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

October, 2009 browsing by month


So Proud and Holeman & Finch

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Happy Halloween, Darlings!! It’s finally here! First, let me tell you what my angel of a friend, John Pearce did.  He donated 25 pumpkin buckets to the kids in my neighborhood so they would have a great way to carry all their candy booty tonight. He’s my hero today!!! Love you, John!

Also, John and Danny invited Eric and me to join them at the kick off party for Pride Weekend 09 last night at the Georgia Aquarium.  We had a blast!  John Walker, the adorable PR fella for the Aquarium, and close friend of John and Danny’s, had expected maybe 500 party goers. There were 3000! It was crazy!  We had never been to the aquarium and it was breathtaking.  You know I have to share the most fun pictures with you.

One of the four whale sharks

Click to continue »

A Night Out With My Delicate Flowers

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Oh Darlings, this week has been a flurry of activity!  What with getting ready for Halloween (almost done with Eric’s costume!) and all our other events.  Crystal and I took some time to breathe deep and enjoy a night out with our wonderful friend Kathryn, who just finished the 3 Day Walk for Cancer (20 miles per day!)  Our destination – The Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Now, I have lived in Atlanta on and off since 1992 and have never been here.  Oh, what I’ve been missing!  And Kathryn chose this night so we could watch the Chefs Pumpkin Carving Contest.  Kevin Gillespie of this season’s Top Chef was one of the competitors (we saw him in the lobby after the challenge and he looked beat).  But there was so much more than that to see.  Custom Scarecrows dotted the landscape with their spooky and funny personalities.  I have just got to share with you.

First one up – A giant panda with a giant cupcake!

A dragon made from recycled cans

“Will work for food”

Me, with the cooking crow lady

Very hungry pumpkin baby

Pumpkins all laid out for carving

Part of the Henry Moore Exhibit

My favorite photo of the evening
One pink lady’s slipper

One of the pumpkin entries


What does any of this have to do with cooking? Well, not a whole lot. But we did see Kevin Gillespie from Top Chef and lots of those scarecrows involved food or cooking (Atlantans love to eat!)  We girls just wandered around, catching up with each other and getting to know Kat’s friend Gabrielle.

I arrived home after 9pm – Eric was just winding down from his workday.  Neither of us had eaten. What’s for dinner?  I’ll tell you what’s for dinner – pappardelle and boar ragu, that’s what.

Remember my advice about a stocked pantry?  We were sitting down to a gourmet dinner in less than 15 minutes.

Today – making lunches with Lisa at her Cabbagetown Market – come say hi!

xoox, Patti

The Best of Halloween

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Hello, Darlings.  I have been most busy at home with costumes and decorations for the big Halloween holiday on Saturday.  So, not much cooking – there’s nowhere to eat with everything all over the dining room table.

But I wanted to bring you something cool to get you started for your own Halloween celebration. You’ve bought the candy, yes?  Good candy? Not candy corn and Werther’s Originals, right?  We’ve got Tootsie Rolls, Baby Ruth, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Milky Way, Milk Duds, Hershey Bars, 100 Grand Bar and Crunch bars.  So I think we’re set.  Weren’t you disappointed by the houses that gave out lame candy? Why bother? No Dum Dums, either. You might as well turn out your lights and go get a beer.

I’m sure you got the good stuff.  How about decorations?  Here’s some photos from our house to yours:

She crash landed on our middle column – but missed the first one?

Something super spooky for the older kids

My adorable mice and spider pumpkin
idea courtesy of Martha Stewart

Ohh, spooky and sparkly!

Side of the porch

Front door fun

Those are my decorations, but out there in blogland there are some truly astounding ideas.  Here are a few that I really loved.

First, from Matt Bites , are these stupendous candy apples to go with a holiday cocktail. Could you die over these wine glasses?

Professionally spooky!
Photo by Matt Armendariz

Go check out his unbelievably cool site for all the info.

This next site made me clap my hands with joy.  She is the Un-Martha at Not Martha .  This dinner idea was just too much. I am so making this next year.

Creepy, cheesy meatloaf!!

This site is my new blog crush. You have to see how she did this. Don’t you just love it?

And from Not Martha to Martha.  Remember those Monster Fingers I made?  Here is what they are supposed to look like.  I might be more Not Martha than Not Martha.

Click here for all the ghoulish details from Martha

What about your costume?  Mine is ready to go and Eric’s is almost finished!  A couple of places that should be able to overnight you the goods if you waited too long: is a fantastic source. They have a ton of costumes left (I checked for you) and are able to overnight them so you can be awesome on Saturday.

Spirit is a cool place with pop up stores just for the season.  When I visited the store earlier this week they were very patient and helpful and had just a ton of insanely wild stuff.

Here in Atlanta we are dressing up to give out candy to the kids from 5 – 8 pm, then off we go to a couple of really spectacular parties before heading back to our neighborhood party til the wee hours.

You know I will reveal our costumes on Sunday morning.

Happy Haunting, my dearies!!

xoxo, Patti

Special Note:  I will be cooking with Lisa at Cabbagetown Market tomorrow. I will be making the special – Dilled Chicken Salad. Come see us!

Pork Belly and The Vikings

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I am becoming the denizen of cook one day, eat the next. From our beef bourguignon experiment and now the pork belly situation.

Pork belly is so divine.  And it’s cheap! If you cook it yourself at home.  Why it is so outrageously priced on restaurant menus is beyond me. It’s large pieces of bacon for goodness sakes.

Monday afternoon I seared two 1.5 lb pieces of pork belly in my huge skillet and then dropped it in the crock pot with two bottles of shiraz and five garlic cloves to cook at high for 3.5 hours.  After all that time it did not seem right.  So, into the fridge it went for Tuesday night’s dinner.  Tuesday arrived and I put the pork belly in for 8 hours on low.  This is what we ended up with:

Pork bellies

Somehow I felt it turned out a little dry. Eric and Miss DeVore really liked it, though. I guess we really are our own harshest critics.  We rounded out the meal with tossed salad and green beans.  We are trying to watch our figures around here, after all.

Well, okay, we’re not saints, so we had Halloween candy for dessert.  They’ll be plenty left for the kids, so no worries. Heck, we bought enough candy to feed all of Atlanta!  So a few taken here and there won’t hurt anyone.

We are still working on that costume for Eric.  Bolts of fur needed to be moved before we could eat. This costume is overtaking our home! LOL.  Here are some photos of our dining room table that really made me laugh with its randomness.

Even though we took out all the candy,
we only had a few each – really!

Even with these clues, betcha can’t guess
what the costume is!

Eric, Miss DeVore and I were especially giddy last night.  A rollicking good time was had by all.  Pretty much everyday we are having the time of our lives.  We are home in Atlanta, where we belong, surrounded by a zillon of our darlings and life couldn’t be better.

Today I will pick up chicken breasts to make into dilled chicken salad to take to Lisa’s on Friday.  My dilled chicken salad sandwich will then become a lunch special at her adorable Cabbagetown Market.

I encourage you to come visit.

xoxo, Patti

It’s All In How the Lemon Curds….

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Hello, Darlings.  I have been asked by a few readers for some recipes.  One request comes from Vicky over at Tradition Moderation Simplicity, who was kind enough to try our carrot curd recipe and was curious about the lemon curd recipe from which it originated.  This is for you, Vicky!

Lemon Curd

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth.

Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Strain mixture through a sieve before moving to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

There you go, Vicky. Easy as pie. Lemon Pie!  It is so good – either on scones, layered on cakes or cupcakes or just by itself.


xoox, Patti

Pumpkin Carving Party

Monday, October 26th, 2009

We have had a very homespun weekend. From Friday night’s viewing of Drag Me To Hell, Saturday’s Pie Off and Sunday’s Pumpkin Carving Party, it has been small town USA  around here. I love it!

Before the party, my darlings John and Danny swung by to drop off a tent from our friend Mary Anne – a tent, y’all!! Oh – I should preface. Not a camping tent – Miss Hospitalityaholic is not likely to be found in the woods in a tent.  No, an event tent – a big white one! It is so exciting!  And while Eric and Danny played a little Mad World on the Wii, John helped me with our Halloween decorations for the front porch.  When it is totally done, I will share with you.  Maybe tomorrow.

And then it was off to the pumpkin carving over at Brad and Dawn’s house.  They host a lovely pumpkin carving party, I must say.  Brad whipped up a huge batch of brunswick stew, Crystal made hush puppies (she has been cooking all weekend!) and there were s’mores for dessert. Yum!  Here’s our host serving up some stew – it was so delicious and spicy.

A man and his stew….

A bowl of spicy, meaty deliciousness

Made better with Crystal’s hush puppies…

After eating it was time to get to carving. I had found my idea from Martha Stewart and it was adorable and easy. Especially since my awesome husband cut open and scooped out my pumpkin for me.  All I had to do was bore holes in it and carefully place my mice and spiders in it for a spooky effect.

My sweetheart doing the icky work for me

Isn’t it cute?

Two of my favorites, Dawn and John Charles

Big sister Megan

Teague working on his super scary jack o’lantern

Eric’s completed masterpiece – he drew this free hand!
And it matches my spiders, too.

Our Pie Queen gets her hands dirty with&
the most intricate pumpkin pattern

Megan and the pumpkin that Mom carved for her

A passel of pumpkins

Ohhhhh, scary!

It was a wonderful time with friends around the fire, enjoying our handiwork.

I hope you are enjoying the season with loved ones.  And getting your candy ready!  I might knock on your door.

xoxo, Patti

A Feast for the Senses – Homemade Pie and French Onion Soup

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

UPDATE: Read more about our Pie Off at my friend Mr. Tim’s blog

Happy Sunday, Darlings.  Saturday was so wonderful. Just a perfect day.  I got up early to make my sweet potato pie for the neighborhood pie off. Eric got up very soon after (on a Saturday!)  There was a park dedication across the street from our house with a cookout and live music, as well as the pie off at Tim and Becky’s house.  The pie off is well loved by our neighborhood and this was the second annual. Becky made everything look so beautiful and the pies were so spectacular that every photo was fab.  Let’s share:

BBQ on the park

Waiting for the contest to start
(there I am in the green sweater and pink scarf)

Pies awaiting judgement

The categories were sweet and savory

Miss Becky’s Incredible Key Lime Pie

My darling boys, Taruan & Chioke, enjoying pie<

Our bestie, Jeff, who would kill me if he knew I put his photo up – Shhh.

Someone liked my pie!

Kids love pie

This is still such a new contest that all the rules and regulations are still being set. When I first brought my pie to Tim and Becky’s house, I was told to write the type of pie on a card so no one would know who made it.  Then it was decided to have a “Parade of Pies” for all the contestants.  Um….wouldn’t everyone know who we were if were parading with our pies? Lol. I love our little small town neighborhood that lives under the guise of being “big city.”  Today we were all Mayberry.

The winner? I am thrilled to announce that it was my darling Crystal, whose ginger pear pie made everyone swoon. And it was adorable to boot! Take a look:

Contestants awaiting voting results
(Isn’t Becky adorable in her polka dot hostessing apron?)

And now, let me introduce to you, your Pie Off Queen for 2009 – Miss Crystal!

Hooray for Crystal! And hooray for all of us getting to eat pie! It was a blast.

But there was a costume at home waiting to be built. Eric and I headed home (it’s so great to have a neighborhood where we can walk to all our friend’s homes), saying hello here and there to various neighbors all enjoying the day.
Eric and I spent a good part of the early evening cutting patterns and sewing this beast of a costume. It was so much fun to have a quiet evening with just the two of us puttering around, making a furry mess of the house.  When it came time for dinner, we both knew we were making onion soup and just couldn’t wait.

The onions prepped, butter and oil melted in the pan – the phone rings.  I had been waiting to hear from friend and neighbor Tracy to call me so I could help her into her Elvira costume for a party she was attending.  Eric was so great to watch over the soup so I could run across the street to play dress up for a minute.  Here’s a pic of Tracy.  Doesn’t she look amazing?

Tracy as Elvira at the party

With Tracy all tucked into her dress, wig and shoes, my work here was done.  Home to Eric, two cuddly dogs and onion soup.  I didn’t realize I had been gone an hour (girl talk!) and my darling had tenderly watched over our dinner. The house smelled delectable!  And my sweetheart was so sweet to take pictures of the process – he’s so wonderful! Some foodie photos for you:

Starting the onions

Yummy, Carmelized Veggies

Action Shot! Stirring in the beef stock

Simmering for three hours

Time to Eat!

Holy Toledo, it was good. We used Julia Child’s recipe and couldn’t understand why she didn’t include more herbs and spices. How could we have tried to second guess Julia? She’s always right. This soup, with its croutons of Tuscan bread and shredded gruyere was perfection.  My darling served up the soup and we ate while watching my Gators beat Mississippi State.  Eric even cleaned the kitchen as I finished watching the game.  That, my darlings, is the perfect husband.

And the end to a perfect day.

Warm yourselves up with some soup and some pie. You will have a huge smile on your face. And I love it when you smile.

xoox, Patti

Monster Fingers and Movie Night

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Yesterday was a favorite type of day. Scheduled to make cookies with my friend Dawn and her little one, Megan.

But best laid plans – Dawn had a family emergency and could not make it.  I had just put together the sugar cookie dough for our afternoon.  Hmmmm….we had folks coming over for movie night and I had a bundle of candy, snacks and popcorn.  How about one more treat?

I saw online where someone had made finger cookies. So cute. I only wish I can remember where I saw it so I could give them credit.

Anyhoo, I shaped the dough into fingers and topped the fingernails with raspberry jam. Don’t they look cool?

Ohhh, spooky!

Tray full of spooky!

I baked them at what I thought would be the appropriate time and temperature, but they took longer than I expected. A lot longer.  And how did I not expect them to expand like crazy? Like any cookie would.  What I ended up with was what Miss DeVore called “Monster Fingers”.  Or “Ogre Fingers” – I like that one, too.

Oh! You would like to see a picture of the finished product? Well, ok.

Even scarier Monster Fingers

So, my advice to you, if you choose to make these, is use very small pieces of dough.  Roll them very long and skinny and they should look more like people fingers. But monster fingers are fun.

Last night at movie night we previewed Drag Me To Hell from Sam Raimi. Campy, funny and sometimes scary.  There were 10 of us nibbling on Halloween Candy, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, Monster Fingers, Cajun Trail Mix and of course, Popcorn.  A fun night was had by all.

We had three snack stations so no one had to wait

More snacks and party favors

Today, we are off to the neighborhood Pie Contest, in which I am entering a Sweet Potato Pie. Yum. I will report back on all the pie-y goodness.

Make your Saturday count!

xoxo, Patti

The Times Of Our Lives

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

There are times in our lives that are defining, life changing.  I was so lucky to witness one such moment yesterday at Kathianne’s.  After she and I sat down to the most satisfying lunch of luscious split pea soup (my favorite!) and yummy rosemary cheese biscuits, her husband arrived home.  Now, I did not know that her husband was a trauma surgeon, our friendship is that new.  But trauma surgeon he is and he had come home to check his final test scores that would determine their future.

The yummiest lunch

I am thrilled to report that I was fortunate to catch their special event on film. But the doctor is private and would prefer not to have his photo online. Understandable.

I quickly took my leave so they could start celebrating. A million congrats to you both.

Time to get home – so much to do!  It was Mrs. Walker’s birthday and I could not let the day pass without baking her a cake.  I decided on a chocolate mayonnaise cake with seven minute frosting.  Super tasty!

The recipe for you:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Adapted from The Red Hat Society Cookbook
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
4 heaping tsp cocoa
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.  For the cake, sift the flour with the baking soda.  In a large bowl combine the sugar, cocoa, mayonnaise, milk, vanilla, and flour mixture. Pour the batter into two 8 inch greased round cake pans.  Bake for 25 minutes. Cool

Time for the frosting.  I used Paula Deen’s recipe found here.  It is fantastic

And now some photos:

ready to frost! remember to use parchment paper under your
cake plate so you don’t have icing everywhere!

Like this

Halfway there

Good to go!

My frosting skills are getting better. They are still very homespun, but what can you do?  Well, if I ever want to go to Carnegie Hall, the answer is “practice, practice, practice….”

Frosting completed, I happily walked my cake next door to a very surprised Mrs. Walker.  And not a moment too soon, either!  Just after I arrived, Mrs. Walker’s daughter Cheryl, grandson and great grandbabies drove up.  I was tickled to share in one of their special moments as Cheryl’s granddaughter (who couldn’t have been all of 4 years old), sang Happy Birthday.  It was adorable.

And again, I quickly took my leave so they could celebrate as a family.  I’m getting good at this.

And for my own special moment for the day? Besides getting to be a veritable fly on the wall for everyone else’s magical times?  It came that night as Eric whisked me off to Sotto Sotto, a very high end restaurant here in Atlanta.  In the small and romantic room, we dined on sweetbreads with trumpet mushrooms, fungi risotto with black truffles, tortelli di mele – raviolis with sausage, apple and sage, and an amazing special of tagliatelle with lamb ragu. We shared the stories of the day, held hands and gazed in each other’s eyes.

The special moments are everywhere. Take a second to absorb it all.

Happy Friday, Darlings!

xoxo, Patti

Uh, The Dog Ate My Camera?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

You know when you get super involved and the time passes just like that?  Last night was like that.  It was Wednesday, and that means our weekly get together with Miss DeVore.  So many things have happened to both of us recently that we grabbed a glass of Chardonnay and got to gabbing.  The sweet potatoes were baking in the oven while I seared a pork tenderloin and put some broccoli in the same pan with wine and butter and just let it cook all together.  Then I set out to make a sweet potato pie with a ginger snap crust while Diane took a look at my site for editing purposes.

How was dinner? Well, pretty darn tasty except for the fact that I didn’t remember about pictures until after we were finished eating.  We inhaled this dinner and gabbed some more.

Miss DeVore was loving the mashed sweet potatoes.  Mashed is my favorite way to enjoy them.  Bake them, scoop them, put plenty of butter, cream and salt in them and enjoy.

The pie?  Well, it tasted just fine, but the crust was soggy on the bottom even though I had prebaked it first.  It was also my first trial for the Pie Off on Saturday, which I plan to enter – if I can get the crust right.

It was an exciting night – new developments for both Miss DeVore and me and…..what’s all that racket in the back yard?

I walked to the back door and Mrs. Walker was giving one of her sons the devil.  I asked her if she was okay and she held up a mop and showed me where  the handle had broken off – “I broke this on his butt!” was all the explanation she gave regarding her adult son, who had just sped off in his car.

Two lessons learned here – don’t forget the photos for my readers and DON’T mess with Mrs. Walker. She’ll get you.  I’m so happy she’s my neighbor. She’s the greatest.

And – it’s her birthday today! I am going to make her a birthday pie and take it over with some champagne.

Go out and have a gabfest with your besties. Just don’t forget the pie is in the oven.

xoxo, Patti