On the menu tonight:
- Homemade hummus and guacamole
- Various cheese and crackers
- A wide selection of wines (surprisingly only two bottles were opened, one of my bottles of Sangiovese and a bottle of Cab-Sauv which John and Peter brought; surprisingly the Cab-Sauv was actually quite good)
- Bean, corn and avocado salad (which generated some positive comments)
- Oaxaca-style applewood-smoked chiles rellenos (HUGE hit, adapted from a Barbecue University recipe)
- Raspberry-ganache cheesecake (first cheesecake I've ever made, and also a HUGE hit, adapted from the recipe which came with my springform pan)
- Peaches in caramel-cream sauce (as per my new TV crush); also when I told Vince I used cognac for the pan deglaze, he decided to try the peaches alongside a snifter of cognac, and suddenly that combination was THE hit of the party. So, merci, Monsieur Pepín.
- watermelon sorbet (GINORMOUS hit, probably because it helped people to cleanse their palate after all the rich stuff they'd had!)
All in all this was a pretty successful party, and I have plenty of leftovers to bring to work for lunch for the next, oh, two years.
A lot more people were going to come but one cancelled at the last minute (his wife got sick) and several others simply didn't show up (including my dang neighbors). Their loss, I guess.
So, I guess the sunday night bar has been officially raised, again. This time the theme was complex rich flavors, while I think next time I do this the theme will be simplicity. (For example, dessert could be lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser and, say, crême brulée.)
Also I think I've played out the hummus angle. Last time I got a lot of compliments about my hummus but this time nobody seemed to even give it a second thought. The first time I did anything for a sunday night dinner I did citrus-zest tapenade, but hummus is such low-hanging fruit. I do make my hummus fairly uniquely (using lemon zest, coriander, and a bit of fennel in addition to the usual herbs and spices) but still, it's basically just ground chickpeas with tahini.
Maybe instead of a selection of cheeses I'll take a cue from my mom and make an amaretto goat cheese ball. That always gets raves whenever she does it. Unfortunately I don't know how to prepare one without a microwave. (I don't really feel like dedicating that kind of space to an appliance I almost never use. When I redo my kitchen I'll probably get an over-the-range one or something but in the meantime my counter space is limited.) I suppose I could use a double boiler or something though. This warrants experimentation. I'd probably also want to add that little twist which makes it my own. Like, say, using orange zest and cognac instead of amaretto, and, say, chopped walnuts instead of almond slivers.
Oh, also, Vince got me a really awesome housewarming/birthday present: a set of really nice glasses from Crate and Barrel. 6 tall beer glasses and 6 cocktail glasses. They're really nice, much nicer than my current glasses (which I got at a dollar store in NYC) so I think a changing of the guard is about to happen. :D
Ray and Amy also got me some very nice candles and holders for them. And John got me a $5 Jack-In-The-Box gift card; John's philosophy is that if it really is just the thought that counts, flaunt it.
I think I could do no culinary wrong tonight. Even my pitcher of water got accolades! (Tap water, with half a lemon and some mint leaves, which I kept refreshing with more ice throughout the evening.)