Saturday, January 14, 2012

RE-ceiving Guests: Dinner Under the Stars

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.  I belong to a ladies book club and for Christmas, we normally invite our husbands to join us for a dinner party.  This last December, my friend, Renae, generously offered to host us all TWENTY OF US at her house.  While we always have a great time when we get together, this evening was especially AMAZING.  Renae truly went above and beyond to make a memorable night for us.  At one point, my friend Martha's husband turned to me and said "Wow! This is really good.  This is such a grown up evening."  I replied we were all very lucky because Renae is an excellent cook and a generous hostess.  Renae rented tables and outdoor heaters and hung giant lights in the form of stars over the table from her trees.   The star lights made a great atmosphere, but the low lighting made it hard for me as an inexperienced photographer to capture the whole feeling of the setting. Hopefully I can still share with you some of the magic of the night.

SIMPLE AND ELEGANT.  Renae placed a large floral arrangement on her dining room table which she also cleared to allow the rest of us space to set out our contributions to the dinner party. 

ORNAMENTS HUNG WITH CARE.  Renae travels to her hometown for the holidays so she keeps her holiday decorations selective. She hung a garland and ribbons on her stairwell and glittery ornaments with pretty ribbon from her curtain rods. I am totally stealing this idea for my house next Christmas.

Appetizers (cheese, dips, crackers, olives)
Tomato Bisque Soup
Chicken Pot Pie
Macaroni Au Gratin
Mixed Green Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Chocolate Birthday Cake
Buche de Noel
Apple Pie a la mode

BRILLIANT APPETIZER DECORATING.  Everyone loved this appetizer set up brought by our friend, Kathleen.  She put 2 cheese-based dips and some olives in a dip bowl set. To make them more festive, she made a ribbon out of salmon for the top of the seafood dip and a green pepper christmas tree form for the spicy dip.
ANOTHER VIEW.  My friend, Celeste, took the following photograph before I arrived to capture Kathleen's adorable set up before hungry husbands dug in and diminished the effect.

CHEESE LOVERS.  All the members of my book club like cheese so we rarely gather without a cheese plate of some kind.  For this party, we had a chevre cheese covered in a sweet cranberry sauce.

A LA TABLE.  Renae called us all outside for dinner.  Our friends, Martha & Celeste, contributed a wonderful tomato soup to start off our meal.   They bought the soup from a chef friend of Celeste, however, I happen to have a tomato soup recipe I like to make at home for an easy dinner which I am sharing here:
1 cup parmesan cheese
1  cup low fat milk
1 cup half and half  or heavy cream
1 generous pat of real butter
1 can of tomatoes
1 package of imitation crab meat or 1 can of real crab
dash of pepper and salt

Combine in sauce pan and heat on medium. Serves 3-4.  I like that if I buy crab, I will likely have everything else already at home to make this soup.  A very simple dinner.
Warm soup felt so  good because of the chill in the air. A great welcome to the table.
SOUP BEFORE SALAD.  Because it was a chilly night, Renae urged us to the table to eat the warm soup.  Please take note of the green mixed salad above. I was going to edit the picture to show the salad, but decided against it. Everyone already knows what a mixed green salad looks like, right?

LA PIECE DE RESISTANCE.  INDIVIDUAL CHICKEN POT PIES.  It was right after digging in for his first spoonful of this little piece of heaven, that Martha's husband exclaimed ""Wow! This is really good.  " I am sure Renae got everything organic and from the Farmer's Market.  I asked Renae for her chicken pot pie recipe and she told me she used Ina Gartens' recipe.  You can read the 5 stars out of 5 recipe (it deserves 6!) on's  website HERE
BUCHE NOEL.  My friend Celeste's husband, Martin, was very excited that I brought a buche de noel or yule log cake to the party for dessert. I bought it from a bakery (sorry no recipe.)  Martin announced to other people at the party that I had brought a yule log and my friend, Celeste, said "Eldarose brought a U-haul?" LOL.  Martin explained what a yule log is and then Celeste laughed over her blunder and referenced it in jokes  all night.   There was another misunderstanding/mishearing later in the evening but that one is more R-rated than is appropriate for the blog. ; )
My friend Linda brought a chocolate cake for her husband, AJ, because it was his birthday. Linda makes great brownies and chocolate cake. She says her secret is to buy the box stuff, but to add in extra chocolate chips.   It  must work because her chocolate baked goods are out of this world.  As for why she's holding the, we had wine with dinner? That's all I got to explain it. 

HAPPY GUESTS.  I took this pic as the pot pies were being served.  We had a little dancing, silliness and the ladies had a flash mob practice session before the evening was over.  At the end of the evening, Renae and I were talking in the kitchen and I complimented her and shared all the praises she got from our end of the long dinner table.  Renae was very humble about it all.  She was very touched that Walter, Martha's husband, had been impressed by her cooking because Martha is herself an excellent cook.  Somehow, we got on the topic of having our husbands there and Renae remarked that we are a pretty lucky group because we all get along so well, without drama, and even our husbands are good guys.  I agreed.  Perhaps the blessing of our friendship was the most magical part of the evening.


You can see my Outdoor Dinner Party setting HERE

You can read see our post on Western Tables HERE


  1. This looks like a fun, fun, fun party. The food looks and sounds so good. The decorations are amazing and everyone looks like they are having the best time! And it looks like great weather too. A perfect evening for a perfect party!

  2. Nann,

    It was a very fun party. Everything was delicious. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. :D