Monday, February 11, 2013

An Italian Dinner

It was a moment's decision.  I was sitting next to a friend who happens to be a gourmet cook and has traveled extensively throughout Italy.  We were at a fundraising meeting and someone asked if anyone could donate an "experience" to the silent auction.  I whispered to my friend, why don't we cook an Italian dinner for ten.  At my house. Without missing a beat - she is always game for a culinary adventure -- she said, ok...should be fun.  And that is how she and I ended up cooking an Italian dinner for ten on Saturday.

Next came the question, what had we gotten ourselves into?  After the panic subsided, we knew that if we approached the task methodically, it could be done.  The first job was to figure out our menu.  We went through our favorite Italian cookbooks and came up with one that we liked.  Our goal was to make this dinner very special for the couple who bought it.  And, at the same time, to create an evening that would take everyone away to Italy for one night.

The Menu:  

Appetizers:  Bruschettas, Parmesan Crisps (Frico), and Rosemary Cashews

First course: Radicchio, Pear & Arugula Salad with Foccacia

Second Course:  Veal Marsala with mushrooms served with Risotto with asparagus, Roman style artichoke hearts, and Swiss Chard with pancetta

Dessert:  Trio of gelato served with Biscotti and Torta della Nonna

My friend would bring some fabulous Italian wines and her husband would prepare Luce del Sol, an Italian cocktail. Done.

Flowers from Holly Flora

Next was the table.  I asked Holly from Holly Flora to do the flowers.  She arrived with a big container  overflowing with beautiful flowers.

Linens would be from Heather Taylor Home.  This is the White Flower pattern.

Holly began to make the flower arrangements

As she ran them down the table, it began to look like a spring meadow

The table is set

Biscotti dipped in white chocolate

Next was the food.  We each had our own assignments; mine was to make the biscotti.  

Also the risotto, here is the asparagus sauteed for Risotto with Asparagus

Bread toasted and ready for bruschetta toppings

Tomato and basil bruschetta

We picked up freshly baked Foccacia Bread from Osteria Mozza

Luce del Sol, the signature cocktail for the night

Bread sticks, rosemary nuts, and chickpea dip

Menus at each place setting

My friend made the menus, she did such a beautiful job!

First course:  Radicchio, Pear & Arugula Salad with Foccacia Bread

The moment before everyone sat down

The best experiences, like the best recipes, are often made up of new and unexpected ingredients.  That night we made new friends, had some great conversations, and got a chance to cook some exciting Italian food.  Donating an experience like this to a charity event is so rewarding.  For the cooks, we got to do what we love best, cook!  For the guests, they enjoyed a culinary adventure.  On this cold and damp February night, we were transported to the "wisteria and sunshine" of Italy.  And for all of us, it was a night to remember!

Here is the recipe for Luce del Sol, the Italian cocktail that we served.  My friend's husband created this recipe, inspired by a cocktail he had at Oenotri Restaurant in Napa, California.

3-4 parts Vodka
2 parts Aperol
1 part Cherry Brandy
1 part Blood Orange juice
2-3 parts Prosecco
Luxardo Cherries

Muddle 2-3 cherries in the brandy.  Add cherries and brandy to the other ingredients and shake everything together with ice in a martini shaker.  Rub the rims of martini glasses with an orange rind and pour mixture into glasses.


  1. Sunday,

    Hello and a happy week to you. What a wonderful experience, both for you and your friend as well as the winners of the fund raiser. I love the menu and wish I lived loser o that I cold have made a bid.

    Take care, Elizabeth

  2. Wow! So beautiful from the flowers, the linens and the wonderful food. What fun and how daring of you to commit to such a generous extravaganza as a spur of the moment idea.You must have known that it would be fun for everyone, yourself included. It sounds perfectly wonderful. Well done!

  3. This looks and reads delicious! A special dinner to make for appreciative guests.

  4. looks wonderful! Was the risotto with asparagus from Marcella Hazen's cookbook (I have the same one and make that risotto). The cocktail sounds delicious too - I look forward to trying it.

  5. - and I forgot to mention, I noticed the franciacorta sparkling wine on your menu - isnt it wonderful? We lived only minutes from Franciacorta - a beautiful area in Northern Italy.

  6. I have never donated a dinner, but have purchased a few. It is always a treat for a good cause. Your menu sounds delicious. Your table is exquisite. Bonnie

  7. What an enjoyable way to raise money for a charitable cause! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. It looks like the evening was a feast for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.

  8. I had to laugh during episode 5 of "Downton Abbey," in which Ethel, the terrible cook, prepares salmon mousse for Mrs. C's luncheon, with only a little assistance from Mrs. Patmore. So, I am not surprised that you pulled off this gorgeous dinner.

  9. How lucky to be a winner here. The table and flowers are stunning and the menu is superb! I'm sure the fundraiser must have been very successful thanks to you and your friend.

    The French Hutch

  10. What a terrific donation, Sunday; charity giving at its very best! We've done this on a much smaller scale and had fun with it. I would have bid on this meal in a heartbeat!

  11. I would have loved to be a guest at your beautiful party - lovely table, delicious food and great company - what could be better?!

  12. What an amazing dinner! Congrats. I am saving this menu.yum

  13. Beautiful table. I especially love your dinnerware. Would you mind telling me the name of the pattern? Thank you!