Sis and Mom were thrilled with the dinner party. “You can do this anytime,” they cooed conspiratorially, and they began plotting holiday schedules. “Thanksgiving, Christmas…no, Mom will still do Christmas…Easter….”
I hadn’t hosted an event of this magnitude before. A bit over a month ago my sponsor, Foodbuzz, contacted me with the offer to host a pasta and wine-pairing dinner party using free coupons supplied by Buitoni Riserva. That shit’s expensive, so I jumped at the chance.
the asparagus mistake
I picked up 5 packages each of fresh pasta agnolotti, which is is a jumbo half-moon shaped ravioli. One was wild mushroom, and I planned to toss it with roasted asparagus and chives, drizzle it with olive oil, and top it with freshly ground black pepper and goat cheese. Unfortunately, I didn’t consult my sister the asparagus roasting expert, and left it in the oven about 20 minutes instead of the 5 she said was correct, and the asparagus came out limp and mushy.
My aunt, Linda, brought over a bunch of chives she snipped from her patch, some blooming with crunchy-oniony flowers atop them. They were too pretty to ignore, so they got put out on the table.
The guest list: Mom and Dad, Jennifer and Dale Javier (he said he wanted to be called Javier), Mom’s best friend Leeann and her daughter (and my friend) Angie, and Linda. I asked Leeann which wine she wanted to drink. “Oh, I love all white wine,” she said, so I poured her the La Noble chardonnay I’d picked up and a teeny glass of fino. Fino is very dry sherry that I drank a lot in Spain and it always makes me think of briny olives, tapas, dancing sevillanas, and walking home through the Parque de María Luisa at seven in the morning.
Not everyone was into the wine thing, though. Dad and Javier mixed themselves up some massive bloody marys.
Check out this spread! Angie made that vibrant salad, Mom brought the relish tray, and there’s the wild mushroom agnolotti along with the four cheese (Quattro Formaggi) agnolotti, and the red sauce I mixed up for the latter.
where’s my two dollars?
There’s Linda and the view from the other side of the tablecloth. That’s right, tablecloth. Cloth napkins. Frawnch fries. Frawnch bread. Kwissssmassss. Pardon me, I’m channeling Better Off Dead.
The top is the wild mushroom agnolotti with the asparagus/chives/black pepper/olive oil/goat cheese topping I mentioned. The left/bottom is the four cheese agnolotti with a roasted red pepper and kalamata olive sauce, topped with fresh basil. And supposed to have grated parmesan on top, but I forgot to get it on there for the pic. That sauce was the bomb.
Jennifer posed for an action shot! You can see a glass of red wine, which would be the shiraz Angie brought. I’d originally planned on cabernet to pair with the wild mushroom agnolotti, but we ended up breaking that out later. The red paired really well with the four cheese as well. Personally, I drank a little of the chardonnay and the shiraz and liked them both with both pastas. Maybe I’m just easy. Don’t answer that.
Dad warned Javier early on, “You’re not going to be getting any meat here tonight.” Of course they were going through that theater to tease me, but their little plan backfired. They chowed down and made happy noises just as much as everyone else did.
Notice how I ran out of serving dishes and dug into the storage containers. I’m so not prepared for this big party thing.
bring out your desserts
Linda made the coolest. Dessert. Evar. Think peanut butter pound cake. Slice it. Spread with peanut buttercream and blackberry jam. Top with another slice of pound cake.
That’s right. Linda made pound cake pb&j. Awesome.
Jennifer dipped strawberries in chocolate and served them on an appropriately-themed playing cards plate. Did I mention this was dinner and games night?
Mom and Leeann have been best friends for like 40 years, since Leeann moved in next door to Mom and Dad. <suckup>Did I say 40? I meant 20, because they couldn’t be a day over 40 themselves.</suckup>
Time to get our game on. With 8 of us present, and everyone liking euchre, we drew numbers, paired up, and had a little euchre tournament. To my chagrin, I was paired with Dale Javier, but he only fucked up once so I didn’t get to yell at him.
Jennifer and Mom were the winning team (never put people with shared DNA on the same team) and suddenly when it was over people began joking, “Where are the prizes?”
“Prizes?” I said, and a light bulb went on. An opportunity to divest myself of some excess goods! I got out some packaged rice/pasta sides I’d been planning to hand off to Linda, some product samples I’d received randomly in the mail, and some decks of playing cards from an estate sale I went to last week. Jennifer chose this lovely rice side dish to take home with her.
For her parting gift, Angie selected “stars of country music” playing cards and some instant coffee samples.
Then we played Perudo, or Liar’s Dice, and after that midnight was approaching, so the parent types and Jennifer and Javier left before they all turned into pumpkins. This left Linda, Angie, Bill, and me, and we broke out the Pictionary.
how to draw siamese twins in pictionary
how not to win at ingenious
Even with the adults gone, the wine kept flowing. We finished the La Noble and the Oak Leaf shiraz. Then we finished the Red Truck varietal red, and broke into the Clos du Bois chardonnay and Ravenswood cabernet, and Linda finished her Funky Llama chardonnay.
Wits and Wagers made an appearance, and then we closed out the night with Ingenious. Angie couldn’t remember if she’d played before and Bill was new to Ingenious, so I played with a handicap — I picked my tiles to play randomly. I got trounced as the newbies quickly picked up on the strategy and scored one Ingenious after another. I’m never believing Cranky Angie again! (Cranky Angie: I don’t think I like this. I don’t know if I want to play this. I know and understand Cranky Angie, because Cranky Amy always makes an appearance with new games too.)
what did i learn from all this?
I can put on a grownup party.
I can sip wine without getting too drunk.
Having smokers around leads to more smoking.
The Buitoni Riserva pastas are really good. The Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti was the hands-down favorite.
Good wine goes with anything.
Euchre needs to be more than a regional game.
roasted red pepper and kalamata olive pasta sauce
This sauce was the hit of the party. Salty, piquant, and complex, it goes well with simple pastas like cheese ravioli or agnolotti. I hesitate to post it as a recipe because it’s so simple, but it’s so good that it must be shared.
1 (28 ounce) jar red pasta sauce, like marinara
1 small (7 ounce) jar roasted red peppers
¼ cup kalamata olives
Purée the roasted red peppers and kalamata olives in a blender. Pour sauce and pepper/olive purée into a 2-quart pan and warm over medium heat. Serve over pasta.
Thanks to Buitoni Riserva and Foodbuzz for helping me put on this party!