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Please help critique and/or round out this menu..

b
bella_sarda Dec 29, 2007 07:41 AM

Having a small, informal dinner party for 6-8 on New Year's Eve. Here's what I've got in mind so far. I'm looking for a few extra flourishes to really make it complete---taste-wise, color-wise, texture-wise. Or, if you think something doesn't fit, I'm open to redactions.

Hors d'oeuvres:

cherry tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and olive tapenade;

smoked salmon pinwheels (a mix of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and butter rolled up in slices of pumpernickel bread, pinwheel-style, cut fancifully on the diagonal)

First course:

butternut squash ravioli with browned butter and fresh sage (ravioli are store-bought but fresh and from an excellent source)

Second course:

roast pork loin with marmalade glaze, red onions and parsnips, (recipe from CooksCountry.com; have never tried it but it looks simple and everything supposedly gets caramelized and juicy from the marmalade sauce); I'm planning to add, as an optional additional condiment, a "mostarda di peperoni" I bought at Formaggio as a condiment--it's a spicy-sweet pepper-honey-raisin concoction that is supposed to work with roast meat. I hope it doesn't clash with the marmalade glaze.

simple mixed greens (arugula, spinach) with olive oil and lemon juice

dessert:

Not sure yet, but thinking of either a ricotta-mascarpone cheesecake with raspberry sauce (the cheesecake has a layer of choc chips on the bottom), OR a honey-pine-nut tart (recipe from Jamie Oliver) OR a simple orange-flavored sponge cake with orange and chocolate icings and vanilla ice cream. (regarding the last option: I'm worried that orange cake after orange pork may be too much orange, but also thinking that a running theme might be interesting)

Some points to consider:
Of the desserts, the orange cake is simplest and the cheesecake the most onerous (requires draining the ricotta, according to Cook's illustrated)

Also: any fabulous wine-pairing suggestions for the pork (think of the condiments) ?

Thanks hounds!!!

  1. d
    DaisyM Dec 29, 2007 08:36 AM

    Wow! I wish we were invited to your house!

    1. l
      lebelage Dec 29, 2007 08:50 AM

      A good quality Marsanne should go very well with both the ravs and the pork. This one is excellent if you can find it:

      '06 Domaine Astruc Marsanne, Malras, Languedoc

      I'm assuming bubbles to begin... that is a question of style and pocketbook I love Billecart-salmon rose but it is pretty spendy. I'd say a nice blanc de noir should strike the balance between those who hate sweetish champs and those who hate bone dry champs.

      You'll probably want a couple reds for those who like to have reds with their main course (even though white is the best match for your dish). I think the big jammy reds would taste a little sour with the marmalade based sauce so a relatively young cab franc would do well or a well structured pinot noir.

      Lang&Reed makes some wonderful cab francs. But you always need to buy a few bottles because I've had some major issues with their wines being corked.

      3 Replies
      1. re: lebelage
        b
        bella_sarda Dec 29, 2007 09:17 AM

        thanks for the very thoughtful wine pairings. I love Marsanne, so I will definitely look for that one. For the bubbly, I''m going with the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace brut rose. I like the cab franc suggestion too, although I will probably stick with the Marsanne. I do have a dessert wine on hand as well (forgot about it before): it's a Demeter Tokaji Late Harvest Furmint 2004, which I'm very much looking forward to trying. I think it would go well with either the cheesecake or the honey-nut tart. I'm leaning toward the latter for dessert because cheesecake is just too damn fussy and has to be done too far in advance.

        1. re: bella_sarda
          l
          lebelage Dec 29, 2007 09:23 AM

          I'd go with the nut tart.

          Just remember that in pairing dessert wine you always want the wine to be just slightly sweeter than the dessert or it can taste sour. Not sure what recipe you're using but for that reason I'll usually add a tiny pinch of salt and a little citrus zest to a honey based dessert.

          Your menu sounds great, I'm sure your dinner will be a hit.

          1. re: lebelage
            rabaja Dec 29, 2007 09:51 AM

            I totally agree with this suggestion! It is the course I'd look forward to the most. Nice choice on the pork with the mostarda too!
            Good luck and Happy New Year!

      2. maplesugar Dec 29, 2007 08:50 AM

        Sounds delicious! For dessert I'd opt for the cheesecake (maybe a simpler recipe?) and not the orange cake since as you pointed out, your pork loin has a marmalade glaze... it'd be too much of a good thing for my palate but that's just my 2 cents :)

        1. t
          tinarina Dec 29, 2007 09:58 AM

          I think I'd do anything but the cheesecake, as it sounds way too heavy after your excellent-sounding meal. I don't think the orange cake would be a bad choice--I agree that it can be nice to repeat flavors in a meal. The tart also sounds great with a dessert wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tinarina
            b
            bella_sarda Dec 29, 2007 10:27 AM

            Ok, I'm definitely going with the tart, because I agree that the nutty-honey thing will be the best match for the dessert wine. And thanks to lebelage for the salt/citrus zest trick!!!

          2. goodhealthgourmet Dec 29, 2007 10:32 AM

            just a tip for a super-simple way to up the "wow" factor of the ravioli...garnish with fried sage leaves.

            1. Sam Fujisaka Dec 29, 2007 11:55 AM

              Wonderful menu. I guess I would make a lighter dessert after the several substantial courses, several with cheeses and/or sweet glazes. Perhaps cold cantelope with a bit of maple syrup (and touch of fine chili powder) or cold pineapple sprinkled with mint and sugar that has been ground through a mortar and pestle.

              1. Jennalynn Dec 29, 2007 12:05 PM

                It sounds lovely.

                But I agree with those that nix the cheesecake. You already have two soft cheese appetizers. (And FWIW I would change one of them to non-cheese... maybe lose the cherry tomatoes go with the tapenade on crostini or if you want non-bread, maybe some almond stuffed dates?)

                1. JasmineG Dec 29, 2007 12:33 PM

                  The only thing that I would add or change is to maybe have one warm hors d'oeurve instead of two cold ones (or in addition to): both of yours seem like they would hit some of the same flavor notes (creamy/cheesey/salty), maybe you could do something simple in puff pastry, because those are easy to make ahead and then pop in the oven when guests arrive (and they always look impressive), or even just a simple bruschetta with a warm spread.

                  I'd also definitely go for the pine nut tart! Enjoy, everything looks delightful.

                  1. d
                    Deborah Dec 29, 2007 02:01 PM

                    Bella your menu sounds wonderful. The roast pork with red onions and parsnips should be delicious. I am visualizing your finished plate and I am wondering if you might need something green on the plate as all the dishes featured are in a brown hue. Something green might make it look a lot more appetizing. Just a suggestion , not a criticism. Enjoy your evening.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Deborah
                      b
                      bella_sarda Dec 29, 2007 04:22 PM

                      Hi Deb---I'm very into having multiple colors on the plate. If we serve the salad greens on the side, then it's covered, but if the salad will be served after the pork (which is how my hubby and I usually do it---he's Italian) we will need at least some kind of green garnish on the plate (don't forget the pepper mostarda will add red), so I may just add some fresh Italian parsley or marjoram as a garnish. I really don't feel like cooking a separate green vegetable.

                      I like the hors d'oeuvres suggestions. It was the part of the menu I put the least thought into---I just cribbed two ideas from a Cook's Illustrated online blurb b/c I thought they sounded easy and would look elegant. I like the idea of just tapenade on crisp flatbread,or a bruschetta with a warm caper-pesto-ish sauce (almost like bagna cauda but less liquidy?). My husband insists on having some kind of smoked salmon app every year, so that one will stay. Almond-stuffed dates sound good too---nice idea to have a sweet element. Decisions, decisions...

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