|Tim Premselaar, Peggy Swistak, Gary Neumann, Shelley Hovind|
We have attended so many beautiful parties hosted by friends during this festive holiday season, but earlier this week, it was fun to host a very casual post-Christmas dinner party for just a few friends. The Christmas decorations were all still up and the house looked beautiful with the extra lights and candles that Christmas brings.
As usual, setting the table is my favorite part of entertaining and I had the most fun setting the table with all the red and green table accoutrements. But then, since people generally expect food when they are invited for dinner, I had to also turn my mind to a suitable, casual menu. I decided to try to recreate a delicious pasta entree that I had eaten recently at The Rainier Club, but with all the Rainier Club staff being off this week, I had to make it up as I went since I couldn’t get the actual recipe.
|Susan Neumann with ZiZi and
Our version of the pasta dish included a bed of fresh spinach sauteed with garlic and lemon in olive oil topped with al dente penne pasta and then layered with caramelized onion, bacon, roasted fennel and asparagus followed by seasoned fresh bread crumbs, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and finally a soft poached egg on top. The egg helped provide the “sauce” (similar to a Carbonara sauce) when people cut into the egg. Thank heavens I had Judy Hebert of Hey Jude Catering helping me in the kitchen, since poaching eggs at the last minute turned out to be quite challenging! Plus, Judy can generally help keep me settled down when I am entertaining because she is so calm and efficient. Whew!
But, back to the beginning of the evening. When the guests arrived, they were offered a selection of our featured Manhattans courtesy of Susan & Gary Neumann or the special holiday drink I mixed from the recipe from my daughter, Katie Laramore, called Ginger Cranberry Cosmos. Tim Premselaar brought a selection of his single malt Scotch collection for sipping as well, including a Talisker and a Bunnahabhain and a third one that I cannot remember.
|Michael Swistak contemplating his winnings
flanked by Peggy Swistak and Sandi Premselaar
For hors d’oeuvres before dinner, we served Dungeness crabmeat tossed in horseradish mustard sauce on Belgian endive tips, tomato, garlic and basil bruschetta with melted fresh mozzarella, and fresh vegetables with a lemon-anchovy-caper dipping sauce. Herb parmesan bread and an arugula salad with pomegranetes and pistachio nuts rounded out the menu with the pasta. For dessert, I served Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce, recipe courtesy of friend, Annette Parks.
|Sandi Premselaar, Nancy Strom, Susan Neumann,
Peggy Swistak, Cathi Hatch
|Van Strom, Susan & Gary Neumann play the game|
|Susan and Michael split their winnings|
ZiZi Zinfandel Z-Dog managed to find her way to the dinner table by successfully begging to be included on laps of the guests.
Following dinner, Shelley & David Hovind excused themselves since David is still recovering from knee replacement surgery while the rest of us adjourned into the Day Room to play a spirited dice game of “Left-Right-Center“.
There we also consumed a 1984 vintage port, fudge and Christmas cookies to keep up our strength for the rigors of the game. Michael Swistak was the big winner of the first game, but Susan Neumann, who loves to play games and is very competitive, quickly talked him into sharing his winnings with each of us so we could play again. Following another raucous game with an appropriate sound track handled by Van Strom, Susan actually won, but after helpful urging from the rest of the group, she agreed to split her winnings with Michael.
We ended the evening by attempting to take a photo of the women, which turned out to be rather challenging since everyone wanted to hide behind someone else.
As the guests departed, I knew that the holidays really are over now and it is time to get ready to begin a new year. The Christmas decorations came down the following day so now the fun of the 2011 holiday season is all just a happy memory.