We had a somewhat spur-of-the-moment company night with our friends Chris and Julie. It’s something we don’t do enough lately (have people over for dinner). It seems as if dinner parties always works out better for me if they’re not over-planned, so I’m forced to just make things that are reliable and delicious, rather than try to make an entire meal made up of things we’ve never tried before.
My strategy was to make things that I could do ahead of time and that took minimal preparation once our guests arrived. Homemade pasta is a perfect example of this – this sauce can be completely prepped ahead of time, and I made the pasta dough the day before and extruded it the morning of our dinner. I satisfied my urge to try something new with a terrific little crostini of brie, dates and toasted walnuts (Larry picked out the appetizer recipe). And the cake – it’s a moist white cake with warm spices and a boozy buttercream that Larry didn’t love (too boozy). But I thought the cake was perfect for a cold winter night, paired with the big Ridge Zin we were finishing off after dinner.
- Brie, Date and Toasted Walnut Crostini (Fine Cooking Big Buy Cooking, p. 77)
- Thomas Keller’s Pasta Dough (Oshii Eats)
- Bucatini in a Spicy Tomato Sauce with Crisped Pancetta (Fine Cooking #60, November 2003p. 98c)
- Sourdough Batard with Sauteed Garlic Butter (Fine Cooking #43, March 2001, p. 49)
- Arugula Salad with Grapes, Fennel, Gogonzona & Pecans (The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008, p. 30)
- Nutmeg-Spice Cake with Creamy Rum Buttercream (Flour, p. 170)
– 2006 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, California). Good, but not the best offering from Kosta Browne.
– 2005 Williams Selyem Feeny Vineyards Zinfandel (Russian River Valley, California). From a winery known for great Pinots comes a fantastic Zinfanfel. This is everything a Zin should be – balanced, fruity, big, food-friendly.
– 2007 Ridge Carmichael Zinfandel (Alexander Valley, California). Also good, but a little overshadowed by the Feeny!