Welcome to Dining In

On the surface, the challenge is simple – prepare a meal that consists of at least three courses (appetizer, entrée and dessert) and write about it. The bigger challenge, however, is to create an eating experience at home that transcends time and place and engages all the senses. It’s a meal that includes great food and wine for the palate and the nose, a sense of anticipation for the brain, a presentation and table that is a feast for the eyes and background music to set the tone.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Fall Feast in Syracuse

In November, Cheryl and I got together at her house in Syracuse for a “girls only” weekend. The main event was the dinner we prepared on Friday night, which featured the recipes of Ina Garten and Mario Batali.

We started out with an antipasto. Ina never apologizes for assembling and neither will I.  An antipasto, my mother always told me, should be sweet and bitter, so I always try to include some sweet items along with the savory.  Most of the ingredients for this plate came from Wegman's Mediterranean Olive Bar. This plate included cheese, marinated mushrooms, melon wrapped in prosciutto, a tomato topping for bruschetta, olives, bread and a garnish of pomegranate, lemon and leaves.  The cocktail in the foreground is Cheryl’s Pomegranate juice and vodka on the rocks. The cocktail in the back is a dry Cosmopolitan – my drink of choice.

The next course was the Barefoot Contessa’s Onion Soup , which Cheryl prepared.

The salad course consisted of Mario Batali’s Shaved Fennel with Blood Oranges, Pomegranate Seeds and Pecorino. We couldn’t find blood oranges in November, so I used grapefruit. Not quite the same, but it was ok.  This is really a great salad to make in January and February when you can find blood oranges in the grocery store. This salad is all about flavor and texture. Every bite is five different experiences – sweetness, saltiness, cold, wet, crunchy … it’s awesome. Worth the effort.

Another Mario Batali dish was the main course – Lasagna Bolognese Al Forno. One of my all time favorite recipes and it never fails to wow the crowd. You have to use fresh pasta sheets for the lasagna. It really does make all the differences.  This is very rich with a lot of meat, but the tender layers of fresh pasta make each bite melt in your mouth. There’s very little cheese in this recipe, but the cheese is quite strong, so a little goes a long way.  Again – labor intensive, but worth every step. The picture here doesn't do the dish justice. It may look like the dog's lunch in the photo, but it is fabulous.

We finished the evening with a simple, but delicious Barefoot Contessa recipe – Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate.

To accompany all this we had an Italian wine, an Aglianico -- Tenuta del Portale Aglianico del Vulture Riserva 2004.  I thought it was delicious. 

The playlist (posted below) was a mix of fall-themed music.

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
Ridgetop, Jesse Colin Young
Haunting, Carly Simon
We Just Got Here, Carly Simon
Season Of The Witch, Donovan
Stormy Weather, Etta James
How Deep Is The Ocean?, Etta James
Fields Of Gold, Eva Cassidy
Autum Leaves, Eva Cassidy
Witchcraft, Frank Sinatra & Anita Baker
All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
Anyway the Wind Blows, J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
Spooky, Martha Reeves
The Long Black Veil, The Chieftains
Harvest, Neil Young
When The Leaves Come Falling Down, Van Morrison
Golden Autumn Day, Van Morrison
All Saints Day, Van Morrison
Moondance, Van Morrison
September Grass, James Taylor
October Road, James Taylor
Urge for Going, Joni Mitchell


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