2016 New Year’s Eve Black Tie Dinner Party

What a fabulous evening we had in Memphis on New Year’s Eve. It was a drizzly 45 degree evening when six couples gathered for an elegant “Downtown Abbey” experience in our home. The table glowed in gold accenting the Lenox Holiday China and glass gold ruffle chargers. The beautiful gold Lenox placemats and napkins looked gorgeous. I decided on the Gorham Cherrywood crystal. The lighting in the dining room and our glass top dining table reflected the sparkle beautifully.

We were delighted to be served by a professional waiter following cocktails and appetizers in front of the fire in our great room. After our lovely dinner, we indulged in various liquers and coffee plus a New Albany Chocolate birthday cake for one of the attendees whose birthday happens to be on New Year’s Eve. We also served Ina Garten’s creme brulee, which turned out perfect. Next, we took official NYE portraits of each couple in the chocolate chair in front of the fire. Next week I will send them their photo as a momento of our lovely evening.

After donning party hats and grabbing  kazoos, our guests then stepped outside through the piano room to the pool deck where we enjoyed sparklers and light fireworks following the “guitar drop” at Gibson’s. It was a bit chilly and damp so we enjoyed coffee, champagne and truffles inside by the fire before the party adjourned. I think we made some good memories. Thought you might enjoy reading our menu.

Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sang softly in the background . . .

2016 New Year’s Eve Menu

 8:00 PM

Appetizers and Cocktails From the Great Room in Front of the Fireplace

 Moving to the The Dining Room

 Appetizer – Seafood Au Gratin

 Soup – Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Bisque

 Elegant Fruit Salad

Intermezzo

 Lemon Sorbet

 Main Course

 Tenderloin Beef and Whiskey Sauce

Burgundy Mushrooms

Classic Mashed Potatoes

       Spinach Souffle

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

 Olive Bread with Roasted Garlic and Butter

Crème Brulee or New Albany Chocolate Birthday Cake

 Coffee and Liquers

Champagne and Truffles at Midnight

Grand Finale

Fireworks and Outdoor Fireplace by the Pool

 

 

 

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Heavenly Nostalgia – Welcome to Chattanooga City Cafe Diner

by Cynthia Y. Thompson

Arriving in Chattanooga recently to speak at a #SHRMChattanooga luncheon meeting, we lucked upon a the cutest little diner I have ever seen. It was quite cold and damp and were in search of a comforting bowl of soup and a good glass of wine when we spotted a wonderful nostalgic neon sign flashing Welcome to@City Cafe Diner.

City Cafe Diner in Chattanooga

City Cafe Diner in Chattanooga

What a charming and welcoming sign! Love neon signs – such a blast from the past! I was expecting a quaint little burger joint, which was fine as long as they had a warm bowl of vegetable beef soup. What a surprise to find a quite sophisticated menu and an in-house bakery that is the most fascinating I have seen in this decade. Imagine my delight to find Manhattan Clam Chowder on the menu in this little Southern diner.

Fabulous cakes at City Cafe Diner.

Fabulous cakes at City Cafe Diner.

Not only did I love the chowder, but I also enjoyed the ambiance of this wonderful little Chattanooga surprise. How often do you find a Southern restaurant that serves Manhattan Clam Chowder? There is a full bakery showcase full of the most beautiful cakes and pastries I have ever seen. What a wonderful idea! An excellent diner with a lovely bakery in house.

The place is a visual delight complete with charming little red leather booths and soda fountain stools. We lingered there much longer than we should have and enjoyed watching all the locals pour in and taking it all the sights and sounds. I expected the “Fonz” to walk in any minute.

Charming red leather booths - a blast from the past.

Charming red leather booths – a blast from the past.

ChattDinerAwardCan’t wait to go back to Chattanooga and visit the @CityCafeDiner again when I can stay longer. I was not surprised to see the City Scope Readers Choice Dining Award for Best Late Night Bite on the wall – well deserved! This is truly one of Chattanooga’s best kept secrets. You will find it at the corner of 901 Carter Street and M. L. King Blvd. Enjoy!

Downtown Abbey Opening Season Dinner Party

by Cynthia Y. Thompson

On January 5, 2014, the long-awaited first episode of the 4th season of Downtown Abbey finally arrived on PBS. The excitement mounted as my husband and I relived the 3rd season episodes each Sunday evening – plus the previews of the coming season in anticipation of the new season. We began a new ritual of elegant dining in front of the fireplace using some of our favorite menus and recipes. However, we decided to do something extra special to celebrate the new season.

The Carmichaels of Germantown, TN

The Carmichaels of Germantown, TN

This antique silver centerpiece is always on my dining room table with seasonal flowers to match the occasion or the china service I am using.

This antique silver centerpiece is always on my dining room table with seasonal flowers to match the occasion or the china service I am using.

So we invited some fellow Downtown Abbey “groupies” over for an elegant dinner party using our French Limoges (Theodore Haviland), which my husband inherited from his grandmother. We seldom have an occasion that is appropriate to use it.

What made the dinner party really special was the music we enjoyed during dinner. The Carmichaels brought the “Downtown Abbey CD,” the original music from the television series by John Lunn. I highly recommend this lovely touch for your special Sunday night dinner if you are a fan. It will take your dinner party back to The Gilded Age.

It was an unseasonably cold evening for Memphis and the perfect time for a cozy dinner party for four. I decided on an Italian theme for the menu because I wanted to serve Grisanti’s “Elfo Special.” If you are from Memphis, you know this is a special recipe! It appeared in the Commercial Appeal on January 11, 2011, and I was so thrilled to finally have it! It’s a luscious concoction of butter, garlic, shrimp, mushrooms, grated Romano cheese and thin spaghetti. I channeled Tessie Oelrichs, known as the The Gracious Hostess among the leaders of the Newport, RI, summer colony of The Gilded Age, as I cooked imagining her servants making this meal at Rosecliff for one of her elaborate dinner parties.

Place setting of Limoges with Chantilly silver by Gorham and Cherrywood crystal also by Gorham on Battenburg lace placemats.

Place setting of Limoges with Chantilly silver by Gorham and Cherrywood crystal also by Gorham on Battenburg lace placemats.

Here’s the entire menu for our special Downtown Abbey Dinner Party.

I love using the Limoges covered casserole for sauteed spinach.

I love using the Limoges covered casserole for sauteed spinach.

A green Italian Salad with chopped romain lettuce, red onions, grape tomatoes and Parmesan cheese

Elfo’s Special Pasta

Sauteed spinach with garlic and olive oil

A  loaf of Italian bread for dipping with olive oil and freshly

ground pepper

Italian Cream Cake with Prosecco

The Limoges Coffee Service

The Limoges Coffee Service

We started the evening in the great room in front of the fire and moved to our formal dining room for dinner ending up back in front of the fire for Italian Cream Cake, coffee and Prosecco for dessert.

We made a special memory on this night and I bet there are others who did also. Did you have a special dinner party for the Downtown Abbey opening season show? If so, please share it with us!

Monday Night Dinner at Paulette’s on Mud Island

by Cynthia Y. Thompson

Monday night was my husband’s birthday and there is no better way to celebrate important events in Memphis than having dinner at Paulette’s Restaurant. Paulette’s moved to Harbor Town in March of 2012. We were at the restaurant for their farewell dinner at Overton Square. Many fond memories were made at Paulette’s. They used to be known for their crepes and Hungarian menu. Since I am a huge fan of Julia Child and especially her crepe recipes, Paulette’s was always a favorite spot to dine for me. Now it is the anchor restaurant for the River Inn on Mud Island with the rolling Mississippi River as a back drop.

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise

The Monday night menu is a special treat since it’s a three course dinner for only $19.95. The menu includes your choice of soup or salad, with three lovely entrees to select from and two desserts. Fortunately, we were celebrating my husband’s birthday with another couple, so we were able to sample almost every dish on the menu. Our first choice was a salad or soup. I cannot remember the salad that was offered because no one in our party selected it. The soup was vichyssoise, a chilled potato soup made of pureed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock. The unexpected lagniappe, (something obtained gratuitously) for me was the drizzle of pesto olive oil. The flavor was fantastic and made the soup unique.

Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

We each had a nice sample of each of the entrees offered on this particular Monday night.The birthday boy chose the Seafood Risotto, which he loved. It had that wonderful creamy risotto texture, which is what I love about risotto, and included shrimp and scallops. However, it appeared to have a bit of tomato sauce or tomato paste incorporated into it since it was a reddish pink color. It tasted fantastic. But I was glad that I did not choose this one.

Pork tenderloin with pureed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and sliced fresh peaches.

Pork tenderloin with pureed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and sliced fresh peaches.

For my entree, I selected the pork tenderloin with pureed sweet potatoes and roasted asparagus. I attribute my selection to the Memphis BBQ judge in me. It’s hard to resist pork tenderloin, and I adore sweet potatoes. However, the chef chose to add a couple of slices of fresh peaches and drizzle peach juice over this dish. I would  prefer this dish sans peaches. To me the mushy sweet potato puree and the mushy peaches were just too much. The peaches just made the dish too sweet. The sweet potato puree would have been just right. I just have to say there was something about the presentation that turned me off. What do you think? (see photo above)

Winner – Winner – Chicken Dinner!!

Chicken with Beurre Blanc

Chicken with Beurre Blanc

My girlfriend chose the chicken entree, which was by far the most beautifully presented. I love the way the chicken breast was served, cut in half and sort of geometrically placed atop the rice and covered with a nice beurre blanc and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. The chicken was cooked to perfection and was very juicy. Evidently, they didn’t mention the sauce on the menu because I’m a sucker for anything covered in beurre blanc. Or maybe I was just biased by the idea of pork tenderloin. . .

Doesn’t the chicken with beurre blanc look luscious??

Peach Crepe

Peach Crepe

It was finally time for dessert! Since it was a birthday celebration, the dessert was a very important part of the celebration.The choices were a peach creme brulee (it was peach night) or a chocolate mousse dessert. Would you believe that all four of us chose the peach creme brulee?? We could not wait for it to arrive! This is one of my favorite desserts to serve at my dinner parties. However, I had never made peach creme brulee, and could not wait to taste it. Imagine my disappointment when the server delivered the news that they were all out!! What a blow! They substituted another dessert for the peach creme brulee – you guessed it – another peach dessert. They substituted a fresh peach crepe with whipped cream topping, which sounded divine. However, it was served cold. We were expecting it to be warm with a dollop of cool whipped cream. It was very nice, but could have been so much better had it been served warm.

Paulette's Famous Popovers

Paulette’s Famous Popovers

Paulette's signature popovers and strawberry butter

Paulette’s signature popovers and strawberry butter

Overall, it was a lovely evening and the dinner was excellent. We enjoyed a nice bottle of Chardonnay, Sterling Central Coast, 2009, which was very reasonably priced and complimented all three entrees. I have to tell you the best thing we ate at Paulette’s was the signature popovers served piping hot with strawberry butter! No matter what else was served, they would still be our favorite item on the menu, as always. We had two each!

Please note, in case you are planning to go to Paulettes’ for lunch, they do not serve popovers at lunch. Sad face, right? We recently took my Mom for lunch following a doctor’s appointment. She was quite surprised and disappointed that we were unable to get the popovers for lunch. I think they should be available at lunch and dinner. I guess that is a draw for dinner customers.

I highly recommend Paulette’s for any celebration or just for Saturday night dinner. Sunday Brunch is also excellent. My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I cannot wait to go back for my birthday celebration. I’m hoping for the chicken dinner. I will let you know what’s on the menu!

Contact me on Twitter @MfsFoodie

Paulette’s Restaurant, 50 Harbor Town Square (901-260-3333)

A Spring Celebration Salad Follows Water Aerobics

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lexington, KY is one of my all time favorite places to visit. It’s the second largest city in Kentucky and is the horse capital of the world. For a foodie like me, this town is a perfect example of what gracious entertaining means. Last week, three of my girlfriends decided it was time to start an exercise regimen. Kudos to them! In addition, they decided the exercise of choice would be water aerobics at the clubhouse pool in the gorgeous condo golfing community of Griffin Gate. Now here in Memphis, I’m pretty comfortable declaring that most of us in Memphis would head to the nearest Backyard Burgers following our workout for a healthy turkey burger on a wheat bun with french fried sweet potatoes (yum!). However, that’s not how it works in Lexington. The exercise date is just another excuse, as if they need one, to cook something elegant and decadent to celebrate the beginning of a new regimen.

Keeneland Entertains, Traditional Bluegrass Hospitality and Favorite Recipes by Fran Taylor

Keeneland Entertains, Traditional Bluegrass Hospitality and Favorite Recipes by Fran Taylor

“Kentuckians don’t have a lock on hospitality and favorite recipes, but perhaps as one of the most northern of the southern states, they just might try harder when it comes to exhibiting the best traits of Southern hospitality . . .” So following the water aerobics class, the ladies headed back to the condo for a heavenly lunch of Spring Celebration Salad and Peach Cobbler from Keeneland Entertains, Traditional Hospitality and Favorite Recipes, validating the quote from the Cookbook. (I am the proud recipient of my very own signed copy that adorns my coffee table.)

Spring Celebration Salad, page 185, is a delicious light lunch and makes a fantastic entree. It is perfect to prepare right before heading off to the races (or water aerobics.) The recipe is based on a popular Swedish dish, which has a lot of ingredients and requires some advance preparation, but is simple to put together. Serve it with a crusty french bread and a good white wine. The ladies enjoyed, Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay. A perfect choice! This chardonnay is an elegant pale yellow with pleasant flecks of green. The aroma is fresh almonds and florals. AAAhhh.

Colorful Spring Celebration Salad

Colorful Spring Celebration Salad

This beautiful salad contains Swedish deveined shrimp, crabmeat, mushrooms, petite sweet peas, chilled asparagus, green onions, red onion, capers, boiled eggs, and garnished with basil. Isn’t it lovely??

You are probably thinking, what a delicious and filling little lunch. Who needs dessert? Well think again. The graciousness continues with a lovely Summertime Fresh Peach

Summertime Fresh Peach Cobbler served in french souffle dishes.

Summertime Fresh Peach Cobbler served in french souffle dishes.

Cobbler from page 233. This cobbler is so gorgeous and comes out of the oven resembling a fluffy french souffle. Do you agree? Tradition has it that this wonderful recipe is enjoyed on hot evenings in Lexington following the Keeneland summer sales. It’s a great way to enjoy the abundance of the season – fresh peaches!

I must close this post now and prepare for my morning ritual of 30 minutes on the elliptical machine followed by 15 minutes of free weights at our local YMCA. I can’t imagine having having this fabulous lunch waiting when I return . . .maybe I should try the water aerobics class . . .

An Elegant Celebration Dinner Party

The china pattern is Autumn by Lenox. The engraved silverware is Chantilly by Gorham. The crystal is Lady Anne also by Gorham.

The china pattern is Autumn by Lenox. The engraved silverware is Chantilly by Gorham. The crystal is Lady Anne also by Gorham.

Recently a dear friend had very serious open heart surgery to repair an aneurism in his aorta. In his third week of recovery we decided he was up to a celebration dinner party at our house. So we invited him and his wife, another couple, and a dear friend who recently turned 95! With this diverse group, I decided a seafood dinner would be most appropriate. We started the evening around 6:30 with wine and cheese by the pool. The weather was perfect!

Wine and cheese were served by the pool.

Wine and cheese were served by the pool.

There was baked brie with walnuts and dates, which is always a popular choice among our friends. I threw in a little French surprise just for fun – ice cold radishes with butter and salt. Turns out the guest of honor loved the radish appetizer. He said he used to pick radishes from his mother’s garden growing up, and the radishes brought back warm memories for him. Isn’t it fun when you can make a nice memory for someone? Who knew? Here’s my dinner menu.

We moved to the dining room for dinner. The table was set with our Autumn Lenox china, our Lady Anne crystal by Gorham, and the Gorham Chantilly sterling silverware my husband inherited from his mother. We used our gold ruffled glass chargers with the Lenox. I love these chargers from Pier 1 because they look like Annie Glass. The sterling is engraved with my mother in-law’s three initials. When she died, her friends said she was the only lady left in the County who knew the correct forks to use. She was quite an elegant hostess and loved to entertain the local and state politicians. I think she would be delighted that we are using her sterling silverware when we entertain.

Our dinner started with Shrimp Gratin (inspired by Ina Garten’s Bay Scallop Gratin) I love this dish because it can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until right before dinner. Bring it out about 20 minutes before you bake it and let it come to room temperature. It’s so much fun using the scallop sea shells! Guests always “ooh and aah” when I serve with them. I have quite a collection in every size. They are so easy to find at Memphis estate sales.

Shrimp Gratin

Shrimp Gratin

The entree was seared cod with risotto and fresh asparagus. I usually sear the cod (or Chilean sea bass) on my Jenn-Air gas grill in the kitchen. On this evening, I prepared it on the gas burner of our Char Broil Red gas grill out by the pool. There was no grease splatter to clean up inside, which I loved!

Dessert was an ice cream delight inspired by a Sandra Lee’s Ice Cream Bomb Cake. This was an easy and delightful dessert for a summer evening. I’ve served it twice and there was not a drop left on the dessert plates either time. So, I’d say it’s a hit and a keeper! All you do is thaw the french vanilla ice cream in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until it’s soft enough to stir. Then I dish it into small round individual ramekins, the ones I use for creme brulee, and let it freeze until it’s quite hard – about 2 hours. Then melt some Polaner’s Raspberry All Fruit in small sauce pan until it’s pouring consistency. Drizzle the raspberry sauce on the dessert plate and then turn the ice cream out on top. It comes out easily after setting it in hot water for 10 seconds. Then completely cover it with Magic Shell fudge chocolate and garnish with a few fresh raspberries. It makes a very dramatic dessert!

Following coffee and liqueurs, we moved to the great room for after dinner drinks and great conversation. It was such a lovely evening celebrating life with our dear friends and enjoying  great food. It was an evening I think Alexandra Stoddard would call “living a beautiful life.”

My version of Sandra Lee's Ice Cream Bomb

My version of Sandra Lee’s Ice Cream Bomb

Sunday Supper in the Suburbs

Sunday supper at the new condo.

Sunday supper at the new condo.

Last Sunday we were invited to dinner with friends who just moved into their new condo after relocating back to Memphis from Virginia. It was such a treat seeing their new home and welcoming them back! Our relaxing Sunday supper started out on the patio with crudites and wine watching Bill master his grill. For me, watching a man grilling in his own space is a thing of beauty. This is how you spend Sunday summer evenings in the South. Their lovely patio is decorated with splashes of red and opens up from double French doors off the dining room.

Judy and Bill's lovely patio at their new condo.

Judy and Bill’s lovely patio at their new condo.

It was quite an elegant menu for a Sunday night. Bill made his famous caesar salad, which would have been a very satisfying meal by itself. In addition, they served steak and veggie kabobs and Judy’s baked onions in foil, which are fabulous! For dessert, it was key lime pie. The table was lovely, and was set with lime green and red fiestaware dressed up with black and lime green place mates in a geometric pattern with black linen napkins. The built in china cabinet in the dining room is a nice touch and displays some of Judy’s red fiestaware.JudysChinaCabinet

After dinner, we took a leisurely stroll through the new neighborhood with a glass of wine. The weather was gorgeous, which is incredible for the first of June in Memphis! We wrapped up the evening watching a rerun of the final episode of
Season 3 of Downton Abbey. What synchronicity given that we saw the original episode together following a dinner party at our house a few months earlier! It was lovely sharing it with them again. My husband and I are voracious Downton Abbey fans and cannot wait for Season 4!!! It was a lovely ending for a lovely Sunday supper in the suburbs. We are so glad to have our dear friends back in Memphis.