This weekend my husband and I hosted a party for my Monday morning knitting group and their husbands. Here's a little history of how this group started. About 15 years ago, 4 of us played doubles tennis every Monday morning and then would stop for coffee. I brought my knitting and the girls wanted to learn. Next week we bought yarn and I gave lessons and we all made little American Girl doll sweaters over the next few weeks. Thus, new knitters and a knitting group was born. Soon, another friend wanted to join. Then another. Then another. Now we are 10 friends meeting every Monday morning to knit and chat but there is no tennis anymore, (now it's golf!). So let's have a party and celebrate this friendship.
I wanted to have a party when our garden was at it's prettiest.
The veggie garden was bursting, after all, it's July in California.
All the girls love to cook and all entertain beautifully, so I thought, what could I do to make this party a little different from any thing else we've done as a group? I know, a from-the-garden-only party, our little patch of garden only. I like things to be as easy, fresh, tasty, healthy and as pretty as possible. I'd like all that and the appearance of a unicorn too! I knew my husband and I could do all (most) of it with some careful planning. Planning a party maybe isn't quite the scale and precision of military strategy, but darn near!
A plan of attack started with a poke around to check out what we're harvesting now: all herbs, tomatoes, oranges, cucumbers, eggplant, chard, beets, lettuce, green beans, patty pan squash and green onions.
We chose a night when most of the girls and their husbands could attend. We were 17 and so set 3 tables on the patio next to the vegetable garden, the celebrity of the evening. I used my Le Jacquard linens in my brightest colors to match the flowers.
I worried that the evening would be too cold but the weather was beautiful!
The buffet table in the dining room was ready.
We set up the drinks table with wine and champagne, sparkly water, scotch and beer. I figured that takes care of about everyone's wishes.
I do all the prep work in the morning and leave only the cooking of the hot dishes for the last. I have a young woman help me out who knows my kitchen and my style of entertaining. She and her helper came 1/2 hour before my guests and helped with drinks, last minute cooking, serving and clean up. Without their help, I would have been too busy to enjoy my own party. I try to hire someone if I have over 12 people, not always, but I never regret having help.
We started with these Caprese Bites I saw on Pinterest. A little dot of balsamic reduction on each tiny jewel made each little mouthful perfection. The reduction is so easy to make, a nice new addition to my recipe repertoire. We also served smoked salmon and dill on cucumber slices. Beautiful.
Next, I made a bit of a production of serving cold cucumber soup in little glass coffee cups. People loved it and asked for seconds.
Main course was marinated grilled chicken breasts and thighs, with the skin and bone left on for flavor. Marinade for 24 pieces of chicken was 2 cups olive oil, 1 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 small jar lemon chipotle prepared mustard, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup fresh rosemary. Marinate in zip-lock bags overnight. I grilled in the oven for about 1/2 hour turning half way through, and right before it was done, I basted it with the remaining half jar of mustard and 1 jar lemon chutney and grilled another 5 minutes until it was shiny and glazed.
My side dishes were the stars. A large platter of sliced tomatoes with pesto, a platter of cold roasted beets and oranges with tarragon vinaigrette, stir fried green beans with slivered almonds.
Also scalloped potatoes, peeled and sliced, baked with half and half and gruyere. (OK, so this was a bit of cheating, I don't have potatoes in the garden right now, but my husband really insisted on a potato dish) But everything else was fresh from the garden that day and I can't tell you how proud I am of that.
The beautiful evening ended with chocolate cupcakes and coconut cupcakes. I am really glad that I decided on cupcakes which I set out right before the guests arrived. After dinner, I announced dessert was ready by simply lighting the candles on the dessert table and letting the guests find their way in to help themselves to something sweet. So easy! I used The Barefoot Contessa cupcake mixes. and do love her baking mixes when I am in a bit of a squish for time. Or not. They are just that good. (I've made the coconut cupcakes from scratch, here's the recipe, but really, you can't tell the difference between the two.)
Whoa there. There is a party favor to take home. No excuses. No really, you must. I insist.
It was a super fun party. People stayed late which is always a good measure that the party went well. We really feel blessed that we have the nicest friends.
Please come back soon. I'm working on a vineyard/bottling party/luncheon-under-the-arbor post that I think you will enjoy and also an actual knitting post with actual FO.
Linking up to On The Menu Monday, Home and Garden Thursday,
and No Minimalist Here Open House, stop by!
and No Minimalist Here Open House, stop by!