I recently did a dinner party for six guests, that included a chef, several foodies and an artistic gentleman that appreciated presentation. Mind you, I am not one to brag, but I wanted to share with you the menu, which was Mediterranean in influence, and the results…read for yourself.

My client writes:
“I speak for all of us….
Last evening my 5 guests and I feasted upon the following culinary delights prepared and presented in our own home and served with the utmost of tasteful, timely and most attractive of presentation upon our own dinner table in our home in Hull.
Here is the menu we selected from several suggested by Chef Laura MacDougall of Home Plate Advantage.

Anchovy and Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta
RitzCarlton chef Emmanuel Kemji’s Mediterranean inspired appetizer.
THIS WAS PREPARED AND PRESENTED as two warmed slightly crisped slices of fresh small loaf slightly wheat bread topped with white anchovy and mildly spicy and quite interestedly seasoned soft as silk delicately spindled slices of Piquillo Red Peppers. NEVER HAVE I ENJOYED AN appetizer with such heightened relish and culinary joy as did I experience upon viewing and tasting this very first course of this very special evening.

Mediterranean Fresh Fish
Baked fresh Fish covered with a topping of Black olives, Artichoke Hearts, Feta, and Tomato flavored with a hint of Garlic, Lemon. THIS COURSE FiLLED OUR PLATES WITH overflowingly luscious looking blends of delicate fall colors. The feta and tomato flavors brimming with garlic and lemon splashes topped on the softest, flakiest, tastiest white cod fillet was delicious and devoured to the tiniest of morsels. The black olives were these tiny little objects filled interesting spicy delights. Artichoke is never a favorite of mine but these were like non others. They were silky and added an unusual hint of texture.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas and Sunflower Seeds
THIS SIDE OF MY DINNER PLATE was heaped with soft, crunchy, sparkly and interesting and extremely tasty healthful fibre rich enjoyment.

Pears Poached in Red Wine, Cardamom and Orange
A cardamom- and orange-scented syrup is spooned over warm pears and scoops of vanilla ice cream in this lovely dessert. THIS LAST COURSE PROVIDED THE SURPRISE of the evening. The Pears were of course presented peeled and firm on the outside and softly textured inside topped with freshly scraped orange zest. Pears were floating in a Red Wine sauce and the warm pears and the cold ice cream in combination danced over my tongue and tickled my palette as the final taste defining element in a dinner party to top all.

I REALLY NEED TO ADD THAT AS WE were all half way through our desserts Laura delivered a luscious disc of deeply flavored dark chocolate to each guest. Each wrapped in a gold foil imprinted wrapper. The chocolate introduced a magical heightening of red wines flavors.

WHEN LAURA DEPARTED FOUR HOURS after arriving with all of the ingredients, pots, pans, wrappings … She departed leaving every single dish washed, dried, put away in the cupboard and every spec of trash and kitchen counter and surface spotless. During her preparation except for the flavors that wafted from our kitchen Laura’s presence seemed invisible. Laura served each course with a very brief description of what we were about to ingest. Her presentation, style and skill far surpassed our highest of expectations for this most enjoyable and effortless dinner party.

ONE SMALL DETAIL I NEED TO INCLUDE is that Laura arrived with every element in the middle of the season’s first snow storm raging across the region.”

Gosh, I think I am blushing……Home Plate Advantage – for your next dinner party.

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Soup’s on!

April 13, 2011

Winter Is a time for hot soup, crusty bread and blankets to help keep us warm. The blanket is easy….pick your favorite one. Baguette or boule…the bread is pretty easy too. The soup, that gets a little trickier. There are vegetable soups, bean soups, bisques, chowders and stews. Which to make? What’s the difference?
We will start with consistency……consomme to stew, soups increase in thickness and heartiness based on ingredients. Thickening can come from a roux (flour and fat) a bean, legume or potato in the soup itself or by pureeing the soup. Here are the basics of soup, from thinnest to thickest:

1. Consommé is basically flavored broth, often served as a starter course in fancy restaurants. Beef is the most common flavor.
2. Broth based soups – think chicken noodle, egg drop, and onion soup. These are soups that have a thin broth, vegetables and small pieces of meet added for texture, but lots of juice.
3. Bisque and chowdas – Bisque is a thick, creamy soup made from puréed seafood (lobster) or vegetables and Chowders are typically cream or milk based, and often contain potatoes (clam, corn).
4. Pureed soups -think butternut squash, carrot, tomato or other root vegetable soups. Ingredients are cooked in broth, then pureed to smooth consistency and thicker texture.
5. Beans/legumes – think black bean, split pea and lentil soups. These soups are thickened by the ingredients breaking down and softening in the cooking process. Healthier than the cream soups, but very filling and great “for dinner” soups.
6. Stew is a very hearty version of a soup with broth that has been cooked down, in an effort to braise and tenderize the meat used in the stew itself. Stew can be eaten with a fork, but best with a spoon.
7. Unique or other – Cheese soups can be thick or thin. Fruit soups are great in the summer and can be served as dessert. Gazpacho is almost salsa, but would fall in the “cold stew” catagory…..but not really. Thick, chunky and some juice.

Whatever your preference, soup is a great addition to any meal or as a meal itself and is seasonal, easy, and delicious. What is your favorite?