Wow, I’m completely flattered and honored to be one of the 200 food bloggers chosen to move on to Round 3 in Project Food Blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you (again) for your votes and encouragement! I seriously LOVE you guys!!!

And now, on to Challenge #3: Luxury Dinner Party. The next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family. Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. Share your hosting secrets with readers, like how to cook for a crowd, plan a menu, or involve guests in the prep.

New and exotic flavors, huh? Now that’s challenging, especially since my blog is anything BUT new and exotic. My blog is just….me. Nothing fancy, cutting edge or by any means exotic; just fun, simple and full of bubbly personality. That’s me. I was so nervous when I read the challenge…“Luxury?!?!” My brain immediately started going off in SO many different directions. Until I realized, “this challenge isn’t about what Martha Stewart or Ina Garten would do…it’s about me and my blog. What I would do.” So just exactly what kind of dinner party would Amy throw, do you ask? A simple one. With delicious, comforting flavors, good wine, good company, and most importantly- good music.

“To eat, to love, to sing, and to digest; in truth, these are the four acts in this opera buffa that we call life, and which vanishes like the bubbles in a bottle of champagne.”
-Gioacchino Rossini

Food and music have always gone hand-in-hand. In my opinion, we couldn’t survive without either. Great composers such as Gioacchino Rossini and Franz Schubert thought so. Schubert used to host musical dinner parties once a week – he and his closest friends would sit down together and enjoy a delicious meal, followed by a few hours of good music. What a perfect evening! Rossini was the ultimate foodie and was said to have cried only three times in his life; the first after a disastrous opera premiere, the second when he heard Niccolo Paganini play the violin, and the third when a picnic basket containing his favorite dish, turkey stuffed with truffles, fell overboard during a boat outing.* Rossini took opera and food very, very seriously. So do I. That’s why I’m combining two of my greatest loves into one fantastically delicious, music-inspired dinner party! Come in and join us!

*taken from my Opera Lovers Cookbook

A supper beckons us! The best ever! The choicest delicacies are always eaten and drunk here!
-from the opera Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss

First up on the menu is a Caramelized Onion-Cranberry Tart with Bacon and Gorgonzola. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this is- the tart cranberries contrast so nicely against the sweet caramelized onions, smokey bacon and salty gorgonzola. An absolute crowd-pleaser.

I served a simple salad of mixed greens with toasted walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries and thinly sliced Grannysmith and Honeycrisp apples. Honeycrisp apples are pretty much my favorite flavor of Fall, so I just had to incorporate them into this meal!

The main dish is a Stuffed Pork Wellington. Tender, juicy pork loin is simply stuffed with parsley and fragrant rosemary, wrapped in flaky, buttery puff pastry and baked until golden. My first time making this- a definite keeper!! This was everyone’s favorite dish!

I made a simple side dish of Grand Marnier-Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots. Cooked carrots are tossed with orange zest, Grand Marnier, a little brown sugar and a pinch of ground cloves. Finish off with a sprinkling of parsley and you’ve got one easy, delicious side dish! These would be perfect served at your Thanksgiving dinner!

And my favorite part, dessert: a yummy Vermont Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. Nothing fancy, just a rich, comforting cake with pumpkin and warm Autumn flavors. A Fall favorite! Enjoyed with a cup of cinnamon-orange coffee, this is one fabulous end to a great dinner party!

Music to dine by:

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto, No. 2, 3 and 4
Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Movements I, II and III
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro: Overture and selected arias
Schubert: “Trout” Quintet for Piano and Strings in A Major
Haydn: Symphony No. 46 in B Major, Menuet
Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Overture (this may be a little “jaunty” for a dinner party, but I thought it only fitting to include Rossini in our evening, as I know he so would’ve enjoyed.)


Selected Wine:

MacMurray Vineyards Chardonnay 2008 – crisp and dry, this pairs beautifully with pork. A wonderful accompaniment to a wonderful meal!

Since this was a luxury dinner party, Izzy insisted on dressing for the occasion.

My guests enjoyed a perfectly wonderful dinner party! Thanks so much for coming, y’all!!

While everything pretty much did go off without a hitch, the preparation itself wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. It takes lots of work and planning to throw a successful dinner party. Here’s a “behind the scenes” look just for you. This is for all of you out there who think perfect dinner parties just “magically” happen. They don’t.

Here’s the first hour of prep- not too bad, things are going according to schedule. Everything is smooth sailing.

But after dropping a stack of six (extremely heavy!) plates on your toe, cutting yourself with the lid of a plastic tub (who does that?!), and spilling pork juice all down your front, things start to look like this:

The most important thing to remember is: stay calm. A calm, relaxed host is a good host. You can do this!

It’s always important to have a wingman to help with the mountains and mountains of dishes any dirty dishes along the way.

It’s very important to have a tripod for your camera. That way you can take perfectly staged shots, like this one:

In the end, what really matters is that you stay calm and don’t reveal to your guests what went down before they arrived. Sure, even though you worked your rear end off the entire afternoon, yelled at your husband a few times and had a mini meltdown in the kitchen floor- no one needs to know about it. The important thing is that you answer the front door calm and collected, enjoy the delicious food and have a great time with your guests. They’ll never know you didn’t exactly keep it together in the hours leading up to the party. Relax! Have a good time and most importantly…have a nice big glass of wine!

Now pat yourself on the back- you did it! Congratulations!

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92 Comments »

  1. I love that you showed the behind the scenes pics! You are so approachable. Good luck in the competition.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jen — October 4, 2010 @ 6:17 PM

  2. Your table looks lovely, great job!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Allison — October 4, 2010 @ 6:24 PM

  3. I loved your entry. Fun AND elegance…you did a great job and all food looked scrumptious! (VOTE!)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Margaret Murphy Tripp — October 4, 2010 @ 6:56 PM

  4. it’s so beautiful!! love the colors so much.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heather — October 4, 2010 @ 8:54 PM

  5. What a gorgeous table setting! Loved your menu and your music picks, too. Anything wrapped in puff pastry is just fine by me:)

    You certainly have one of my votes!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jenni — October 4, 2010 @ 9:26 PM

  6. What an absolutely gorgeous table setting! Everything looks exquisite, and I adore a dog in pearls. You two look fantastic in matching necklaces 🙂 Good luck on the next round!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Li — October 4, 2010 @ 9:37 PM

  7. Thanks for the vote! I loved your pictures- funny stuff. And good dinner choise, a Wellington always makes me think of a proper, fancy dinner party.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tender Is the Bite — October 4, 2010 @ 11:17 PM

  8. Awesome! The table was stunning!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Duchess — October 5, 2010 @ 8:57 AM

  9. HAhaha love all the little bloopers, i had plenty of those too! congrats!

    http://whitneysamusebouche.blogspot.com/

    Whit

    [Reply]

    Comment by Whit @ Amuse Bouche — October 5, 2010 @ 12:55 PM

  10. looks fabulous!! totally making that tart after I vote 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by Shannon — October 5, 2010 @ 1:24 PM

  11. Great blog entry!! Love it. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heather — October 5, 2010 @ 1:35 PM

  12. You did a fabulous job! I am new to your blog and love it. You’ve got my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Katie/Lumbride — October 5, 2010 @ 3:20 PM

  13. I’m so glad you found me, Katie! Thanks for your vote!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — October 5, 2010 @ 3:58 PM

  14. Love the tablescape and your menu sounds absolutely wonderful! Good luck in round 3!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Danielle@Runs With Spatulas — October 5, 2010 @ 4:25 PM

  15. Lovely, lovely dinner. That tarts looks amazing. I’d love to try it! Voted (=

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lisa~Korean American Mommy — October 5, 2010 @ 6:49 PM

  16. Looks like a great time. You have my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jen @ Beantown Baker — October 5, 2010 @ 9:05 PM

  17. You are getting my last vote for the evening. Thank you for the laughs. Great party and good luck.

    [Reply]

    amy Reply:

    Thank you, Ed!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Ed — October 5, 2010 @ 9:31 PM

  18. Amy! It looks so great! I love that photo of you in the kitchen! TOO FUNNY! And of course, you know you have my vote! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jessica — October 5, 2010 @ 10:51 PM

  19. That spice cake looks amazing and I love your table decor! Very elegant and light, clean colors. Definitely got my vote! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by The Cilantropist — October 6, 2010 @ 1:34 AM

  20. First your table setting caught my eye. Then your writing style got my attention. Next, your photographs were great. Lastly, and most importantly, your food preparation was clean, elegant, unfussy and beautiful – that cake presentation was lovely. Oh, and your dog – that sealed it.

    I’m brand new to this site, but you have got my vote! Hope you Rock IT!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Sarah Commerford — October 6, 2010 @ 7:33 AM

  21. Thank you so much, Sarah!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — October 6, 2010 @ 8:23 AM

  22. Love that you drew inspiration from music to plan your meal.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Marisa — October 6, 2010 @ 8:58 AM

  23. What a wonderful night you all had! And my favourite- Schubert’s Trout quintet! Thanks for a great read, looking forward to seeing the food and playlist for Round 4. Voted!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu — October 6, 2010 @ 9:23 AM

  24. Breathtaking! The setting is gorgeous, I love all of your little personal touches. And the food looks sensational. Really, really nicely done. I voted for you!

    Good luck! Fingers crossed for us both to make it through to the next round. =)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jacob's Kitchen — October 6, 2010 @ 1:32 PM

  25. Thanks for your vote. I’d vote for you… but I’m only allowed to vote for you once, it was the table setting that got me hooked… BTW, I totally dig your illustrated banner. Super nice vector work.

    [Reply]

    Comment by pierre — October 6, 2010 @ 2:51 PM

  26. Love it all…the pics, the theme, the dinner, and the story! How lovely! Wonderful job Amy!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Melissa — October 6, 2010 @ 3:14 PM

  27. Beautiful! I voted. :o) I love the black, white and blue so classic. When I throw a dinner party I try to build in 30 minutes before guests arrive to freshen up, have a glass of wine, and sit on my sofa to chill and get centered. My husband on the other hand is usually hiding somewhere with a glass of bourbon because I’ve stressed him out so bad getting everything ready. lol

    Can’t wait to see what you have planned for the next round.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heather@ Gourmet Meals for Less — October 6, 2010 @ 5:04 PM

  28. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! I think you embraced this challenge beautifully and I hope your foot is feeling better! You’ve won my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Natty — October 6, 2010 @ 5:39 PM

  29. Those behind the scenes photos made me laugh! Congratulations indeed – Rossini would have been proud. Just voted for your entry 🙂

    [Reply]

    Comment by Daily Spud — October 6, 2010 @ 6:33 PM

  30. You did an awesome job! Very elegant and chic and everything looks delish! Will you be sharing your recipes?

    [Reply]

    Comment by k — October 6, 2010 @ 9:50 PM

  31. Such a great presentation! Where did you get those musical napkins? I want some for sure!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Noelle — October 6, 2010 @ 10:41 PM

  32. Everything looks fantastic. I didn’t see recipe links for the tart at the beginning or the pork wellington, any chance you could send them over?

    You’ve got my vote, good luck this week!

    Lick My Spoon

    [Reply]

    amy Reply:

    Lickmyspoon- I haven’t posted any recipes yet besides the tart (I posted that two days ago). The pork and cake are coming at a later time.
    Noelle- the napkins are homemade. The fabric came from Hobby Lobby.

    Thanks for your votes!

    [Reply]

    Comment by @lickmyspoon — October 7, 2010 @ 2:02 AM

  33. Lovely place settings and the food looks delicious. Great theme and you got my vote. Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Savory Sweet Living — October 7, 2010 @ 10:35 AM

  34. What a cute post! I love that you combined your love of music with a delicious looking menu for this post. That tart is mouthwatering!! Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Dana — October 7, 2010 @ 11:55 AM

  35. I really enjoyed the fun post and the food looks great! You have my vote once again. All the best!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Chris — October 7, 2010 @ 12:28 PM

  36. just voted–you deserve to move on! great dinner party!

    [Reply]

    Comment by natalie (the sweets life) — October 7, 2010 @ 3:15 PM

  37. OMG, I absolutely LOVE the way your table turned out!!! You know if it’s got bling on it, it gets my vote! 🙂 Everything looks really good, and I got to sample some of your leftover cake and it was delicious!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lindsay — October 8, 2010 @ 7:22 PM

  38. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Good luck on the next challenge. 🙂

    [Reply]

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