Wednesday, 10 August 2011

6 Courses Later

If we have been talking in person, on Twitter, or if you've read my latest blog posts, you know that I've been planning one, very special dinner party menu for over a month now. A month! That's a long time for this perfectionist's brain to stew over one event.

F. and six of his friends have been taking turns hosting Dinner Club for several years, but this past Saturday was the first opportunity everyone had to get together in quite a long time. It also happened to be F.'s turn to host, which meant that my first time attending dinner club and my first time hosting dinner club were one in the same. Moreover, while I've cooked for many a guest in the past, I had never had the space or resources to feed 8 people, especially not with such an extensive menu. Imagine my tiny apartments in both Bonn and Seoul, with a two-burner stove-top being my only kitchen appliance for years. While undoubtedly limiting, it certainly taught me to be creative!

It was an awesome challenge: one that made me feel equal parts nervous and excited.


Enter our theme of 'breakfast for dinner'. What initially inspired this theme were those gorgeous little packets called bacon cups that I initially wrote about in May. After eating (and loving) them, we thought it would be a fun twist to try to fancify breakfast foods into a Dinner Club meal.

After settling on a date for the meal, I got to work. I absolutely loved both researching and testing recipes over the past month and in the lead up to the big night. The menu changed almost daily, right up until the week before, when we finally had a solid plan in place. Even then, my first course (the recipe, not the concept) changed about four times that week, and again the day before the dinner. I admittedly got a little frustrated at one point, when so many of the chilled soup recipes we tested fell flat, one after the other. Too sweet, too boring, too bitter. None were the right fit! The recipe I eventually used on Saturday went untested, however, and it was by far the best.

The day began at 7am. I was excited. I couldn't sleep! There were cheesecake crusts to bake and trips to the market to undertake and everything had to be timed perfectly. So, up I was, and with my crust baked and cooling, I ran off to the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market to pick up some bacon and eggs from my beloved and trusted Windy View Farm. Based in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, they produce some of the tastiest bacon I've ever had the pleasure of eating, and I am more than happy to let it take up residence in my arteries. Happy, healthy, chemical-free piggies are overwhelmingly superior in quality and taste, and their meat is no more expensive than the stuff you find at the supermarket. With last minute bunches of fresh basil and flowers in hand, I was headed for home. 

While my completed cheesecake was in the oven, I mixed up the madeleine batter. While that was refrigerating, I started on my chilled tomato soup. While that was refrigerating, my cheesecake was cooling in the oven and then on the counter. Go go go go go! By the time the cheesecake finally made it into the fridge, F. was home from work with lunch. This dinner party amateur really surprised herself! My timing was spot on.

With several hours ahead of us, F. and I prepared the honeydew melon that was to serve as a palate cleanser later on. With still more time on my hands, I threw a split-decision Zucchini-Walnut-Yogurt loaf in the oven to accompany the madeleines and mimosas that were to kick off the evening. I think it's safe to say I have officially conquered my fear of the oven.

While that baked? We napped. Or at least tried to. Again, I couldn't sleep, so off I went downstairs to get started on the coffee granita: our second palate cleanser. It was at this point that Pat (see this post) dropped in with a potted orchid and a card from he and Erin, welcoming me to Dinner Club. What was that I said about eating in great company? This definitely applies with these two, and this little surprise completely made my day.

It was game time: F. was off to pick up our dinner guests. I got the madeleines in the oven and began preparing bacon cups for the main course. 

While everyone arrived, caught up, gave happy announcements, drank mimosas, and snacked on breakfast cakes, F. and I got working on the macaroni and cheese. While that baked, we began our meal, at long last.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is our Dinner Club round up! I feel like I say this a lot, but please excuse the composition of some of these photos; it was hard to take too much time out of the meal or preparation to try and get my personal best!

Over the next few days, I'll post some of the recipes from our dinner, along with our adaptations and tips, so keep checking back if any of these photos spark your interest!

Slightly overdone Honey Vanilla Madeleines (thought guests claimed to like the crispy edges!),  Zucchini-Walnut-Yogurt Loaf, and fresh berries.
Mimosas with Sparkling Rosé, which added a dreamy, pink hue to the liquid surrounding the strawberry!

Chilled Orange Tomato, Tarragon and Yogurt Soup.

Crushed Honeydew Melon, Mint, and Sparkling Rosé.

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese and  Bacon Cups with Sriracha. It's hard to make this pretty, let alone photograph it, but this plate was brimming with flavour and was a lot of fun to eat!

Why do I keep forgetting to photograph the granita? Because I'm enjoying it too much? It's quickly turning into a quick, summertime favourite. Stay tuned for photos and a recipe.

The Lemon Cheesecake with Berries makes a second appearance!

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What do you think? What might you have added or done differently? What are your favourite 'breakfast for dinner' dishes?

5 comments:

  1. The only thing I would have differently was invite ME!...lol Looks like some great food and friends. Was relieved to realize that was a half cherry tomato in the soup. Thought for a second it was okra :( The top of that cheesecake looks awesome. And, you know how I feel about bacon! ;)

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  2. As one of the lucky diners at this lovely meal, I can testify to it's deliciousness. Everything was executed beautifully and looked stunning. Kudos also to the excellent wine pairing, F. A wonderful night with _so_ much great food!

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  3. What a fun theme! (Breakfast is the best meal of the day as far as I'm concerned :-) The chilled soup sounds intriguing and delicious, and those bacon cups look pretty much like heaven to me. Super yum!

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  4. Lucky of your friends!!!! Everything looks so good and even the crispy Mads look amazing!!! YOu did such a great job!

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  5. Thanks for the lovely comments, everyone! It was a lot of fun and I definitely feel like I earned a few extra life and kitchen skills that night.

    Yes, F.'s wine pairings were awesome - I completely forgot to write about that (for shame!), so thanks for saying so!

    Alan - next time there's a good wind, get that boat of yours up here for dinner! I promise I won't serve okra :D

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