stand at attention

perfecting the “done before the arrive” dinner party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Dinner Party, Wine Line, Posted on September 20, 2011 by Sandy Bergsten

Saturday night we are going to have a little wine dinner at our house. I have a few oldies and hopefully goodies tucked away (beside some carpet remnants and folding chairs – you’ll find no pictures of my “cellar” on my iPhone.)

The fun in having an evening that revolves around wine is in the planning. And plan you must. The finer things in life do not like to be rushed.

First- think of who would truly appreciate what you might pull up from the northeast corner of your basement. No one wants an ice cube plunked into their cherished white burgundy. Save the spritzer crowd for another night.

Second- be cognizant of numbers. It is very difficult to serve more than six glasses of wine from a bottle. The point of the night is to taste and compare the wines. Plus six is a perfect number to truly converse as a group.

Third- consider the menu. What’s the spotlight of the night? Wine. Each course should showcase exactly that. Do a little research on what complements. A perfect resource might be your favorite wine merchant.

Fourth- (and it might sound contradictory) keep it simple. No one wants a Nervous Nancy in the kitchen. Plus you’ll miss out on all the wine fun. Put yourself at the table. This means putting the “done before they arrive” menu into overdrive. In my former life as a wife to a wine importer I spent many an evening locked away in the kitchen while men with silver cups delighted at my dining room table. Happily I am now emancipated and so is my wine from the brown paper bag.

Fifth- take timing into account. Keep cocktails to a minimum- no more than 45 minutes. A quick amuse bouche and wet your whistle then off to the table you go.

Sixth- hydrate. Offer plenty of water. When I first got married my oldest sister had sage advice- “glass of wine, glass of water”. It’s a maxim that has served me well over the years.

I spent a little time this weekend perusing my wine rack. After much deliberation and some invaluable help from Google and I came up with a liquid lineup. Two whites and two reds. Weighted mostly in the 80’s. Let’s hope they’re a little more U2 than Wham!

1991 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc

1989 Domaine Rapet Pere et Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru

1982 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Saint Julien

1982 Chateau La Dominique Saint Emillion Grand Cru Classe


For the meal I need to really plan ahead because tomorrow I’m leaving for a three-day business trip.

cheese puff cups

I went to freezer and spied some cheese puff cups with fig preserves and some frozen snow crab claws. Appetizers are done!

snow crab claws

For a first course I want something that will hopefully be as impressive as the white burgundies. A smoked tout stack should fit that bill and all the components can be made earlier in the day.

For our main course I’m opting for confit duck legs, butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce and sautéed spinach with garlic. Typing this would almost make me queasy unless I knew how quick it’s going to come together courtesy of Grimaud Farms and Ohio City Pasta.

Grimaud Farms Ohio City Pasta

A salad of mixed greens, selection of cheeses and a baguette will follow giving us a chance to linger over any remaining red.

For dessert I’m thinking a palate cleansing lemon sorbet with Grand Marnier infused blueberries and some brownie points. Lemon basil sorbet and brownies provided by Dorothy Lane Market.


Now that my wines are standing upright I can be at ease- because the planning is done.

menu notes

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