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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: There's No Place Like ONE Home Celebration Dinner


I have some very happy news to report – we have finally sold our old house!  Those who have been reading a while may remember that we moved into our wonderful new home back in the fall, but unfortunately it took us a bit longer to get rid of the old one.  Initially I had planned to make a celebratory meal when we moved into the new house, but paying two mortgages did not make me feel like celebrating at all.  I decided to push the meal back until we could truly celebrate both our new house and having only one house payment!  I also thought this would be a great opportunity to share the occasion with some of our closest friends who have been so supportive during the last few months when times were tough.  I’m thrilled that Foodbuzz sponsored this meal.   I always enjoy being a part of their 24, 24, 24 event.


Selling the house has felt like a huge weight has been lifted off of us, and I wanted this meal to be a truly elegant and decadent celebration.  There were several special recipes that I had mentally bookmarked months ago for this occasion, and I have been waiting and waiting for this delicious day to finally arrive.  I always have so much fun hosting these events, but this time was even more fun because my wonderful friend Shanon helped me design the menu and prepare all the food!  Our menu was as follows:

Beverages:
Champagne cocktails
Beer and wine

Appetizers:
Steamed Artichokes with Dipping Sauces
Tomato Mozzarella Basil Tarts

Salad:
Summer Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Viniagrette

Entrees:
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
Seafood Gratin

Sides:
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans Parmesan
Herbed Dinner Rolls

Dessert:
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

With all the fresh flowers on the table and the menu we selected, my friends declared this a “very Ina Garten meal”.  I love Ina to pieces, so I thought that was a wonderful compliment.  It definitely seemed fitting since so many of my “very dear friends” were in attendance!


Champagne cocktails were a must since this was a true celebration.  I had some strawberry puree in the freezer so I added a shot of that and a shot of apple juice to the flutes, and then poured champagne over the top.  They had a cool tri-level look that isn’t really obvious from these pictures, and they tasted great.  Strawberry and champagne were just made to be together.


I’ve previously been totally intimidated by fresh artichokes, but knowing they are in season and how much my mom used to love them, I was determined to include them in the menu.  Shanon taught me how to prepare them.  We steamed them and served them with melted butter as well as a pesto mayo.  They may not be the most elegant food for eating, but that didn’t seem to deter anyone.


I have posted about these tarts as a full-size version before, but I have found that made mini-size, they make perfect appetizers.  People go nuts for them (myself included).  The basil-garlic crust really takes them to another level of awesome.


The salad – oh, the salad.  How I loved it.  I have never been much of one for fruit in my salads, though I’m apparently coming around on that.  Since lovely ripe strawberries are every where these days, I thought this would make a great starter.  This was actually inspired by a selection from Panera’s menu last year.  I never tried it but always thought it looked great, so this was my attempt to recreate it at home.  The poppy seed vinaigrette was very nicely balanced with acidity and creaminess, and the dish in general was just gorgeous with the colorful fresh fruit.


It was fun to give guests entree choices in advance of the party.  For the meat eaters, I knew bacon-wrapped filet mignon was bound to be a hit.  Since it was raining we had to move our grill to the front porch underneath the overhang (classy, right?) but it worked out fine.  Meat and more meat is always a popular choice!


Okay, this seafood gratin is unbelievably good.  This is the dish I have been most looking forward to making since we moved in October.  With lobster, shrimp and cod pieces in a tomato cream sauce and a buttery bread crumb topping, how could this be anything but wonderful?  Chicken gyros may be my favorite any-night dinner, but I think this has definitely taken the title of my favorite special occasion dinner.

I forgot a photo of the roasted garlic mashed potatoes, but hey, we’ve all seen mashed potatoes before.  Mashed potatoes + roasted garlic = delicious.  Period.


I’ve seen gorgeous green beans a lot lately when I go to the store, so I really wanted to include them in the menu.   The tomato, shallot, and Parmesan-bread crumb topping were wonderful additions and I think this is my new favorite way to make green beans.


Typically I serve some sort of bread with a compound herb butter, but this time I switched it up and made a roll with herbs already included.  These were very tasty and the individual herb leaves pressed into the tops made for an impressive presentation.  I always pipe butter into individual dishes.  It’s a nice, simple touch that takes next to no time but makes for a very elegant look.


Holy dessert.  This was a true show-stopper.  My friends were all hovering while this was being served, just dying for a slice.  I can’t blame them – it’s like dream food.  I’ve said before that I love triple chocolate anything, so triple chocolate mousse cake was bound to be heaven for me.


Andrew provided quite a bit of our entertainment for the evening, sitting at the table like a big boy and telling us lots of things in toddler babble.  He also took his pants off multiple times throughout the meal.  We’re still working on manners ;)

As an added bonus for all those readers who have begged for a party-planning tutorial, here you go.  This is how I make it happen, and take all the stress out of hosting a get together.


First, plan your menu.  Things to take into consideration:

  • The general tone of your event – casual, elegant, or somewhere in between.
  • What ingredients are in season – feature them!
  • Keep the meal well-rounded – carb, protein, veggies, etc.  Try to choose dishes that compliment each other.
  • Difficulty level and time requirements of the various dishes – you don’t want to be spending too much time in the kitchen instead of spending time with your guests.
  • Plan some items that can be made at least partially made in advance so you don’t have too much going on at once.
  • Any dietary restrictions, likes or dislikes of your guests.


Get all of your recipe resources together in one spot.  You need to carefully look through all the recipes in advance so there are no surprises when it’s crunch time.


Make a shopping list.  Be sure to include trips to specialty stores as well, such as the butcher shop, liquor store or florist so you remember everything you need to do.


Write out a timeline for the day of the event.  This is the most important step in planning, because it takes all the guesswork and stress out of entertaining.  You think out everything in advance so that when the actual time comes, all you have to do is what is on the list.  I usually start by writing the time guests arrive at the bottom of the sheet, and then work backwards in figuring out what needs to be done when so appetizers are ready on time, when dinner should be served, etc.  Even if you get behind and don’t stick to the timeline exactly, you’ll still have the general guideline of what to do when and it is hugely helpful.  I also like to leave some blank spaces because inevitably I think of something I forgot to add initially.

Recipes will be posted individually as future posts.  Those that will be posted include: artichokes, strawberry salad, seafood gratin, green beans Parmesan, herbed dinner rolls, and triple chocolate mousse cake.

  • http://penniesonaplatter.wordpress.com Pennies on a Platter

    Purely awesome! Glad to see I’m not far off with planning for parties. Your method mirrors mine!

    And – believe it or not, I actually see the cool tri-levels in your champagne cocktails! :)

  • http://maggiedon.blogspot.com maggie donaldson

    Oh my – you have the luckiest friends in the world. They must jump for joy when they get the phone call “hey, guys, we’re having a party”. The Seafood Gratin looks splendid. Congratulations on the house sale, by the way.

    I too do a full-on plan like this when doing a big meal with lots of elements. I stick it up on the kitchen notice board and cross out jobs with a marker pen. However, I have got used to friends and family (particularly my brothers) amending the plan on Christmas Day with notes such as ’2:15 to 2:17 – visit the loo (except MUCH more crudely worded)’, ’7:15 to 7:20 – have a tantrum because the roast potatoes aren’t crisp enough’ or some other witty comment!

  • Shanon

    YAY! YAY! YAY!

  • Amanda

    Everything about this meal looks wonderful! Will you be featuring the seafood gratin recipe? Congrats on only one house payment!

  • http://christines-cuisine.blogspot.com Christine

    Congrats on selling the old house! The party looks fantastic! I just made the triple chocolate mousse cake – it really is amazing!

  • Annie

    Amanda,
    The list of recipes I will be posting is at the bottom of the post. And yes, I will post that one.

  • smellslikehome

    love it Annie! so glad to see your 24 party went off without a hitch…the food, of course, looks amazing! looking forward that strawberry salad post!

  • http://bshipley.blogspot.com/ Becky S.

    Oh my that all looks so great!!! I can’t wait for you to post the recipes!!!

  • http://pinkparsleycatering.blogspot.com Josie

    I love those parmesan green beans and the seafood gratin. And I am DYING to make that triple chocolate mousse cake. Everything looks so pretty and yes, very Ina :-) Congrats on closing on your old house!!

  • http://www.sporadiccook.blogspot.com Julie

    Holy cow…that’s an awesome looking meal! I know a lot of work went into it, and it definitely paid off :)

  • http://beingsuzyhomemaker.blogspot.com Lindsay

    Annie, I have been reading your blog for awhile and always enjoy your recipes. I am new to food blogging and am inspired by your site! I too recently made the triple chocolate mousse cake but my chocolate curls were not nearly as lovely as yours. Can you write a post on how you made them? Thanks!

  • http://www.nibblemethis.com Chris

    Note to self: Quit taking pants off at dinner table. Apparently this is socially unacceptable.

    Glad that grilling the fillets worked out despite the rain. I’ve done the cooking under shelter thing before. It’s fun trying to keep the smoke out of your eyes, isn’t it?

  • Christy

    I love your blog and I love Ina as well. I have made her seafood gratin and LOVED it. I’m interested to read about any changes you made.

  • http://appetiteforconversation.blogspot.com Appetite for Conversation

    Looks like a beautiful affair!

  • Lindsey

    Awesome! It looks so lovely. I hope to see the seafood gratin and triple chocolate mousse cake really soon. I’d love to possibly try those recipes for Mother’s Day!

  • Annie

    Lindsay,
    It doesn’t take anything special really. I actually already have a post scheduled for this Friday with cupcakes topped with chocolate curls, so hopefully my tips in that post will help you.

  • Alexandria

    Annie, congrats on selling your old home! Your party looked so elegant , not to mention delicious. That is such a pretty picture of you too, love the dress. :)

  • Haejin

    Wow! I’m planning on a party soon – these all look so good! I can’t wait for the recipes to be posted!!!

  • http://www.healthyfoodforliving.com Lauren

    Gorgeous spread of eats, and CONGRATS on finally selling the old place!

  • http://wrenthewhitetrashprincess.blogspot.com/ Wren

    Eppp it al looks so delish! This is my fave food blog ever you have fuled many a dinner party recipe for me!

  • Stephanie A.

    Oh My! My jaw dropped when I saw how organized you were for planning this celebration meal. All I can say is……WOW! That’s truely awesome; and it looked delicious & beautiful!

  • http://www.emilyeatsclean.wordpress.com Emilyeatsclean

    Looks beautiful AND delicious!! Thanks for sharing all your great party planning tips with us!

    -emily

  • Lauren

    As always, everything looks great! (Oh and I work at Panera and that salad comes back every summer. It is by far the most favorite item around the summertime)

  • http://bakeitafterall.blogspot.com Meghan

    Wow, Annie, this dinner party looks amazing!!! You did such a fantastic job! I especially love the individual butter dishes – I’m sure it makes each guest feel special! Congratulations on selling your other home; I’m sure it is such a relief to have that done. Looking forward to the posts with the recipes from this elegant evening :)

  • http://ourhappyhomeblog.blogspot.com Hannah

    Everything looks amazing! Thanks for sharing with us such great party planning and great food. I love your blog. I have not been disappointed once with any of the food thank you for all your great recipes, you have inspired me to cook more and learn to bake!

  • http://justmydelicious.blogspot.com/ Paula

    I love this champagne coctails!

  • Darcys

    I was blown away with your post today, a lovely read to hear of the happiness in your tone that the old house has now found a new owner and that you could now move on to embrassing your new home. What a lovely dinner do you planned, prepared and carried out true Annie-style, Awesome. Well done and always an inspiration x

  • Anne

    Hey Annie! Can’t wait for the chocolate mousse post!! :) Hope you post it soon!

  • Lisa

    Congrats on being down to one house. As always, your food looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing your tips for party planning. Andrew is a little cutie pie.

  • http://tideandthyme.com Laura

    Great post, Annie! How could I have not tried the tarts yet? They look wonderful. Lovely choice on the flowers too, I adore hydrangeas!

  • Jennifer

    I’m dying to eat that seafood gratin…I can’t find the recipe. Simply wonderful menu…can I be your friend please!

  • JennyG

    Congratulations and WOW what a meal—thanks for taking time to share planning and menu. Looking forward to the recipes.

  • http://confessionsofacookbookqueen.blogspot.com/ cookbook queen

    Beautiful pictures, it looks like you had a really elegant party!! And nice handwriting by the way!!

  • Peggasus

    I do it the same way, working backwards; I feel much less stressed with a detailed plan. I agree with everyone else, it looks fabulous! The only thing I didn’t see on there was showering, getting dressed, and having a short sitdown with a glass of wine before the guests’ arrival!

  • http://al4food.blogspot.com Valen

    Everything looks amazing! Especially that cake!

  • http://www.pantrytales.blogspot.com Nicole G

    Congrats, Annie, on selling your house! I feel your pain. This is why we haven’t started building our new home yet, we have been trying to sell our current home for over 2 years now! We just absolutely could not handle paying two mortgages so here we are still waiting. I am, as always, so impressed with your blog post and your dinner parties! Wow, you are amazing! I only hope that I can learn to juggle things better and improve my food blog. Yours is a great standard to strive to be like!

  • Kim M.

    Looks wonderful! I have a 21 month old little boy and he also likes to take his pants off when I’m entertaining! How funny, the artichokes look magnificent!! Congrats on one house payment!

  • Jenn

    Hi, Annie – Fun party. I was wondering from your last party if you could post the recipe for your pitchers of Sex on the Beach drinks. I have been anxiously waiting. Congrats!

  • Annie

    Jenn, I plan to post that recipe soon. Someone else recently reminded me that I hadn’t posted it. I’ll definitely share it soon!

  • http://foodiechickie.com Ani

    looking forward to seeing the recipes especially the gratin!

  • http://www.abbeycatchat.com Amie

    What a wonderful dinner party! When am I invited? Just kidding, but seriously it looks beautiful. I can’t wait to get the recipe for the seafood gratin!

  • Melody Sanders

    Annie,

    I’m thinking a career change is in order for you! You have beautiful presentations!

  • http://www.20somethingcupcakes.com Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes

    What a perfect dinner party menu! I am always teased because choosing the menu for a dinner is often my favorite part. I never do the flowers like Ina {and you} but it does make a difference! Absolutely gorgeous and perfect. Enjoy your ONE home! xxSAS

  • RebeccaNC

    What an amazing dinner party! It blows me away that you manage a family, intern year, and entertaining so well. I always look forward to your posts. Thanks for doing your blog!

  • Erin

    That seafood gratin looks amazing!!! Recipe???

    Congrats on the house! One mortgage payment is definitely preferable over two!

  • Megan

    Hey Annie,

    I’m dying to know where you found your mini tart pans? The picture may be deceiving but the tarts look like the perfect two bite appetizer. The smallest I’ve been able to find is 3 and 3/4 inches.

    Thanks!!!

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    Congratulations for being one of the other 23. You must be relieved selling the old house and this was an amazing dinner party to celebrate !!

  • Aisha

    Hii! I have recently come across ur blog..absolutely loveeee it :D
    im thinking of starting my own blog–and urs is such an inspiration…

  • http://graciebs.blogspot.com Kris

    Congrats on only one home! What a relief that must be. I just found you through 24,24,24, I am new to foodbuzz and I really enjoyed your post. I may be a new follower now. Thank you for sharing, everything looked amazing.

  • http://www.delish-blog.com ash

    great looking spread! yay for finally selling the old house!

  • HB

    Everything looks amazing as always! Congrats on just 1 mortgage!
    It’s cool to see that we organize for events in pretty much the same way :)
    My friends tease me when they see my lists or timelines taped inside cabinet doors but it sure does help to put things into auto-pilot and to not forget anything. And flowers are an absolute must! Beautiful! Your pics are perfect!

  • http://foodalogue.com Joan Nova

    Congratulations…on selling your old home, on being selected for 24 24 24, for creating a beautiful menu and for a very nice post!

  • http://www.littleatonfamily.com Ryley

    Can you post the triple chocolate mouse cake FIRST!! I’m DYING for that recipe.. :)

  • http://www.aggieskitchen.com Aggie

    I seriously just love your blog! You have the best pictures, recipes and I love how you put together your menus!! Great post! And congrats on your new home! :)

  • http://heatherfeather-lavenderblue.blogspot.com/ HeatherFeather

    Wow! This entire menu looks so well planned and everything looks so tasty and beautiful. I would love to try the seafood gratin and the mini tarts, but honestly everything looks so good I think I will save each recipe once you make them available.

  • Kealy

    Annie,

    CONGRATULATIONS! The party, food,and decorations look amazing! Very excited for you and your family! Thanks for sharing and looking forward to trying many of these receipes! :)

  • Kristy

    How did you do the artichokes? TIA!

  • Annie

    Megan,
    My tart pans are actually on the larger size (3-4 inches) which is why I cut them in half for serving. Sur La Table has every size and shape of tart pan imaginable, including very itty bitty ones, so I’m sure you could find whatever size you are wanting there.

  • RebeccaIvyLou

    You have the most beautiful handwriting. As well as home. Food. Children. Looks. Kitchen. Recipes, etc etc. You have inspired me to cook so much more, and I bake almost every day now! Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  • Lydia MacDonald

    Hoping you will post the recipe for the delicious looking green beans parmesan sometime soon! I’ve been waiting patiently for the recipe :)

  • Annie

    I know, I know, sorry! I will, I wanted to tweak a few things and get a better picture before posting them. But I have not forgotten.

  • Jaime

    Your parties are fantastic…I only hope to be as good as you one day.
    OMG the green beans look amazing in that photo..cannot wait to see the recipe. I have been looking for a great green bean recipe. :-)

  • Lori

    The triple chocolate mousse cake looks fabulous but I can’t find the recipe on your site. Is it still posted somewhere?

  • Annie
  • Lucy

    This is really great – thanks for all the advice. I’m planning a party for my 11 year old daughter . . . do you have any ideas on themes etc?