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Birthday Party & Winter Blahs Party

My Ya-Ya Sister Linda turned 50 at the end of December and we were lucky enough to be invited to a dinner party in her honor. I had not blogged about it because I had not asked her permission but it seems she has given it in writing so here we go!

Linda asked for a quiet dinner with 3 of her closest friends and our husbands, so one of those friends took this request to the highest of levels. Sally called me and said that instead of going out to a restaurant she was going to have Linda’s birthday dinner catered in her home. It was to be a quiet dinner party for the 8 of us, with foods that Linda loves. I was sworn to silence so that Linda would not know the plan and the only other I could speak to about it was Linda’s husband Bob. I was a bit anxious anticipating this dinner party because it felt strange not being any part of helping out with it. Once we got there though, it was pure bliss. I cannot recommend this style of party enough! Have someone else do the cooking and cleanup and just ENJOY the party!

Sally and Rob’s home was festive with beautiful Christmas decor, and the smells from the kitchen were lovely. We all sat in the living room and had wine and wonderful appetizers and lively conversation. It was SO nice to just relax with long-time friends (I have known Linda for over 18 years) and enjoy myself. The appetizers included a fantastic bruschetta and seared ahi skewers that were so good even Sally enjoyed them…and she swore she would hate it! It was so casual and homey with a nice fire and everyone enjoying the apps family-style. I did not realize how stressful the past month had been until I was sitting on the most comfortable couch ever and listening to the familiar tones of voices that I have missed very much. I just breathed and relaxed and enjoyed it. I am relaxing just writing about it!

The caterers were a husband and wife team, a couple that Sally was friends with and had worked with at other parties in her home. They set her kitchen up professionally and set the dining table absolutely beautifully. They called us to dinner and we all sat down at the candle-lit table and began getting excited about the meal to come. The gold chargers in front of us promised gustatory riches to come! We were not to be disappointed. From the moment my bowl of creamy butternut squash soup landed on my charger I felt like royalty. So many salads are just salads, but this one was exceptional. Little flavor explosions with every bite!

For the main course we had a tropical preparation of halibut. It was prepared in a style that closely resembled a dish that Linda enjoys when she goes to Hawaii every year, and it was a nice reminder that the snow and ice outside would soon be gone. There was even a palate-cleansing intermezzo course of homemade lemon sorbet! The whole dinner was like that: very fancy and yet because we were in the home of a friend it was not fussy or formal at all, which made it fantastic! We lingered over dinner for a long time, just the way I love to do, and dessert was no less fabulous than the rest of the meal with homemade sorbet and a very original take on a type of pineapple upside down cake.

Linda, being the amazing and wonderful woman that she is, honored each of us three women who were there to honor her. I still have the letter that she wrote for me and had her husband read aloud, and I will always cherish those words. It was a treat to be able to hear the words she wrote for Sally and Laura as well, knowing how much she loves each of them and being a part of the sharing of her love for all of us was phenomenal. We then ‘retired’ back to the living room (no dishes to do!) and showered Linda with gifts. Laura’s was the most fabulous gift of all: a lovingly crafted scrap book with memories going back 47 years, which is how long they have been friends. A life long friendship, where the word ‘friend’ is so inadequate and yet so packed with meaning, is a beautiful thing.

This past Saturday was our “Shake Off the Winter Blahs” Party at the cafe and it was very fun! The Washington Academy of Music performed upstairs during lunch and Italian chef Roberto Russo prepared a wonderful cornettone for the house to enjoy. Cornettone is his version of our stuffed sandwich (you know the one we do every other day with turkey, havarti and pesto, and every other day with ham, swiss cheese and sweet-hot mustard) and he brought prosciutto and pancetta from his farm in Umbria. (Can you tell that I am smiling?) His prosciutto… it is the most fabulous prosciutto ever. I enjoyed it while I was staying at his agriturismo and I not had that taste in my mouth again until Saturday.

Roberto’s presence is enough to make any room have a party atmosphere, so Saturday was a blast. He signed and sold some of his cookbooks and danced about our little kitchen preparing wonderful foods for everyone’s enjoyment. At 2 we went upstairs so that a group of folks interested in our Italy food and wine trip could talk with Doumina about the trip and we could all answer questions and tell stories about the upcoming trip. We are more than half full within three months of announcing this trip so I am so excited! This trip is better than anything anyone could plan on their own, and a billion times better than any other ‘tour’, so I am extremely lucky and thankful for Doumina’s expertise and guidance.

So have you been to any great parties lately? What is your favorite kind of party? Mark and I are going to Victoria for the holiday weekend (thank you mom and dad!!!) and we will have a quiet party for 2, card games, bubble baths and fire-watching included…possibly my favorite kind of party! We need a getaway and Victoria is perfect for us since we know it so well. You will get a fabulous food report next week! Ciao for now!