the big… countdown

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Veggies and Sides, Sauces and Such, Desserts, Beverages, Dinner Party, Wine Line, Posted on November 11, 2012 by Sandy Bergsten


Saturday I turned the big five-oh. And what better way to herald this milestone then a cozy dinner for twelve the night before. One of the best presents this girl could ask for is a table full of dear friends laughing, toasting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Want to know a truism I’ve learned over the past half century? Guests only have as a good time as their host or hostess. For me that means my best silver and blue jeans, a great line up of wine, and an amazing menu that comes together with a minimum of effort.

Here’s my quinquagenarian menu. During cocktails I passed smoked salmon on cucumber rounds, shitake cheese toasts and cheddar cheese tartlets. For the first course I poured a 2010 Domaine des Gerbeaux Pouilly-Fuisse to accompany the smoked trout stacks. Friends brought an incredible magnum of 1986 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection to accompany the beef tenderloin with fresh horseradish sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes and pureed parsnips with sautéed Brussels sprout leaves. We finished our 2007 Chave Saint-Joseph Offerus with a sinful chocolate cake and martini glasses filled with hummers. The best part- everything was made and stowed by 10 AM the morning of. Leaving me a free day to enjoy my daughter who flew in to help me celebrate.

Here’s the countdown…

One month ahead put together the guest list and send out a festive invite.


Paperless Post makes the cutest evites.

cheddar tartlets

Weeks ahead make and freeze the cheddar cheese tartlets. Pop in the oven as the guests arrive.

shitake cheese toasts

One week ahead sauté the mushroom mixture for the shitake cheese toasts and freeze. Assemble right before the guests arrive and broil.


Three days ahead make the hummers and freeze in plastic containers.

parsnip puree

The day before simmer and puree the parsnips, place in a microwave safe dish and refrigerate. Re-warm on 50% power right before serving.

sauteed brussel sprout leaves

The day before separate the brussels sprout leaves. Place in a zip loc bag and refrigerate.

sauteed brussel sprout leaves

Right before serving sauté over medium-high heat until the edges begin to brown. Scatter on top of the parsnip puree.

fresh horseradish sauce

The day before make the fresh horseradish sauce.

beef tenderloin

The morning of roast the beef tenderloin until it reaches exactly 125 degrees internally. Let cool completely, wrap in foil, refrigerate, an hour before the guests arrive slice, cover and let reach room temperature.

smoked salmon on cucumber rounds 

Earlier in the day slice the cucumber rounds and layer in paper towel, make the cream cheese onion mixture and place in a zip loc bag that will become a “pastry bag”, slice the salmon and roll into rosettes- cover and refrigerate, assemble the smoked salmon on cucumber rounds right before the guests arrive.

smoked trout stack

Earlier in the day flake the smoked trout, slice the scallions, bake the wonton crisps, whisk together the vinaigrette, cover separately.

smoked trout stack

Plate the smoked trout stacks right before serving.

roasted cherry tomatoes

Before the guests arrive roast the cherry tomatoes. Remove from the oven, leave at room temperature, reheat for five minutes right before serving.


The morning of pick up the cake from the bakery. The morning after eat that last piece of cake while savoring the golden memories of your birthday eve.

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