Several months ago, I had the stomach flu. It was terrible. All I wanted to do was sleep and the thought putting food even NEAR my mouth was revolting. As I curled up at the end of my bed with my covers bunched up all around me like a little nest (it was the ONLY position that worked) I turned on the TV and wouldn’t you know it, the Food Network flickered to life. The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) was making biscuits and a beet soup of some kind. Even if I felt well, the beet soup would not have sounded delicious, but I found myself mesmerized by her calm voice and methodical food creation. I watched that episode (and another and another), until I drifted off to sleep. It’s funny, right? Food was the last thing I wanted, but I found Ina SO soothing in the midst of my flu-like state.
A few days later, fully recovered from my 48-hour bug, I relayed this story to a few friends. Their response? They said that since I had watched so much Barefoot Contessa, I probably had a lot of ideas for a dinner party and I should throw one for them. I would usually have laughed them off, but you know what? A dinner party sounded about right! I had been living on my own for a few months at that point and I had the freedom to have people over. However, an important distinction: I did not commit to a Barefoot Contessa party…I only committed to a Barefoot Amy party.
- Cranberry lemon spritzers
- Spinach salad with cranberries and almonds and sweet onion vidalia dressing. (Ina might have added feta, blue cheese, or gorgonzola. I would not touch that stuff with a 10-foot pole. Ew.)
- Grilled bread with prosciutto, olive oil, garlic, smoked mozzarella and parsley (Surprisingly simple and super delicious.)
- Cheddar corn chowder (The base is BACON, so I don’t see how I could have gone wrong here…)
- Croissant bread pudding with cranberries and white chocolate sauce (Everyone had seconds!)
What’s the difference between a Barefoot Contessa party and a Barefoot Amy party? While the two parties might have been very similar, there were a few notable differences:
- The menu was mostly based on Ina’s recipes from the many cookbooks that I have on hand (Thank you, Uncle Random House!), but I made a few modifications. First of all, I know that one of my guests that would be in attendance hates the taste of raisins. So, I substituted dried cranberries in the bread pudding recipe. I also added the white chocolate sauce after trying a similar dessert at an Italian restaurant. The internets were very valuable to me on this point and I really think the sauce made all the difference. The spinach salad is just one of my favorites, so I threw it together. And finally, the cranberry spritzers (cranberry lemonade + ginger ale) were of my own creation. I served them in wine glasses I purchased especially for the occasion. FANCY!
- I’m not fast like Ina. I’m a super slow cooker/baker, so it took me the better part of an afternoon to prepare everything. And the timing wasn’t perfect (I was still tearing proscuitto when my guests arrived), but all-in-all, I like to think the effect was the same.
- We ate on a card table, seated at folding chairs. My former roommate had a small dining room table, but I haven’t quite made it to replacing that item of furniture yet, so I improvised a bit. There were a few near disasters since a card table isn’t what one would call…um…sturdy, but we made it work. I did put a pretty tablecloth over to hide the plastic top. So, while Ina may have recoiled at the thought of eating at a folding table, I like to think she’d be proud of my attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
- I didn’t have a Jeffrey to do the table setting. Since the table was rather small, it didn’t make much of a difference. But I did realize that I didn’t own enough big soup bowls to pull this off in style, so I made a run to Target and made the best bowl purchase of my life. I think they really pushed things over the top.
This little celebration was a high point of my year. I like being the hostess and trying new recipes, so who knows? This might be an annual occurrence. 🙂 The ONLY downside of the fantastic evening is that we enjoyed it too much to remember to take pictures. I’m making a note of that for next year…