The Gleeful Gourmand: Anniversary Dinner

Monday, May 13, 2013

Anniversary Dinner

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and instead of doing the usual route of getting a babysitter and going out to a nice dinner, we decided to do something we haven't done in a very long time: Feeding the kids first, putting them to bed, and then making a lavish meal for ourselves. This concept is not new to most parents. In fact, most parents do this sort of thing all the time. But we kind of dig our routines, and I tend to get really hungry - the kind of hungry a small snack can't help - around 6 p.m. Waiting to eat dinner around 8 p.m. is a big stretch.

But I wanted to make this dinner really special. Since it's springtime here in the south, I thought that we'd eat outside on our deck at our intimate two-seater table. I'd put candles and lanterns all around, and we'd listen to the tree frogs and check out the stars while eating our sumptuous meal.

Well...thanks to Mother Nature, and an unusually cold and wet spring we've been having here in Virginia, my grand plans for outdoor dining sort of fell apart. I had been watching the weather like a hawk all day, and the meteorologists swore that by the time we were going to eat, nary a trace of clouds would be present. They lied.
I never would have made it to 8 o'clock without this! 

I was on décor, appetizers, salad and dessert, while Buck was on main entrée and libations. He surprised me with a bottle of my favorite champagne, and our evening was under way. All of the components for dessert had been made well in advance, and for appetizers while the kids ate their dinner, I had put together a platter of herbed goat cheese, thinly sliced proscuitto, and figs with toasted crostini brushed with a little olive oil. I kept sticking my head outside trying to figure out if the rain was starting or stopping (it would drizzle, then mist, then the sun would come out, then repeat - for hours on end). Finally, I had to make a decision, and I moved our party 3 feet indoors to our big table on the sun porch. Good thing too, because it absolutely downpoured as we dug into our salads.

It ended up being a fantastic evening, and by the time we finished eating our dessert, it was 10 p.m. We felt decadent, and very European. It was just as intimate and romantic, and the only downside was that we had to do our own dishes.

We started with a Warm Mushroom Salad that I picked up from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa). It couldn't have been easier to assemble, (base of arugula, mushrooms sautéed in a bit of butter and olive oil and topped off with a reduced sherry vinegar sauce), but I changed quite a few components. Instead of sun-dried tomatoes (which I can't stand) I substituted chopped roasted red peppers, and I omitted her use of prosciutto since several reviews said it made the salad too salty  when paired with the shaved parmesan cheese. We also added an over-easy egg on top which made the salad velvety rich and made all the flavors come alive.
Warm Mushroom salad, sans egg.

Next up was Buck's entrée, Venetian Shrimp and Scallops. We don't get to eat much seafood, or shellfish since our son is allergic, so we decided to treat ourselves. The dish was nice and light with wonderful flavors. The broth was lemony and boasted saffron and basil, and was so inviting we sopped it up with leftover baguette.

A seafood lover's delight.

Dessert was a little out of the box for me, because when I think of romance, I automatically think chocolate. But it's spring, and I really wanted something different. I went again with Ina Garten - her Lemon Yogurt Cake with fresh Blueberry Sauce. The cake was super-easy to make, but it took a lot of different steps (one glaze to soak into the warm cake straight out of the oven, another glaze to ice it!), but it was completely worth it. The cake is so moist, and the brightness of the blueberry sauce, which can be made the day before, just made it all the more complete. The marriage of lemon and blueberries is so classic, and it was really perfect here, worth all the extra effort. Plus, the sauce makes a ton, and it is absolutely delicious over vanilla frozen yogurt, which is what I served along side the cake (sorry for the lack of pics when it comes to the cake - it just didn't turn out right.)

We trundled off to bed, bellies full, thankful, and just about as happy as we could possibly be. Here are a couple of tips you might want to consider if you plan on doing something similar:

1. No matter what you plan on serving, don't throw it together haphazardly. Think about all the different flavors each course will bring the to table, and try to make all the flavors carry through to the end. Think about textures, saltiness, spices and heat, and how each course might taste on your tongue if you took a forkful from each and ate them all together. If it seems like one flavor profile might be off, it's probably because it is. Trust your instincts!

2. Have a weather backup plan. Because meteorologists are lying liars.


Kirsten Oliphant said...

I'm dying! That looks so fantastic and amazing!

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