Many thanks to my parents for hosting, and I'm looking forward to doing this again.


Angela said...

That all looks beautiful, especially the gazpacho--and now I need to click on that link about cooking salmon on the radiator...

Benito said...


Many thanks, and I'd suggest trying the gazpacho before cooking on the car engine. We're on the tail end of the tomato season, with plenty of overripe ones available at the farmers market!


Michelle said...

We had a great time and the charming Frenchman especially liked the Three Blocks. The dinner was fabulous and I have been craving lamb with horseradish sauce
and the parsley-cilantro-mint chimichurri. Thanks to you and your family for hosting us!

Allen said...

Great afternoon and evening. Thanks to all that came, cooked, enjoyed the wine and the conversation.


Benito said...


I'll pass along recipes for the sauces.


Couldn't have done it without you. And the Big Green Egg. :)


' Le ' Boy friend said...

Dear Benito,

Many Thanks again to you and your parents (as well as your brother for the nice pictures). It was nice to invite us, at this wonderful dinner. I was not aware of its connection to your birthday date, so Happy Birthday, you are a ' cachotier '
When we left so late, I thought on our way back about all these dishes that needed to be washed and all the clean up to finish. I hope you and your family did not go too late to bed...

' Le ' Boy Friend

Benito said...

Le Boyfriend,

Great to finally meet you in person, and thanks for the kind words. I think I'm going to add "cachotier" to my business cards. I've always enjoyed being a bit mysterious and surprising.

À votre santé,