Monday, July 19, 2010

Catering Experiment #1: Dinner Party Degustation

As an experiment, my friend J and I agreed to cater a dinner party for 14 guests, as a favour to J's local church.  The dinner party was actioned off and a small budget set for the purchase of ingredients. 

The challenge:  to provide a relaxed, restaurant-like atmosphere to the guests, serving quality home made food using local, fresh and in-season ingredients. 

We spent weeks fine-tuning our seating plan and menu, then finalised the list of ingredients and spent the afternoon before the party at the Queen Vic Market sourcing the best quality fruit, veg, meat and seafood.  This also allowed us to save money and choose the best looking produce.

Setting the table was the fun part.  J had the brilliant idea of making a flower setting for the centrepiece - I'm not a big flower person so couldn't really see the vision, but I'm glad I trusted her judgement as it turned out amazingly well.  I think J even surprised herself!

We then set the "placemats" (embossed paper squares), napkins (tied with vine-leaf ribbon), candles (tealights in espresso glasses) and cutlery, and voila!

Light some candles, add a couple of floor lamps, and the atmosphere is set...

The guests started arriving, and promptly tucked into french brie, drizzled with truffle infused honey (donated from my pantry) and roasted walnuts.

This was followed up by smoked marinated trout, and smoked salmon on toasts and mini frittatas, with dill and cream.

These were demolished quickly - J and I may have scoffed a few before sending them out of the kitchen.  The final canape we served was fried prawn wontons with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.  The prawns were simply marinaded in a little soy and sesame oil, before wrapping the wonton and deep frying.  Easy!

The guests were then seated, and we served up fresh bread using our respective breadmakers (multigrain and plain white), and a pear and parsnip soup.  I don't have a picture of the soup, but the bowls all came back clean so I think that's a good sign.  One of the guests asked for the recipe, which is simple:  Combine 2 peeled/chopped and roasted pears with 3 peeled & chopped parsnips in a pot, along with 1.5 litres chicken stock.  Cook, then add 1/4 cup sherry and 1 cup cream, puree in a food processor until smooth.  For the diet conscious, substitute the cream with light sour cream or skim milk.

Main course was free form curried chicken and mushroom pies.

And for the finale - dessert was a choice of sticky date pudding with salted toffee sauce, or chocolate tart with raspberry coulis:

From the clean plates, outrageous conversation and laughter, and reluctance of the guests to leave (we were still cleaning up at midnight), the night was a huge success.  

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