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Improve my menu please!!! And wine recs greatly needed, too...!!!

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An impt dinner for a long, dear friend coming to visit. Want to have a total culinary exploration, yet won't have any help, and have a normal-sized kitchen.

Here is my menu thus far, and would love to hear ways of improving it.... lots of courses but small portions!
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Olives, Marcona almonds upon arriving.

Bruschetta -- traditional with tomato, basil, onion, bit of garlic or open to new ideas, but not fava or other beans, and not anchovies, ie tapenade; pesto with tomato would be fine. Need this course to be simple, prepared in advance, til I grill the bread.

Seared foie gras on canapes, ideally with a cherry or fruity garnish?

Soup -- carrot-ginger (or butternut squash) puree with a garnish of a grilled lightly garlic-marinated shrimp; garnish of grated ginger?, and perhaps something green on top... basil??

Roasted beet, goat cheese and pistachio salad, in vinaigrette -- what herb in the vinaigrette would best complement the other flavors?

Veal Saltimbocca -- with fresh sage, prosciutto, perhaps a bit of fontina wrapped inside; possibly 2 ravioli on the side, pumpkin or porcini-filled with same sauce.

Garlic Baby Spinach -- served on the side of the plate or under the saltimbocca.

A few dessert cheeses -- any recs? And water crackers, baguette slices, toasted baguette, or other recs?

A choc dessert, which I'll pick up at a patisserie.
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Re wines, I somehow always gravitate towards whites, and think whites would go well through the course of the dinner. Any recs per course?? Happy to buy 4-5 wines, if need be.....
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Thank you!!!

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  1. An impt dinner for a long, dear friend coming to visit. Want to have a total culinary exploration, yet won't have any help, and have a normal-sized kitchen.

    Here is my menu thus far, and would love to hear ways of improving it.... lots of courses but small portions!
    _________

    Olives, Marcona almonds upon arriving.

    Bruschetta -- traditional with tomato, basil, onion, bit of garlic or open to new ideas, but not fava or other beans, and not anchovies, ie tapenade; pesto with tomato would be fine. Need this course to be simple, prepared in advance, til I grill the bread.
    Seared foie gras on canapes, ideally with a cherry or fruity garnish?
    [Unless you are writing from Australia I would avoid using fresh tomatoes at this time of year. Also, try and avoid a heavy does of garlic early in the meal. It will both kill your taste buds and make later courses taste bland. Instead, serve your foie gras on your grilled bread which is a more rustic, less fussy, really tasty way to serve it. Sprinkle it with a little fleur de sel. Consider making the pickled prunes in the Zuni Café book to serve with the foie gras. Perfect pairing and quiet nice to be able to say, oh these? Yes, these are mine. Finally, seared foie gras may be hard to eat on a canape. It would be much easier to eat a terrine.]

    Soup -- carrot-ginger (or butternut squash) puree with a garnish of a grilled lightly garlic-marinated shrimp; garnish of grated ginger?, and perhaps something green on top... basil??
    [Chopped crystalized ginger or corriander are more winter-y.]

    Roasted beet, goat cheese and pistachio salad, in vinaigrette -- what herb in the vinaigrette would best complement the other flavors?
    [Tarragon is wonderful with beets. Perhaps candy the pistachios.]

    Veal Saltimbocca -- with fresh sage, prosciutto, perhaps a bit of fontina wrapped inside; possibly 2 ravioli on the side, pumpkin or porcini-filled with same sauce.
    [Consider a simplier side for your veal such as small roasted potatoes or even buttered noodles. Pumpkin and porcini are strong flavors to be adding to a saltimbocca, which is itself a complex dish.]

    Garlic Baby Spinach -- served on the side of the plate or under the saltimbocca.

    A few dessert cheeses -- any recs? And water crackers, baguette slices, toasted baguette, or other recs?
    At this point in the meal, choose something rich and runny like a Red Hawk, and something hard like a super-aged gruyere. Add a blue too, if you like them. Serve with country bread and a few dried sour cherries.

    A choc dessert, which I'll pick up at a patisserie.
    ______

    Re wines, I somehow always gravitate towards whites, and think whites would go well through the course of the dinner. Any recs per course?? Happy to buy 4-5 wines, if need be.....

    [When you finish your menu, take it to your favorite wine dealer, give them your budget and ask them to select wines for you. This is the best way to give perfect matches.]

    1. Here's a nice alternative to traditional bruschetta when you can't get good tomatoes:

      Toast the bread, spread some chevre or other goat cheese on it, then spread a bit of pesto, then top with chopped roasted red peppers. Colorful, too.

      1. Hi!

        sounds good already. here are some alternate ideas.

        Instead of tomato based bruschetta, you could try fig bruschetta. They match wonderfuly with balsamic, as well as thyme or rosemary (a more seasonal alternative to summery tomatoes). another alternative could be some type of artichoke based salad/spread.

        As JudiAU pointed out, seared foie will probably be a pain to eat on a crostini, I agree with her terrine idea. As another idea for an accompaniment, rhubarb compote goes amazingly well with foie.

        some simple finely chopped chive (so obvious, but tasty) could be a great garnish for the soup. If you go with the butternut squash, a bit of creme fraiche mixed with white truffle oil set in the center is an lovely aromatice and can be stirred into the soup after presentation.

        An herb garnish for the salad could be bull's blood (radish tops). They are a depp burgundy with a bit of green at the stem. They have a mild hint of the spicy flavor of radish, but much more subtle.

        Cheeses... taleggio is a wonderful very creamy cheese to consider.

        As for wine recs, do take the menu to your wine shop, but defnitely consider adding a sherry for the cheese course and maybe a banyuls for the chocolate dessert.

        1. After such a lavish meal, you might consider a less filling dessert.

          One that comes to mind is a favorite that, as I recall, Amanda Hesser wrote about in the NYT that quoted another favorite from a famous French chef.

          Toast a slice of good French bread, place a piece of the best quality of chocolate on top of it. Melt it slightly in the oven, then drizzle top quality EVOO on it and sprinkle it with a bit of coarse sea salt. Voila!

          1. All the time, labor, and expense of purchasing 20+ items for only two people makes 5-7 course tasting menus of $100-200 seem like a steal!! Love entertaining at home, but it IS 20+ hours of work for several courses -- shopping at numerous mkts for the best of everything, cooking, setting table, and cleaning up!!

            Economies of scale if cooking for a larger party, of course.

            1. j
              Jennie Sheeks

              Looks like a great menu. Off the top of my head, I'd suggest a sherry with olives & almonds. Late harvest, botrytized sauternes-style dessert wines are a classic with foie gras, just make sure you get something with a little acidity to keep things lively. The soup could be great with a bubbly brut rose, which might even pair with the beet salad, though pinot noir can be a great match with roasted beets. A pinot noir with a nice balance of earth notes could be interesting with the veal, especially if you did porcini ravioli. Just a note here that the astringency of spinach can sometimes be hard on wines when pairing. A lovely vintage port could take you through the cheeses and the chocolate dessert.

              Your favorite wine retailer will be a huge help here, and if you don't have a favorite wine retailer, this is a great way to find one and begin developing a good relationship!