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Tasting Menu @ Home


jspatchwork
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Hello. I've enjoyed reading eGullet for the past few months, and finally my first post to the forum. I am a hobby chef (ok, more of a cook than a chef), who is relatively comfortable with most cooking methods.

Background for my question...

Over the past year my husband and I have hosted wine tasting dinners for friends at our home. Our guests usually supply the wine and I make a tasting menu to compliment it (5-6-7 course dinners). My goal is to make as much from scratch, but to be away from the table as little as possible. I am extremely organized and start planning weeks in advance. I compile & test recipes, and make lists and timetables for the evening. I have my staples that I can make from scratch ahead (like ravioli, dumplings, samosas, etc), but I don't want to have to start recycling dishes.

Any thoughts? or Recipes? or plating suggestions?

I try to only be away for 5-15 minutes between courses. In an ideal world, a lot could be made ahead and frozen, but obviously that can only go so far. I found out this week that I will be hosting a New Years Eve menu for 6 or 7 with one person being allergic to seafood (but I'm told he wouldn't be too upset to miss a course or two)

Here is an example one of our dinners...

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Arugula Bundles with Prosciutto and Pecorino Romano

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Italian Trio

(handmade spinach ravioli, crostini, store bought rigatoni with from scratch spicy vodka sauce)

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Homemade Spicy Dumplings

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Chateaubriand with cayenne/bluecheese, carmelized onion mashed potatoes, and asparagus bundles

gallery_41726_3959_66461.jpg

My famous "fruit taco" with mixed berries, vanilla whipped cream, and raspberry coulis

gallery_41726_3959_1069771.jpg

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How about some sort of individual _______ Wellington? Beef is the obvious choice, but certainly it could be done with other meats, or even a vegetable, maybe? Also, think about cold or hot soups served in shot glasses, such as many restaurants are doing as an amuse-bouche... I think even a stemmed glass of some sort might make an interesting presentation. Or maybe you have demitasse cups. Et cetera.

I hope you'll take a few seconds to photograph each dish, and post it. A lot of people are intrigued by the idea of doing a tasting menu at home, and would love to see what you do. :smile:

Edited to ask -- In the first picture, are those pads and pens beside the plates????

Edited by jgm (log)
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In 2004, I approached the idea of trying to do a tasting menu at home and there ensued a thoroughly interesting discussion on the concept ... eGullet thread here .. as for "do ahead"? It is virtually essential to do some of the dishes in advance, I should think ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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How about some sort of individual _______ Wellington?

Edited to ask -- In the first picture, are those pads and pens beside the plates????

It's funny you say that, my husband and I were contemplating wellingtons. I was thinking about making very small ones - think petit fours with a filet center. Maybe two per person with different offerings (i.e. one with spinach/gorgonzola, one with boursin/mushrooms).

Yep, pads & pens for note taking on the wines! I'm corny like that. :smile:

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In 2004, I approached the idea of trying to do a tasting menu at home and there ensued a thoroughly interesting discussion on the concept ... eGullet thread here .. as for "do ahead"? It is virtually essential to do some of the dishes in advance, I should think ...

Thanks for the link. I did a search, but I guess I didn't make it back that far into the archives.

Glad to see I'm not the only one who finds this fun, and not just a lot of work!

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I hope you'll take a few seconds to photograph each dish, and post it.  A lot of people are intrigued by the idea of doing a tasting menu at home, and would love to see what you do. :smile:

A few more photos from other tasting dinners...

Italian Appetizer Trio:

Fried Italian Samosa, Bruschetta, Filo Cup with Spicy Sausage Filling

gallery_41726_3959_20607.jpg

Coconut Lime Sorbet served on a lemon balm leaf on a star made of ice

gallery_41726_3959_40582.jpg

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In 2004, I approached the idea of trying to do a tasting menu at home and there ensued a thoroughly interesting discussion on the concept ... eGullet thread here .. as for "do ahead"? It is virtually essential to do some of the dishes in advance, I should think ...

I primarily do tasting menus when cooking for people and I find it quite feasible to do at home. The main detractor is that unless place settings for 25 are available, one runs through plates and glasses fairly quickly, meaning that there's always some dishes to do somewhere along the line.

I do a lot of prep work in advance of one (e.g. make fond, confit etc) and I prefer to spend most of the time cooking and chatting and only joining the rest of the table at the final plate before cheese is put out. The only thing that I can think of that would be a straight-out "make ahead and reheat for service" for me is consommé. I'm also more anal-retentive and prefer to select wines as well to have as much control over an event as possible.

Typical tasting menu production would be 3-5 amuse, 4-5 plates, cheese, dessert and 5-7 wines depending on whether it's individual pairings or flights.

jspatchwork: I like your three chamber plate and that fruit taco has me itching to do a fish taco amuse.

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This was my Thanksgiving dinner this year:

"Pasta from the future" [gel-caps of spaghetti all'Amatriciana]

Duck/Soup

chipotle-spiked duck shu mai

cucumber yogurt soup

Homaro Cantu's Sweet Crab

vanilla-butter-poached king crab

puree of buttered popcorn

kiwi/passion fruit fettucine

coconut milk foam

Meyer Lemon Sorbet

Gong Bao Quail

grilled quail

szechuan risotto

Pork Mole Tacos

tortilla chips

micro-greens

home-cured bacon

mole ravioli [alginate based]

Cheese

Jasper Hill bandaged cheddar with apple

young manchego with mostarda

Muenster with white chocolate

Chocolate Two Ways

"chocolate dispersion" [flourless, butterless chocolate cake] with creme fraiche

chocolate/red wine chantilly

Apple Three Ways

apple confit

apple fritter

apple cider sorbet

Andrew Riggsby

ariggsby@mail.utexas.edu

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In regards to my plates...

My name is Jennifer, and I'm a plate-aholic. I admit I have a secret stash of white tasting dinner plates upstairs in a guest room dresser. I am pretty much addicted to buying them in as many shapes and sizes as I can.

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In regards to my plates...

My name is Jennifer, and I'm a plate-aholic.  I admit I have a secret stash of white tasting dinner plates upstairs in a guest room dresser.  I am pretty much addicted to buying them in as many shapes and sizes as I can.

gallery_10011_1589_36413.jpg

Everything looks wonderful on a square white glossy plate! :wink: even simple fruit! :laugh:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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In regards to my plates...

My name is Jennifer, and I'm a plate-aholic.  I admit I have a secret stash of white tasting dinner plates upstairs in a guest room dresser.  I am pretty much addicted to buying them in as many shapes and sizes as I can.

Ahhh... plates... I think I've actually scheduled a dinner party as an excuse to get the latest white plate/serving piece/bowl/sauce dish that I've got my eye on. :rolleyes:

I actually have a template in Visio for each of my plates that I use when I'm planning a dinner party (I usually do 4-6 courses) so I can diagram out my plating plan. My friends give me grief for being an incurable food geek, but it does make the night go more smoothly.

As to the individual Beef Wellingtons, Fine Cooking did an article on them a couple of years ago which I used for a dinner party for 14. The really, really, really wonderful thing about them (did I mention it was wonderful?) was that not only could they be made ahead and frozen, they could go straight from the freezer to the oven. Lovely, lovely, lovely. My only beef with them (sorry, couldn't help myself) was that they were too large for many of the guests to finish, so cutting them in half is probably a good solution.

I might have to go home and make a batch.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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I gotta admit, whenever I do tastings at home, as much as I want to be around the table and such, I always end up spending most of the time in the kitchen. Not that Im complaining, since the kitchen is my second home! :) But, the most time I spend at the table is to explain what Ive done and why Ive paired it with ______.

I highly admire the home cooks that can pull off a decent tasting menu AND spend some quality time at the table with the guests.

If you want some of my menus, Id be glad to send em if youd like.

-Chef Johnny

[EDIT] And in regards to the plate, I am also a plate-aholic. I go to any lengths necessary to get the perfect plate to compiment my food. Ive spent upwards of $60+ dollars on a single plate from Gumps SF. (If youre from the Bay Area and know what kind of store Gumps is, you can understand. For example, they are one of 2 companies that are allowed to carry Thomas Kellers line of flatware and such.

Edited by ChefJohnny (log)

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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I gotta admit, whenever I do tastings at home, as much as I want to be around the table and such, I always end up spending most of the time in the kitchen. 

I highly admire the home cooks that can pull off a decent tasting menu AND spend some quality time at the table with the guests.

If you want some of my menus, Id be glad to send em if youd like.

Now that I think about it, most of the time I spend with my guests is standing, wine glass in hand, with one knee on the dining chair I should be sitting on - ready to dash back to the kitchen.

If you have menus to share or specific dishes/recipes that you find work well for this type of dinner, I'd definitely love for you to send them to me.

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First I wanted to thank you all for your comments and suggestions on my post yesterday regarding tasting menus at home. I've come up with the first draft of my menu and thought I would update you.

My guests coming for NYE (oenophiles) have given me a challenge... create a sophisticated/satisfying menu using not so sophisticated ingredients (i.e. no foie gras, truffles, etc). With that in mind, I came up with six courses (seven if I decide to do a sorbet).

1 - Individual Charcuterie Board

Homemade hot pretzels, spicy sopressetta, whole grain mustard

<I'm considering serving this with Hop Devil IPA, mmmm>

2 - Soup

Demitasse cup of hot & sour soup, pork dumplings on the side

3 - Salad

Arugula tossed w/ balsamic vinegrette, bruschetta w/ ricotta, tomatoes, basil

4 - Pasta

Gnocchi with thyme butter or gorgonzola cream (can't decide)

5 - Main

* Could use some suggestions.

Originally thinking miniature beef wellingtons, but that seems too predictable.

Anyone have any thoughts on a main dish including fresh buttermilk biscuits? (I make a mean biscuit :biggrin:) Maybe a upscale take on steak and eggs or chicken and biscuits?

6 - Chocolate dessert of some sort

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First I wanted to thank you all for your comments and suggestions on my post yesterday regarding tasting menus at home.  I've come up with the first draft of my menu and thought I would update you.

My guests coming for NYE (oenophiles) have given me a challenge... create a sophisticated/satisfying menu using not so sophisticated ingredients (i.e. no foie gras, truffles, etc).  With that in mind, I came up with six courses (seven if I decide to do a sorbet).

1 - Individual Charcuterie Board

    Homemade hot pretzels, spicy sopressetta, whole grain mustard

    <I'm considering serving this with Hop Devil IPA, mmmm>

2 - Soup

    Demitasse cup of hot & sour soup, pork dumplings on the side

3 - Salad

    Arugula tossed w/ balsamic vinegrette, bruschetta w/ ricotta, tomatoes, basil

4 - Pasta

    Gnocchi with thyme butter or gorgonzola cream (can't decide)

5 - Main

    * Could use some suggestions.

    Originally thinking miniature beef wellingtons, but that seems too predictable.

    Anyone have any thoughts on a main dish including fresh buttermilk biscuits? (I make a mean biscuit  :biggrin:)  Maybe a upscale take on steak and eggs or chicken and biscuits? 

6 - Chocolate dessert of some sort

Maybe a braised shortribs with a bbq/chili sauce base (instead of a wine or beer version). I have a good recipe adapted from a local Chicago chef (can't think of her name right now) that I could PM you if you like. That might be good with the biscuit.

One question thought - Do you think the biscuit would be too much after the starch from the gnocchi?

Another idea that I'll throw out there (of course it has a starch in it also) is seafood potpies. Doesn't have to be lobster but could be scallops or shrimp or fish.

Whatever you do - have fun!

I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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Maybe a braised shortribs with a bbq/chili sauce base (instead of a wine or beer version).  I have a good recipe adapted from a local Chicago chef (can't think of her name right now) that I could PM you if you like. That might be good with the biscuit. 

One question thought - Do you think the biscuit would be too much after the starch from the gnocchi? 

Another idea that I'll throw out there (of course it has a starch in it also) is seafood potpies.  Doesn't have to be lobster but could be scallops or shrimp or fish. 

Thanks for the quick reply! Good point on the back to back starches. The portions will all be pretty small, but I could always throw a sorbet in between. Shortribs or something bbq'y might work. I'd love your recipe if you have the time to send it.

Oh, I forgot to mention, my husband is allergic to seafood :sad:, so I usually try not to make the main course a seafood one.

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I want to be a plate-aholic, but don't do tasting menu dinners often enough to justify investing in the plates I covet. And the ones that I do have tend to have too many people - it's one thing to have enough plates for 6 or 8, another thing entirely for 16 or more.

You asked for recipe ideas. These are very seasonal for the meal you've got coming up, but the squash trio amuse bouche I made for the Heartland Gathering this year is very amenable to doing ahead, as a whole or in parts.

gallery_25969_665_98393.jpg

On the upper left is a baby patty pan squash, hollowed out and filled with crisped guanciale mixed with fig preserves. All of this can be done in advance, and the guanciale mixture would just need to be heated prior to topping. You could do this with pancetta or bacon as well.

The zucchini blossom is stuffed with a simple puree of white beans, garlic, lemon, parsley and salt and served cold.

The roulade is thinly sliced and grilled zucchini with a filling of goat cheese, olive oil, sundried tomatoes and thyme. You can prepare them way in advance and just heat them up in the oven prior to serving.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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what about a beef tenderloin w/ red eye gravy? I like to rub tenderloins (or pork for that matter) w/ ground coffee and sear then make a red eye gravy fr/ the pan drippings (a tad more coffee if necessary, some beef stock and hot sauce w/ a hint of onion, garlic, and thyme or rosemary--then strain). It would definitely work w/ the biscuit and might be interesting.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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1. Menus usually alternate large and small dishes.

2. Not sure about the pork dumplings, especially if you follow with pasta

3. Why stop at desert. Its good for meals to have a long tail so that people can sit round sippong delcious desert wines, port ot other after dinner drinks, nibbling..

4. Some cold, pre assembled dishes will make your life easier

5. Hot sour soup, and balsamic vinegar dressing are hell on wine, as is chocolate, but maybe you are trying to make the wine choices hard.

6. You are putting too much in each course. For example salad and bruscetta are really two different courses. In fact I'd lose the bruschetta.

7, No fish course?

I've put possible additional courses in brackets

Charcuterie (large)

(oysters)

Consomme (small)

Pasta (Gnocchi with thyme butter) (large)

Salad (no vinegar) (small)

Main (since its italian style maybe veal, or slow cooked lamb, or an italian chicken such as piccata or parmigan (large)

Sorbet (small)

Hot sweet (e.g beignets) (large)

Cold sweet (Tiramisu? Zabaglione?) (small)

(savoury or cheese, fruit) (large)

Coffee, chocolates, tatlets etc (small)

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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jackal10 -

Thank you for taking the time to give me so many good suggestions. Obviously I am a novice, so I appreciate your insight. I don't know if I can pull off such a large menu by myself, but I'm certainly going to give it some thought. I will repost.

Edited by jspatchwork (log)
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How about some sort of individual _______ Wellington?

Edited to ask -- In the first picture, are those pads and pens beside the plates????

It's funny you say that, my husband and I were contemplating wellingtons. I was thinking about making very small ones - think petit fours with a filet center. Maybe two per person with different offerings (i.e. one with spinach/gorgonzola, one with boursin/mushrooms).

Yep, pads & pens for note taking on the wines! I'm corny like that. :smile:

I haven't read the whole thread yet, but I saw this note while thinking up my reply to the original post.

You can do a Wellington-esque pastry using philo. It's a variation on Spanakopita.

"Sketching" my method; don't feel like writing it out formally.

The filling: Just about anything will do. Approximately 2 Tbsp are needed for each triangle. It just can have "too much" moisture; not wet to the touch.

* For Wellingtons I dice up choice-cut steak, add duxelles and when rolling the triangles I add a cube of foie gras (don't like pate as much).

** For meats: you should partially cook the filling to ensure heat gets in. Otherwise the filling centers may not cook thoroughly in time.

1. On acceptable work board, place one sheet of philo with shortsides at top and bottom. Butter lightly. Add a second sheet. Butter lightly.

2. Cut philo into three long strips.

3. At each strip, place 2 Tbsp mixture about 1/2" in on three sides (not the top obviously).

4. Fold into triangles as you would fold a flag.

5. Use butter to tack the last edge down, or tuck.

6. Butter tops and place on a lightly oiled breaking sheet

--- I actually use a stone, so I just butter both sides.

7. Bake at 350 until done (brown edges, clean knife). You might want to rotate the sheet once to ensure even baking.

Edited by C_Ruark (log)
"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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* For Wellingtons I dice up choice-cut steak, add duxelles and when rolling the triangles I add a cube of foie gras (don't like pate as much).

I've made triangles with lots of different fillings, but never thought about using meat. Do they get greasy?

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