Weekly Peek - Special Dinner Party Edition!

For a special edition of the weekly peek into my life this week, I'm going to revisit our New Year's Eve dinner party. I gave you a quick overview here, but I know I have some food and wine nerds reading who might be interested in the specifics!

Both my husband and I agree: when hosting a dinner party, what really matters is the friends you bring together and the food and wine you all enjoy. Where we differ is in approach. I like keeping stress low so I usually tackle the bookends of the evening: the hors d'oeuvres (which I keep simple and small so people don't fill up too soon) and dessert (my go-to is a layer cake since it can be made ahead). My husband, on the other hand, likes to maximize his use of esoteric kitchen gadgets and molecular gastronomy ingredients to make restaurant style cuisine.  He isn't doing it to impress anyone - it's literally for the love of the game.  He'd cook like this every day if he had the time!

We started with bubbly and bites.  Specifically, a recipe beloved by my family that we refer to as cheese puffs, but they're totally not - they're parmesan cheese toasts.  Whatever you call them, they're completely addictive.

My husband is obsessed with oysters.  Actually obsessed.  I will not tell you the number he has put down in one sitting because it will gross you out, but let's just say it's WELL north of two dozen.  So not a dinner party goes by that he doesn't serve oysters: this version was with lemon vodka granita and jalapenos.

We had requested that no one bring wine because we are trying to reduce our inventory, so people got creative.  One couple very generously and luxuriously brought us Russian caviar with creme fraiche and artisan bread, which we slotted in as the second course.

My husband loves to emulate famous chefs, so the next course was Pok Pok style fried shrimp in lettuce cups - spicy salty goodness!

Next, it was pasta time.  My husband made really simple cacio e pepe pasta... and then he gilded the lily completely and served each person one small portion with shaved truffle and one with shaved foie gras torchon.  I am not making this up.  It was even more delicious than it sounds, and just as ridiculous.

The main course was something my husband has been talking about for a long time: turducken a la molecular gastronomy.  Instead of stuffing and roasting, he used meat glue to bind the proteins together and then served it with canned cranberry sauce for a funny wink at high/low.  (I love canned cranberry sauce to the extent that I have been known to eat it plain as a fully grown adult, so I was delighted.)

For dessert, I made the tiramisu cake from Smitten Kitchen, my go to for absolutely delicious but never overwrought layer cakes.  It was indulgent without being too sweet - would definitely make again!

All photos in this post were taken by my good friend, food blogger/wine writer/food and wine educator extraordinaire Nicole Ruiz Hudson.  Her Instagram account, @nibblinggypsy, will make you hungry, and if you head over there she has a lot more to say than I ever could about how the wines we picked for this epic dinner worked out.  I also like to think that Nikki's approach to food and wine is similar to my take on organizing: consume what you love, whether high or low brow, and don't get stuck in what you think you should be doing.

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you (somewhat belatedly, thanks to a temporary technological snafu)!  I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed your holidays.

We ended 2016 with a bang: hosting a NYE dinner party for some of our closest friends.  it's a tradition among my girlfriends that dates back to approximately 2007, when we couldn't really afford to go out on NYE and decided to make our own fun via potluck and cheap wine instead!  We've added friends (and courses, and pairings) over the years, but what stays the same is a relaxed good time with people we love, someone(s) staying over on an air mattress, and a bunch of hungover people in sweatpants eating whatever my husband can find in the fridge to fry the next day.

I'm starting 2017 on a great note both personally and professionally with some wonderful clients coming on board, interior design for our upstairs rooms really coming together, and major construction for our basement well underway.  Plus, the ski season is off to a great start (quoth the avalanche report: "snowfall now being measured in feet across the forecast area") and we have a couple of fun trips planned.  

At the same time, outside my bubble 2017 threatens to upset current stability where it exists and intensify problems that already plague our world.  The human rights of each person on this planet - regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, religion, or any other identity that can divide us - are extremely important to me and I intend to use that principle to guide me in thoughtful action this year.  

I hope 2017 is getting off to a great start for you, and would love to hear about your dreams and goals for this year!


What I'm Organizing

Every year we host a holiday open house.  We had so much fun the first year that we kept going, and now it's turned into a major occasion for all of our friend groups.  At this point, people now have Holiday Party Friends: the people they didn't know before they started coming to our parties but now look forward to seeing every year.  

From Holiday Party 2012: picture taken in the kitchen of our old condo because let's be honest, that's where the party is.

It's never exactly easy to host a party for 60+ people over 6 hours, but it doesn't have to be a struggle either.  Here's how we do it:

1) We want a casual, comfortable vibe.  This means we go pretty minimal on the non-essentials.  Decor is limited to our usual Christmas decorations, glasses and utensils are disposable and ordered in bulk on Amazon, everything is served buffet style, and the soundtrack is jazzy Christmas carols from my husband's Spotify channel.

2) The most important things are food and booze.  In order to not kill ourselves, we purchase pre-prepared where we can and stick to cold/room temperature fare.  We also condense the list of drink offerings to make it easy for everyone to serve themselves: we offer one signature cocktail (with the nonalcoholic non-fizzy ingredients mixed ahead of time so non drinkers can still mix up something fun), champagne, and beer.

3) I get obsessed about one thing: homemade desserts.  I learned to make and frost a layer cake before I knew how to boil water, so as weird and over the top as it sounds, I have a hard time being able to serve a dessert I didn't make myself.  Again, I don't want to go nuts, so I keep it simple and do things like cookies and brownies (Cook's Illustrated's molasses spice cookies have been a HUGE hit) that I can make in big batches.

4) We keep the party adults only.  The older we get, the more of our friends have children, and of course we love them!  But kids (especially the under-three set that dominate in our social circles) at this party would be a logistical nightmare: our house is so very not childproofed, it gets really crowded, and people are having a lot of fun.  I know I wouldn't want to be trying to keep track of a little one in that environment!

4) We keep traditions alive.  There's always some kind of clandestine liquor consumption going on, from a tequila shot bar to cherry cordial from Croatia mysteriously passed around in our bedroom to half the party trooping into our scary rats and bats basement area to sample my husband's whiskey collection.  My husband and I always wear plaid pants (can be spotted in photo above).  We always eat burritos before everyone arrives because we always forget to actually eat during the party. And it's always loud and warm and a bit of a mess and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Hope you're enjoying your holiday season!


Weekly Peek

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Photo courtesy of

New Discoveries

One of my sorority sisters got married a couple of weeks ago in Sonoma, so ten of us decided to get an Air BnB house so that we could grill, chill, and lay by the pool all weekend.  We didn't plan to wine taste in favor of leaving our schedule open, but on Saturday morning my husband realized that the adorable hamlet of Glen Ellen was a) walking distance and b) in possession of several tasting rooms.  Off we went, and make two excellent discoveries: Korbin Kameron, a family run winery producing high end reds, and Kivelstadt, a fun startup embracing the weird, funky, and wonderful in wine (try the orange, it's crazy!).  Both places were super friendly, and we'll be back - we signed up for both wine clubs!

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A Light Beverage

I'm embracing the bitter in spirits these days - my new summer go-to is Campari and soda.  This is a classic you don't see people order a lot, probably because the bitterness of Campari is an acquired taste and an unexpected contrast to its festive bright red color.  But I find that if you add ice, soda, and a twist of orange peel, you have a refreshing summer drink that's neither sweet nor overly alcoholic.

Attempting (failing) to get Petunia to pose with the paw prints at Hopper's Hands at Fort Point

Walk the City

I'm so lucky to live in San Francisco, where we have plenty of parks and open space.  I've walked my dog in the Presido before and always wanted to go all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge but never found the time - until this past weekend!  We leashed up Petunia, grabbed a couple of friends, and set off on the ultimate urban hike.  The fog was just rolling in over the bridge, meaning that the Presidio was sunny and green, the bridge dramatic, and the weather just warm enough for a light layer.  After working up an appetite, we inhaled burrito bowls and tacos at Bonita, then moseyed up to Union Street for coffee at Wrecking Ball followed by a glass of wine at Wine Cask.  And even though the hill was daunting at that point, we did complete the entire loop by walking home, bringing our total for the day to just under 12 miles.  Bucket list item: checked!

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe last weekend (in which I sadly did not swim)

Taking a Break

I recently had yet another abnormal mole removed (not cancerous, everything is fine!), leaving me with stitches on the back of my leg.  In order to make sure I don't rip the incision, I've been instructed to take it easy: walking ok, weight lifting not so much.  Oh, and I can't swim - excellent timing in the middle of the summer!  I'm frustrated, but doing my best to use the opportunity to work on my upper body and core strength (as I'm basically configured like T-Rex, I can always use extra work in this department) as well as my patience (which does NOT come naturally).  Looking forward to getting my stitches out next week!