Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

September, 2009 browsing by month



Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Thanks a gazillion to everyone who has read the blog this month. I am so thrilled that I have had over 1,000 hits in September.

Special thanks to the lovely Celine at Hop City, who helped me pick out a celebratory champagne for tonight!

Here’s to more cooking and dinner parties in the year ahead!

xoxo, Patti

The Beef Bourguignon Experiment

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I’m sure a lot of you went to the movies and saw Julie and Julia. Beef bourguignon seems to be very popular right now. Especially now that Autumn is sneaking up on us and there is a chill in the air (isn’t it exciting?) Its lure is not lost on me and I made up a pot last night, based on Ina Garten’s recipe (that for some reason will not link). I followed the recipe and after 1 1/2 hours in the oven, it was still not ready. The meat was still tough. Hmmm, what to do? Well, for one, I had to put dinner on the table and this was not going to suffice. What’s in the fridge? Some leftover chinese from Sunday night that had been yummy. It’ll have to do. I warmed everything up and we had a buffet right there in our kitchen – standing up. So gourmet – or not.

Anyhoo, back to the beef. It is in the fridge ready for tonight. I trust that putting it back in the oven for another 1.5 hours will put it right. And I am more prepared, having picked up a loaf of cuban bread with which to dunk.

I will let you know tomorrow how this all turned out.

On an entirely different note, I wanted to thank everyone for reading. It looks like I will have had over 1000 hits this month and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

If there is a recipe you would like to see me tackle, let me know. I am here for your amusement!

xoxo, Patti

A Mountain Retreat

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Hello Darlings!

Eric and I are refreshed from a fabulous weekend at the home of our dear friends Matt and Clint in Sky Valley. Oh it was a delight! We were the first to arrive on Friday night, so we let ourselves in and opened up the cabin and set about lighting candles and setting out nibbles for happy hour. Clint and Matt arrived a short time later and we had drinks and the artichoke dip with stone ground crackers I had picked up at The Mercantile. I also picked up some ridiculously delicious cookies there for our dessert. Chocolate chip and peanut butter.

The plan was that each couple would take one night to make dinner. I made ziti with garlic bread for Friday night and after drinks and snacks, I heated up the oven and baked the dinner. It turned out really well and we dined outside on the deck with gas lanterns and candles while birds and crickets provided the background music.

After dinner was cleaned up, we went on the most fun hike. In the dark. Looking for bears. Apparently, one has been spotted, but this time, no such luck. Or we were lucky not to see the bear. Either way, I can’t remember the last time I took a walk in almost total darkness and it was so totally cool. Granted, I was huffing a bit from the hills I couldn’t see, but it was a blast.

The evening was capped off with a rousing (and I mean Rousing) game of foosball. Matt and me against Clint and Eric. I do believe that Clint and Eric won this one, as my foosball skills leave something to be desired. Bless Matt’s heart, he was so patient with me. Then we played some Wii bowling. By this time, we were all beat and slept soundly.

Saturday morning greeted us with rain. Lots of rain. As we meandered through our breakfast of english muffins and fresh fruit, we plotted out the day’s plan. Matt wanted to show us the waterfalls and we all wanted to check out the flea market and go into town for lunch. The rain would not deter us! First stop, the waterfall. I tend to forget sometimes how beautiful the United States really is. This was one of the most gorgeous landscapes I have ever been blessed to see. The rain didn’t matter as we just gazed on its beauty and immense size.

Next stop – the flea market. Oh what interesting people watching. I picked up 6 red pressed glass champagne flutes for a song while Matt got to know the goats.

Then we moved on to Miss Megs for lunch. Oh, boy, what a treat! Miss Julee, the sweet proprietress, was just a bubbling over with stories. And her food was fab. We all chose the pecan chicken salad on fresh baked bread and the seafood chowder. The four of us ate while Miss Julee entertained us with tales of the restaurant.

If we hadn’t had enough fun already, Matt took us for a long drive home on country roads, but not before stopping at an outdoor church complete with a family cemetery and a pass through his sister-in-law and brother’s property so we could pick fresh blueberries for Sunday morning pancakes. So many blueberries!

Then it was back to the cabin where Matt, Clint and I made birthday cupcakes for my darling Eric (he was napping). Something went awry and Matt found himself struggling with the beater, while I lunged for my camera. Matt was a very good sport and let me snap the chocolate mess.

Matt and Clint hung a Happy Birthday banner on the mantle and Eric was most surprised. The cupcakes were pretty darn tasty, too. But we saved those for dessert.

We whiled away the rest of the afternoon playing with photos on the computer. Then it was time for dinner. Clint and Matt cooked up the yummiest dinner that included grilled hangar steak, sauteed turnip greens and the creamiest cheese grits. I contributed some beets that I had leftover from Kathianne’s vegan dinner and we feasted. It was so good.

Eric fell asleep early and the boys were kind enough to let me pick the evening’s movie, “American Zombie”…did I tell you what good sports Matt and Clint are? It was a snoozer. But we did dig into Eric’s birthday cupcakes, reasoning that there were more than enough to celebrate again tomorrow.

Sunday morning brought wonderful blueberry pancakes made by Matt and I ate more than my share of those tasty wonders. After that, Eric and I got packed up and got ready to go back to Atlanta. Eric indulged me and took me back to the flea market for a lovely glass jar I was coveting and I was able to find it and get it for a steal. We also stopped at the farm stand for some of the biggest apples I have ever laid eyes on. The market also had multi varieties of pumpkins. I didn’t know there were so many different types!

We also stopped at Goats on the Roof…a roadside attraction where they have – what else – goats on the roof!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Matt and Clint for the most incredible weekend! You all are the greatest!

xoxo, Patti

The Sheer Joy of Being A Guest

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Last night, Eric and I were the happy recipients of a dinner invitation from our new friends Chris and Erin. What a wonderful night.

I’m telling you, my darlings, this was perfect textbook entertaining. These two did not miss a beat. Everything was amazing. We were joined by my adorable friends, Clint and Matt, who are so awesome that any time you get to spend time with them is an immense treat.

First, the table was beautiful. Take a look at how pretty Erin made everything for us.

We started out with two delicious cheese and proscuitto rolls, one which was kidnapped by their cuddly soft labradoodle, Charlotte. You know this makes for a great story later!

Next, we were treated to a luscious caesar salad. So good. Not a drop left. Chris did all the cooking, and boy can he cook! The entree was linguine with clam sauce with steamed mussels atop. The sauce was so terrific and Chris shared that he used anchovies in the sauce. It was to die for. Here’s a photo of our charming host at work.

We also ate our share of garlic bread (is there anyone who can resist garlic bread?) and then the next show stopper – german chocolate cake for dessert. Here’s a pic of the cake (beautifully staged and shot by artist extraodinaire, Matt Belfi).

Matt also captured yours truly licking the plate (such a no no! lol)

Not only did the meal totally impress, but the company surpassed the food, if that can even be possible. Stories were told and the entire evening was filled with quippy, pithy repartee. I can’t remember ever laughing this hard at a dinner party.

Thanks a million, Chris and Erin, we love you!!

xoxo, Patti

Learning to Love Vegan Eating

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

As a birthday gift for my sweet friend, Kathianne, over at Nourish.Create.Bloom, I promised to make her a special dinner. Today was that day. As we discussed her gift, she let me know that her husband was vegan. Totally vegan. Hmmm…this seemed like a delightful way to discover a new way of cooking. I was thrilled to do the research and even more thrilled to try something new.

I didn’t know much about this way of life until I did some googling. No dairy – no any type of animal by products. Putting on my creative thinking cap, this is the menu I devised:

Appetizer – Endive stuffed with tabouli
Side Dish – Grilled beets and asparagus with lemon olive oil
Entree – Polenta cakes topped with a mushroom ragu
Dessert – Fresh strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar and topped with ground pepper

And then I did what any cook would do – I called Miss Devore over to taste test it with Eric and I last night.

I have to say…it was devoured in no time and loved by all of us. The only recommendation was to fill the endive with much more tabouli. Which I did today.

Many thanks to Kathianne and Brian for teaching me something new and delicious. Eric and I both agreed that we should definitely incorporate more meals like this one into our home.

xoxo, Patti

Meatloaf, Taters and An Ugly Cake

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I love having folks over on a weekday. It saves them from cooking and means that I get to spend more time alone with Mr. Eric on the weekends. Last night, we invited 7 friends for dinner and ended up with 3. Which meant there were 5 of us at the table, including Eric and me. Since it had been flooding here in Atlanta and our darling Crystal is the spokesperson for the Georgia DOT, she and her sweetie had to decline. She was at work trying to dry out the state. One had a last minute project at work and the last just didn’t show up. That happens. Those who were there had a great time and there were leftovers to take home.

The menu was simple. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans and cake. I thought after all this rain, we could all use a little comfort. My only snafu was the cake. I made a vanilla cake, filled it with raspberry preserves and iced it with chocolate frosting. Now, I don’t claim to be a wonderful baker, and while it looked good, the layers kept sliding all around while I was trying to frost the little devil. Here’s a photo for you:

It tasted delicious and no one made fun of it, so I was happy. It’s always nice to have very polite dinner guests.

Hope all of you are staying dry!

xoxo, Patti

Duck and Cauliflower

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Eric and I had a super easy supper Monday night. We had been shopping at Super H and spotted a vendor selling roasted ducks. We purchased one and brought him home.

I don’t know why I didn’t take photos of this – it was not like buying a chicken at the grocery store. When the time came for me to take him out of his bag and heat him up, I was surprised by his little ducky head. I’m not used to looking my food in the face and have to admit, this was a bit disconcerting. But, kitchen girl that I am, I good naturedly took the head off while trying not to think “Aflac!” at the same time. He tasted really, really good. And as we were trying to keep it simple, we decided to try a roasted cauliflower recipe that has had my interest for some time. I don’t normally care for cauliflower, but we scarfed up every morsel – it was that yummy. Here’s the recipe from the nice folks at

Roasted Cauliflower Recipe

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely minced
  • Lemon juice (from 1/2 or a whole lemon)
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut cauliflower into florets and put in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish.
  3. Toss in the garlic. Squeeze lemon juice over cauliflower and drizzle each piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. If the oven hasn’t reached 400°F yet, set aside until it has.
  5. Place casserole in the hot oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown. Test with a fork for desired doneness. Fork tines should be able to easily pierce the cauliflower.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

xoxo, Patti

Val and the Homemade Tortellini

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Val and I have been trying to hook up for various cooking sessions. On our first attempt, we made homemade pasta and on Friday we tried our hand at homemade tortellini stuffed with a lemon ricotta.

Making the fresh pasta was a breeze and the filling turned out nicely, too. Next, was getting the filling into the pasta. This proved to be a little more tricky than first thought. Although we used water to seal the edges, the filling kept oozing out of many of our adorable tortellini. We tried to reseal the best we could and then put them on the grate to dry.

I suggested that we might consider frying these as opposed to boiling them, thus allowing more filling to get out of those precious pasta bundles. Val did just that and reported that they turned out perfectly. Here’s the recipe from our cooking afternoon.

Lemon Ricotta Filled Tortellini

Pasta dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 for egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cornmeal, for dusting

Lemon Ricotta Filling:

  • 8 oz container of ricotta
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 egg


To make the pasta dough: In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook*, combine the flour and salt. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to mix. Drizzle in 1 tablespoons of the olive oil and continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

*Alternatively if you don’t have an electric mixer: Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Continue as directed above.

Cut the ball of dough in 1/2, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the narrowest setting; the dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick (you should be able to see your hand through it.). Dust the sheets of dough with flour as needed.

Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Dust the counter and sheet of dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta, and brush the top surface with the egg wash, which acts as a glue. Drop tablespoons of your favorite filling on 1/2 of the pasta sheet, about 2-inches apart. Fold the other 1/2 over the filling like a blanket. With an espresso cup or fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife to cut each pillow into squares and crimp the 4 edges with the tins of a fork to make a tight seal. Dust the tortellini and a sheet pan with cornmeal to prevent the pasta from sticking and lay them out to dry slightly while assembling the rest.

Cook the tortellini in plenty of boiling salted water for 4 minutes; they’ll float to the top when ready, so be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Lift the tortellini from water with a large strainer or slotted spoon. Bathe the tortellini in your favorite sauce to lightly coat and serve.

xoxo, Patti

A Sweet Treat and A Special Hiding Place for Karen

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

If it’s Wednesday, that must mean it’s zombie shooting night with Miss Diane. Yay!

Since I am fresh from a post about Jolene Sugarbaker, I thought I would honor her by making my own trashy dinner. This culminated in tamale salad. Eric and I thought this up when we were living in Tampa and watching our pennies. It is so yummy and cheap! And easy. Here’s the recipe:

Tamale Salad

  • 1 box of Goya frozen tamales (4 servings)
  • 1 bag of salad (your choice)
  • 3/4 bottle of salsa (your favorite)
  • Mexican Blend cheese
  • Sour Cream
  1. Boil the little bags of tamales as directed on the box
  2. Divide your greens between three bowls
  3. Divide salsa over greens
  4. Sprinkle Cheese over salsa
  5. Place one cooked tamale over greens
  6. Top with sour cream

Serves 3

And since I felt so guilty about serving something so lowly to our good friend, I decided to make it up to her with a special dessert. Eric and I were served these in a restaurant in Venice (Ca.) and were wowed by them. They are super easy to make but everyone is crazy for them. I know it has a special italian name, but I can’t seem to find it. So call it whatever you like, but remember to make extra!

  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Amaretto Liquor
  • Amaretti Cookies – 7 oz bag
  1. Crush up Amaretti cookies and place in a pie dish
  2. Drizzle 1/4 cup of Amaretto over cookie crumbs and stir
  3. Take an ice cream scoop and make five scoops. Place scoop into crumbs and cover each scoop completely
  4. Place in a covered container and place in freezer until ready to serve

Serves five

You might want to serve this in a pretty colored bowl or even martini glasses garnished with a sprig of mint.

While I was making dinner last night and Miss Diane and I were visiting in the kichen, Karen decided that sitting on the bottom tier of the marble island was a perfect place to hide. She was so adorable that I thought I would share her picture with you.

So it looks like my lazy streak has passed. Tomorrow Val and I are making homemade tortelloni! Stay tuned.

xoxo, Patti

Cooking Videos Are Helpful

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Hello Darlings. Since I am so lazy this week, but still want to keep in touch, I thought I would share this most helpful cooking video.

Yummy, cheap and classy…what more could you ask for?

Jolene Sugarbaker is the queen! Enjoy!

Cornchip Pie Recipe Video With Jolene

xoxo, Patti