Sunday, November 15, 2009

Culinary win, photography fail, good friends make it all worthwhile

Last night I hosted a birthday cocktail party in my home for my dear friend Jennifer. It's been a little while since I've entertained a large group here and I can't think of a more appropriate occasion to kick off what is for me, the entertaining at home season.

I love cooking professionally but there is something, dare I say magical?, about cooking for friends. Of course cooking for those you love is extra special and then there is the added dimension of sharing the meal and the event with those for whom you've cooked.

Jennifer had, after much prompting and badgering from me for her preferences, asked for small bites and finger food. She said she loves things in pastry, and mentioned baked brie en croute specifically. She also expressed a liking for traditional shrimp cocktail.

It had been a while since I made and enjoyed just a regular shrimp cocktail. Sometimes I think I might get too wrapped up in trying new things and experimenting with ideas. It's good to keep in mind that many classics are classics for a reason. I was really enjoying those shrimp and judging by the way the bowl got emptied, our guests were too.
They are also rather healthy and protein rich app. Just try to avoid the sugary, high calorie cocktail Go with a spicier recipe and keep it thin. You don't want to get a tablespoon of sauce on each shrimp anyway. The goal is to taste the shrimp, not just the sauce.

I made a baked brie in puff pastry. I topped the brie with spiced, roasted quince to add some sweetness & depth of flavor. It worked. :)
This is one of those hors d'oeurves you want to reserve for special occasions because it will catch up with you.

The menu also included ahi tuna bruschetta, phyllo bundles of duck & crisp vegetables, a peanut noodle salad with scallops and my friend Julian brought chorizo stuffed calamari. He cooked them on the grill and the result were these two bite explosions of smokey, spicy flavor.

The item I was most personally pleased with, because it was and experiment, was my lamb wellington. I pastry wrapped lamb loin and instead of mushroom I made a chestnut duxelle for it. I was really pleased with the flavor and how well the silver dollar sized held together when sliced and plattered. Along with a dish of red wine demi to drizzle over it I thought it made a really nice hors d'oeurve. And again, it's a nice lean protein with a little bit of pastry and the chestnut duxelle was very light.

Of course, I would have had photos of all this to share with you but I somehow managed to accidentally change a setting on my flash and it suddenly wasn't working. Since I was busy hosting and to be fair, drinking, I wasn't going to fool with the thing mid-party and try to figure out what I did wrong. So, no photos of all the wonderful food I mentioned. :(

The one thing I did make a point to get some photos of was the cake.
Jennifer and I enjoy watching the Food Network cake sculpting competitions together. Hey, we're food geeks after all. ;)
And if you are familiar with those shows at all you probably know that Redmond's own Mike's Amazing Cakes is one of the best cake sculptors in the country. So it seemed only appropriate to get her cake from there.

Important things to know about Jennifer is that among her many interests, she loves her shoes and has an amazing shoe collection. She is an avid reader and has an impressive book collection. She also collects Disney snow globes.

So here is the cake as delivered.

Here is a closeup of the work. Hard to believe it's a cake, huh?

And finally here is the complete cake including the snow globe topper.

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