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!



  1. How elegant and your pics were so fun. Menu on the music stand is brilliant. I’m having fun being distracted by other posts while trying to download my pics and running so late with my own. I really enjoyed your party post, brava!


    Comment by Cathy/ShowFoodChef — October 3, 2010 @ 1:33 PM

  2. What a wonderful party! Great job, you’ve got my vote :)


    Comment by Mara @ What's For Dinner? — October 3, 2010 @ 1:36 PM

  3. I love the colors of your theme of your dinner party! Music + food = heavenly!!! Good luck!!!! /drooling over the tart now.


    Comment by Krissy — October 3, 2010 @ 1:43 PM

  4. Once again you make even the “challenging” moments entertaining. You’ve got my vote! Can’t wait for the NEXT challenge!


    Comment by Sheila — October 3, 2010 @ 1:50 PM

  5. OMG…this is the prettiest little dinner party! I love your creativity. :D You’ve got my vote, for sure!


    Comment by Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — October 3, 2010 @ 1:59 PM

  6. I love your pics and the food looks so yummy. Congrats!!


    Comment by Jill — October 3, 2010 @ 2:22 PM

  7. Thank you guys- you’re all so sweet! This was definitely a challenge, but I really enjoyed it!


    Comment by amy — October 3, 2010 @ 2:24 PM

  8. You are too adorable! Sorry about the toes.


    Comment by Liz — October 3, 2010 @ 2:34 PM

  9. Oh my goodness Amy, this is the most fabulous dinner party I have ever seen! Everything looks delicious – these pictures belong in a magazine! And I *love* that picture of you and Izzy. So sweet! :)


    Comment by Amanda — October 3, 2010 @ 3:07 PM

  10. It was a wonderful evening, baby! I love you, and I am very proud of you!


    Comment by Joel — October 3, 2010 @ 3:09 PM

  11. What a beautiful dinner party :) Your food sounds amazing and your table scape looks lovely! I love your color scheme!


    Comment by Evan @swEEts — October 3, 2010 @ 3:13 PM

  12. Amanda- I thought you might enjoy that one!! :)

    Thank you, sweetie, I love you too!!

    Evan- thank you so much!!


    Comment by amy — October 3, 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  13. great menu! i’ll be voting for sure!


    Comment by Natalie — October 3, 2010 @ 3:28 PM

  14. Uh oh! Your guests now know about your meltdown! lol!! Cute story and elegant menu! Can’t wait to vote for you!


    Comment by Nikki (Pennies on a Platter) — October 3, 2010 @ 3:39 PM

  15. your table setup is absolutely beautiful!! looks delicious!


    Comment by ashley — October 3, 2010 @ 4:12 PM

  16. Hi Amy! I’ve been quietly following your blog for a few months now, but after that wonderful post and those beautiful pictures, I just had to comment! You absolutely have my vote! I love the simple elegance of your dinner party, and the food looked AMAZING! Great job!!


    Comment by Mercedes — October 3, 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  17. Amy! What an amazing post! I love, love, love your table setting – it is so elegant. Great meal, and I love that everyone dressed up for it :) You’ve got my vote!


    Comment by Tracey — October 3, 2010 @ 4:35 PM

  18. beautifully done! your tart looks absolutely incredible – i must MUST make it, even if it’s just for me!! lovely write up, atmosphere, theme, menu, and pic of you crying – just keeping it real, hey? love it. good luck!


    Comment by delishliving — October 3, 2010 @ 6:11 PM

  19. What a wonderful evening – good food, good music, and good company! From the moment you opened the door to greet us, the beautiful music along with the wonderful aromas of all the delicious foods, made us know that dinner in your home was going to be special. You had us at hello!!


    Comment by Mother — October 3, 2010 @ 6:20 PM

  20. Wow, so elegant. Love it! You did an amazing job, Amy. That cake looks insanely delicious. I hope your toes are okay!! OUCH!


    Comment by themilkmanswife — October 3, 2010 @ 7:11 PM

  21. Awesome job Amy! Simply delicious! Not to mention that the table setting is stunning – love all the attention to details! And hello how cute is Izzy ;)


    Comment by Paula -bell'alimento — October 3, 2010 @ 7:33 PM

  22. Looks awesome Amy! I love how you combined your two loves: music and food. It works so well together and your food looks absolutely mouth watering! I wish I could have come! :)


    Comment by Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot — October 3, 2010 @ 7:34 PM

  23. oh amy, this was my absolute favorite so far :-) adorable. and your table was beautiful! Good luck going forward in this contest!


    Comment by Chris — October 3, 2010 @ 7:50 PM

  24. Thank you, ladies! Coming from you guys, these are huge compliments!!


    Comment by amy — October 3, 2010 @ 8:01 PM

  25. Great post! As a fellow musician/music lover, I appreciate the playlist that accompanied your dinner. That pork wellington looks amazing! Did you get the recipes from the Opera Lover’s Cookbook?


    Comment by kokomama — October 3, 2010 @ 8:02 PM

  26. Kokomama- I didn’t actually get any recipes from the Opera Lovers Cookbook, funnily enough! It’s such a pretty cover, though, I just had to use it in a picture! ;)


    Comment by amy — October 3, 2010 @ 8:05 PM

  27. I love this post so much!

    You did a wonderful job – and I can completely relate to the mini meltdown part…sounds like me! :)


    Comment by Arena @ {thenerdswife} — October 3, 2010 @ 9:11 PM

  28. Oh my..I love that Izzy has her own pearls!!
    Everything looks amazing! Terrific job and good luck! The cake looks absolutely amazing!!!!!


    Comment by Shannon — October 3, 2010 @ 9:52 PM

  29. Everything looks so beautiful and luxurious!! I love how you blended food and music into your very elegant dinner, you certainly have my vote!! GOOD LUCK :)


    Comment by Amy — October 3, 2010 @ 10:24 PM

  30. Amy – you crack me up! I love the music choices and the beautiful table setting. Awesome job. You will definitely have my vote (tomorrow when voting opens.) I’m still laughing after reading your post.


    Comment by Joanne Choi — October 3, 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  31. Great post! In looking at your pictures I am reminded that we got married around the same time as you guys and obviously registered at the same places! However, the food creations that grace my plates and serving pieces are never half as delicious looking and eloquent as yours!


    Comment by Leigh Smith — October 4, 2010 @ 8:13 AM

  32. Hey Amy! Voted for you this morning! Your party looked amazing (and so does your mom – does she never age?)!! I’m loving watching you go through this contest – too fun! Best of luck!!


    Comment by Hayley — October 4, 2010 @ 8:27 AM

  33. This table is stunning. I love the added touch of your dog in pearls haha!

    Just voted for you!!


    Comment by RhodeyGirl — October 4, 2010 @ 8:45 AM

  34. Leigh, we probably do have lots of the same stuff!! I guess that means we both have good taste! ;)

    Thank you, Hayley and RhodeyGirl!! Much appreciated!!


    Comment by amy — October 4, 2010 @ 9:04 AM

  35. This is just the cutest thing ever! Dinner party looks scrumptious, and I just saw your puppy in pearls which stole my heart. You have my vote.


    Comment by Heather — October 4, 2010 @ 9:27 AM

  36. Thank you so much, Heather! :)


    Comment by amy — October 4, 2010 @ 9:31 AM

  37. Ditto everyone’s comments! Loved the theme, the decor, the food and last but not least…Izzy! You’ve got my vote!


    Comment by LaJuana — October 4, 2010 @ 9:38 AM

  38. I only wish that WE had been invited!! Looks soooooooo beautiful and I am sure it tasted wonderful too!! Love you!!


    Comment by Judy Beskow — October 4, 2010 @ 10:12 AM

  39. The meal, the setting, the music, the ambience…absolutely one of the most memorable evenings I’ve ever had! Everything was pure perfection! Love you Sweetie!


    Comment by Daddy — October 4, 2010 @ 10:17 AM

  40. Thank you, Daddy!! Thank you so much for coming! Love you too!!


    Comment by amy — October 4, 2010 @ 10:26 AM

  41. Ahhh, fantastic job. I love that your daddy commented up above. Too cute, I knew that had to be him in the pics! Such a wonderful meal, can’t wait to see the recipes. You got my vote yet again!!!


    Comment by Krystal R. — October 4, 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  42. Perfect, Amy! It looks like y’all had a lovely and delicious evening. Off to vote for you now!


    Comment by Kelsey — October 4, 2010 @ 10:38 AM

  43. Thank you so much, Krystal and Kelsey!! You guys are so sweet!!!


    Comment by amy — October 4, 2010 @ 11:08 AM

  44. How beautiful! Looks delicious!! (Your Mom and Dad are so sweet!) Good luck!!


    Comment by Marla — October 4, 2010 @ 12:39 PM

  45. What lovely photos and I love that black, white and blue color scheme!


    Comment by Lisa Orgler — October 4, 2010 @ 3:01 PM

  46. Thank you so much, Marla and Lisa!!


    Comment by amy — October 4, 2010 @ 3:08 PM

  47. What an amazing spread and cute post. I knew you would make it through to the next round for sure. And with this entry, you’re crusin into round 4. You definitely have my vote :)


    Comment by Eliana — October 4, 2010 @ 3:13 PM

  48. This is too cute! I love your humor. It looks like you had a lovely time. Hope to see you in the next round!


    Comment by Meseidy — October 4, 2010 @ 3:19 PM

  49. Ok, that tart is just ridiculous – onions, bacon, gorgonzola, AND cranberries – absolute genius! I must make this asap. Your dinner party looked wonderful and the food sounded fantastic. And a homemade wellington?? That’s luxury to me! Good luck in PFB!


    Comment by riceandwheat — October 4, 2010 @ 4:03 PM

  50. Very nice! Love your table setting – so elegant. Best of luck on the next round! That tart sounds amazing and you just don’t get any more luxurious than serving Beef Wellington!


    Comment by Karen — October 4, 2010 @ 4:41 PM

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


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

  52. Your table looks lovely, great job!


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

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


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

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


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

  55. 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!


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

  56. 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!


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

  57. 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.


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

  58. Awesome! The table was stunning!


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

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



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

  60. looks fabulous!! totally making that tart after I vote :)


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

  61. Great blog entry!! Love it. :)


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


    amy Reply:

    Thank you, Ed!!


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

  68. 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! :-)


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

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


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

  70. 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!


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

  71. Thank you so much, Sarah!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!! :)


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

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


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

  73. 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!


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

  74. 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. =)


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

  75. 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.


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

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


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

  77. 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.


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

  78. 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!


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

  82. 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


    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!


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

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


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

  84. 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!


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

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


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

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


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

  87. 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!


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

  88. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Good luck on the next challenge. :-)


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