Monday, June 28, 2010

Pie Crust, Porchetta and Peonies - Story of a Dinner Party

Garden Dinner Party 6.12.10

Dinner in the Garden

Fried Artichokes
La Quercia Prosciutto
Castelvetrano Olives
Parmesan Reggiano

Andrew's Little Gem Lettuce Salads with Green Goddess Dressing
Porchetta Sandwiches with Arugula and Pickled Red Onions
Pickled Carrots and Wax Beans
Potato Gratin
French Potato Salad
Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir

Strawberry, Fig and Frangipane, Nectarine Frangipane and Cherry Frangipane Galettes
Whipped cream with Creme Fraiche

Garden Dinner Party 6.12.10

I kind of have to confess - when we put in our garden last year, we planned it to be as much a place to throw parties as a place to grow things. We put wide bark-strewn paths between the boxes for easy strolling, and made sure the center aisle was large enough for a long table with chairs on either side. Eventually we're hoping to put in a wood burning oven and food prep space and make this a regular thing. Luckily, San Diego allows for that during most of the year. The garden is actually coming along pretty nicely on the growing things side too - we have sage coming out of our ears (seriously, need any?) cherry peppers, strawberries, fennel, kale, carrots, radishes, thyme, lettuces, artichokes, herbs and hopefully, eventually, tomatoes. It looks like we're also going to have a bumper crop of both Meyer and Eureka lemons this year.
Garden Dinner Party 6.12.10

I decorated the table with arrangements of peonies, roses and hydrangeas that I picked up at Whole Foods and arranged in Ball jars. It's a good time for flowers in early June - there were lots of beautiful choices, and they lasted a few days since the weather wasn't too hot. We rented the tables, chairs and linens (except the placemats) from Raphael's party rentals. James set the table, and considering he usually pretends not to know what side of the plate the fork goes on, I thought he did an excellent job. Must be his country club waiter experience coming to the fore. ;)
Marc and Kenny swapping drinks...

We started the evening with some aperitifs - I put bottles of St. Germain, Aperol and Lillet on the bar along with some Plymouth Gin, and champagne. I mixed a few of my favorite Aperol cocktails and we did a little experimenting. At the very least, you can never go wrong with a glass of sparkling wine with a splash of Aperol or St. Germain.
Carciofi Fritti - fresh from the fryer - with lemon  & sea salt

I was determined to do some cooking in the garden, so we set up a deep fryer and fried these artichokes on the spot, alla Romana. Trimming them was a little bit of work, but they were worth it. We sprinkled them with a drizzle of lemon juice and some salt - some aioli would be even better.
Little Gem Lettuce Salads with Green Goddess dressing - courtesy of Andrew Spurgin

The salads - our first seated course - were prepared by our friend (and guest) Andrew Spurgin of Waters Catering. He prepared them on site - slicing heads of little gem lettuces in half, sprinkling them with herbs, pea shoots, baby tomatoes, sharp cheese and croutons, then drizzling them with his own rich tarragon-spiked Green Goddess dressing.
Garden Dinner Party 6.12.10

With dinner we poured one of my favorite rose wines, Robert Sinskey's Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. I first tasted it on a rare hot night in San Francisco at the now-defunct Tallula in the Castro and fell in love. The Weck jars on the table held homemade pickled onions, wax beans and carrots - the carrots were from the garden, the beans from Suzie's Farm and the onions from Sage Mountain.

The main course, the porchetta, was made with a whole pork belly and shoulder, purchased from Homegrown Meats. I rubbed the meat with kosher salt, and then coated it with a paste of garlic, salt, parsley, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ground red pepper, ground coriander and black pepper. The shoulder was wrapped in the belly, tied and allowed to dry in the fridge for a day before cooking - then slow roasted. We sliced it and piled it on Bread & Cie buns with the pickled onions and some arugula tossed with olive oil and lemon. On the side was a potato gratin, made with gruyere, chives and cream (it was kind of a chilly evening) and a French potato salad with an herb vinaigrette. There was a point where I was concerned about the gratin, so I made the potato salad as a backup - they were both eaten, so I guess it was a good thing!
To me?  Why thank you!
Dessert was an assortment of four galettes. I made the pastry dough earlier in the week, and rolled and filled it that morning. We had strawberry, fig and frangipane with figs from a friends tree, cherry frangipane, and a nectarine frangipane. I also whipped some cream with a little creme fraiche to top them - inspired by the delicious strawberry galette with creme fraiche ice cream currently on the dessert menu at Cafe Chloe.

Recipes coming soon!


  1. A great time with great people and greater food!! Thanks Alice and James!!

  2. What?! No mention of the fireworks?!

  3. It was such a lovely evening! My favorite yet. :-)

  4. The galettes as lovely as they were delicious...
    A perfect evening.... lucky me.

  5. I didn't know that Marc ran with such great people. It's nice to know. I usually just see him getting his morning fix at Starbucks.

  6. It seems that you really had fun.
    I love the vegetables on the bowl.