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DAZZLING   DINNERS:  Recipes, Decor and More

You are inviting people to dinner. You want them to adore the food, have great conversation and lots of fun. You want to excite their minds as well as their palates. After they leave, you want them to rave about the party to everyone they know. You need a dazzling dinner.

Dazzling dinner are not necessarily formal or elegant, and they certainly are not conventional. Dazzling dinners are distinctive and exceptional. They have themes that capture the imagination and are played out in delightful decor and fabulous food. Dazzling dinners are fun to think about, fun to carry out, and great fun for your guests. If you like food, or entertaining, or stepping out of the box, you will adore doing a dazzling dinner. It will be entertainment for your guests and recreation for you. Twelve chapters set out the Dazzling Dinner Plans, one inspired by each month of the year. Everything you need to know and do for a super-special evening is detailed in each Plan.

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Sweet Potato "Goldfish"

"Seafood & Citrus" Dinner


"Celebrating the Armed Forces

of USA" Dinner


Chocolate Cake with Lavendar & Thyme

"Grandma's Food NOT!" Dinner




Inspiration:  Academy Awards


Stage a glamorous evening and serve dishes as deserving of awards as the Oscarwinning

“Best Pictures” that inspired them.


For Academy Award night, it’s glitz and glamour galore!  So put on your most gorgeous attire and roll out the red carpet (yes – literally!) for YOU will produce the show and it will be sensational.  


The Production section in BACKING UP THE THEME shows stage directions and spoken lines for your very own, fun-filled, delicious-dinner version of Oscar Night. Your dramatically decorated home is the theater. You star as Master of Ceremonies. Your guests act as the celebrities who present the “Oscars,” while the “Oscars” themselves go to the dishes in the dinner. Each dish embodies a Best Picture from the past. Its ingredients and appearance reflect a theme or significant scene from the movie that inspired it. The relationship between each dish and its Oscar-winning movie is described in the menu, with additional information in the recipe introduction.


Start with a decadent chocolate martini inspired by My Fair Lady and an appetizer representing Wings, the winner of the very first Best Picture award, given in 1929. The dish features chicken wings with exciting dips that denote the dueling German and American air aces in World War I. The dinner continues with an eclectic ensemble of “Best Pictures,” their dishes fittingly fashioned and flavored from the cuisines of Europe, the Far East, the Near East and North America.  However, the dishes in each course are matched regionally and the flow of flavors from one course to another is quite agreeable. These dishes delight the mind as much as the mouth. Movie buffs are sure to be intrigued, but everyone will enjoy the fun as the dishes prompt dialogue about all that makes movies entertaining.


Timing is everything – in a production and certainly in this dinner. For maximum impact, all guests need to arrive at the same time. When you invite them, emphasize that they all must arrive at precisely the same time. Tell them that there is a special surprise timed for their arrival and they will miss out if they are late.


A word of advice: Rehearse. Practice your role as Master of Ceremonies, especially your opening “speech” (which tells them what the dinner is about). Think about what you will do and how to do it for best dramatic effect. Enlist your partner or a friend to listen as you practice out loud.

Now you are ready. As Master of Ceremonies, put out that red carpet, get the cameras rolling, call for “ACTION!” …  and the Oscar for “Best Dinner Ever” will go to…


Appropriate for: Oscar night, any date in February as a salute to the Academy Awards, when entertaining movie enthusiasts, a movie fan’s birthday or whenever you fancy a glamorous evening.




Featuring Dishes Inspired by Oscar-Winning “Best Pictures”



And the Oscar goes to…


Can Henry Higgins change Cockney Eliza’s destiny by teaching her the language of the British upper class? He did, but left unanswered is whether Eliza’s dream of upper-class living with “lots of chocolate for me to eat” was realized. Let’s drink to her with an unambiguously upscale, chocolate martini.



And the Oscar goes to…

WINGS (1929)

The first Academy Award winner for best picture, Wings is a story of the German and American aviators of World War I.  Fittingly, the first course starts with wings of crispy chicken that fly high with boldly flavored dips. As the film was in black and white, one dip is dark and one light; one is based on a classic German recipe, the other, an American classic.



And the Oscar goes to…


Cajun-style shrimp cakes and a Vietnamese dipping sauce reflect the friendship of Bubba and Forrest Gump, its beginnings in the battlefields of Vietnam and their dream of a joint venture in a Louisiana shrimp company.



And the Oscar goes to…


Cecil B. DeMille brings to the big screen the spectacular Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Step right up, take a ringside seat and grab a bag of flavored popcorn.



And the Oscar goes to…

OLIVER! (1968)

The delightful musical based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist includes poor Oliver lamenting his diet of gruel in the song, Food, Glorious Food. He longs for tasty treats such as peaches and cream. This soup grants his wish, albeit not quite as he imagined.



And the Oscar goes to…


Intertwined on a moonlit beach in Hawaii, Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster made perhaps the most romantic love scene ever. Our culinary portrayal: The lovers are fleshy fillets of mahi-mahi with macadamia-nut crust. They lie on a beach made of not grains of sand, but grains of rice flavored with Maui onion and fish sauce.  Strewn on the beach is seaweed in the form of curried kale.



And the Oscar goes to…


The Moroccan salad, in tagine-like holder, could have been served at “Rick’s Café Américain” in Casablanca. The champagne vinaigrette echoes Humphrey Bogart’s famous champagne toast to Ingrid Bergman (“Here’s looking at you, kid.”) and La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, sung by the crowd at Rick’s to drown out Nazi officers singing a German patriotic song.



And the Oscar goes to…


Set in Berlin’s opulent, art-deco masterpiece, the Grand Hotel, strangers interact in an intricate plot to produce a story as rich and complex as life itself. A German chocolate torte is equally opulent, equally intricate and just as sinfully lavish as the lifestyle so central to the movie’s narrative.



And the Oscar goes to…


The film points out the poisonous nature of prejudice and the tacit gentlemen’s agreements needed to maintain prejudice in an open society.  At dinner’s end, let’s drink to prejudice’s end with a shake. Why? The handshake signifies equality and explicit agreement.


Souvenir Menu.  The menu plays two roles in this dinner production, as a take-home souvenir and it contains the information used in announcing the “Oscars.”

Basic: Print the menu items individually on white paper. Fold and include in the package for the favor (see Favor below).


The “Oscar” Award Envelopes. To announce “Oscars” you will need 9 Award envelopes (for the cocktail, 3 appetizers, soup, entrée, salad and 2 desserts). The outside is a replica of the envelopes used for Oscars. Inside is a sheet of paper with the Oscar information from the menu for one of the dishes, to be read out loud by the guests (see Production below). For each, use a white envelope, 7½x8½ inches. Type or print on the front of the envelope in large, bold, black letters the category name, Best ….(fill in the appropriate phrase).  For example, you would type Best Cocktail on the first envelope, Best Chicken Appetizer on the next one, etc. Type And the Oscar goes to….  on the back of each of the envelopes.


The “Oscar” information is in the menu (above).  It is the name of the movie, the year of its Best Picture award, and a description of the relationship between the movie and the dish it inspired. Type the Oscar information for each Best Picture on white paper, 7x8 inches, using large, bold, black letters. Place the paper inside the appropriate Award envelope.


Use a silver seal to close the envelope. Glue two small red ribbons (¼ inch wide x 2 inches long) at an angle of 45 degrees under the seal.


Production. Set the stage for Oscar Night.  Place a red carpet (from a party or craft store) at the entrance to your residence. Make sure your guests can’t miss it. Have your camera at the ready and take a flash photograph of each guest as they arrive. You can have a lot of fun with this, especially if the guests all arrive at the same time as instructed.  


Have all the ingredients ready for the martinis and complete them as quickly as possible. Have the Award envelopes ready.  Except for “Best Cocktail,” put the Award envelopes in a top hat (available in party-supply stores) or beautiful bowl and place it in a conspicuous place in your living room.  


Guests will pick out an envelope from the hat (or bowl) and read it at the appropriate time. Reserve the first envelope (“Best Cocktail”) for yourself so that your performance can serve as the model for your guests. As there are 8 Award envelopes in the hat, if you have fewer than 8 guests, you may pick an additional envelope for yourself or you may ask the guests to pick an additional envelope. If you have more than 8 guests, add blank envelopes to the hat; the total number of envelopes in the hat should be equal to the number of guests.


As Master of Ceremonies, your job is to arouse excitement and inspire award-winning performances from your guests.  Indulge that flair for the dramatic that lurks in all of us.  After taking flash photos of arriving guests, when all guests are assembled in your living room, tap a glass or ring a bell to get everyone’s attention. Announce with oomph: “This dinner is dedicated to the Academy Awards.  Each dish you will eat was inspired by a ‘Best Picture.’  In every dish, the ingredients and appearance reflect critical elements of its ‘Best Picture.’” Then, in ringing tones, announce as you read the front of the envelope:  “For the first award, for “Best Cocktail...” Pause, then read out the back of the envelope, “And the Oscar goes to…”  With all the drama you can muster, open the envelope, slowly draw out the paper and read the Oscar description: “My Fair Lady (1964)!  Can Henry Higgins (pronounce that ‘enry ‘iggins) change cockney Eliza’s destiny by teaching her the language of the British upper class?  He did, but left unanswered is whether Eliza’s dream of upper-class living with ‘lots of chocolate for me to eat’ was realized.  Let’s drink to her with an unambiguously upscale, chocolate martini.” Arrange in advance for your partner or a guest to start applause when you finish reading.  As the applause starts, pass out the martinis.  

Allow the guests to settle into seats and sip a bit.  Then, in theatrical manner, bring out the hat/bowl with the Award envelopes.  Announce: “I am Master of Ceremonies for this Academy Award night. YOU are the celebrities and YOU will announce the Oscars.  The Award envelopes are in this hat (bowl). Pick one, but DO NOT open it.” Have guests come up to the hat (bowl) and pick an envelope.  Now explain: “As I present each dish, I will announce: ‘For achievement in’ and then give the category of the Oscar. You will then look for the category of your award-winning dish on the front of the envelope. After I announce that category, turn the envelope over, read out: ‘And the Oscar goes to…’, then open the envelope and read out the information inside, just as I read the information about the martini.” 


Take it from there. Complete the preparation of each dish in the kitchen. When you bring out the dish, do it with a flourish and announce: “For achievement in (e.g., Chicken Appetizers, Seafood Appetizers, etc.).”  At that point, if necessary, ask the guest holding the envelope for that dish to stand up and read the envelope. Lead the applause when they are finished, then serve the dish.


Symbols. Oscar statue, red carpet, filmstrip confetti, red roses, balloons and the Award envelope.


Color. Make the color red paramount in your décor. Black and white will provide striking contrast to red and will suggest the original movies that were just black and white. Additional touches of silver and gold will add to the aura of Hollywood richness and glitz.


Table decor. Set your cocktail table with black and white cocktail dishes and napkins. Scatter film-strip or red-star confetti on it.  


Your dining table will be stunning with tablecloth or placemats in white or gold, white dishes on ruby chargers, black napkins and glassware in ruby or sparkling crystal. Make your centerpiece a replica of an Oscar statue (available in party and movie stores). Provide each place setting with a large red rose in a mini vase or floating in a small bowl of crystal or glass.  Cut the stem, leaving only enough to keep the rose in place.  Complete the picture with a scattering of star confetti in silver.  


Other decor. Display a large arrangement of red roses in your living room and another one in your dining room. To finish the look, display photos of the evening’s Best Pictures or CDs of their music.


Music. When guests arrive, play the song "Hooray for Hollywood." To go over the top, find the award-winning songs from the movies represented in the menu and play as each course is served.  This would be especially appropriate for the two dishes (cocktail and soup) based on songs from a Best Picture. Or play CDs of award winning movies.


Favor. Give each guest a DVD of one of the movies represented in the dinner. Try to match the movie to what you know about the guest. Wrap the DVD and the complete SOUVENIR MENU together in glittery white paper and tie with shiny black ribbon.

Note for Favor:  Thanks so much for co-starring in our production of Oscar Night. The enclosed DVD will bring stars (note pun, please) to your eyes and, we hope, moving (please note this pun too) memories of the evening.


Opening cocktail. Serve a Lady Godiva Chocolate Martini to represent My Fair Lady (1964). While we don’t think Professor Higgins held up Lady Godiva as a role model for Eliza, we are certain Eliza would flip over this elegantly decadent cocktail.  


For 8 drinks, you will need: 8 chilled martini glasses; 2 orange wedges; 8 ounces good quality, dark chocolate, grated fine and spread on a plate; eight ounces of chilled half-and-half or light cream; 8 ounces cold vodka (place in freezer for at least 1 hour).


For each cocktail: Rub rim of martini glass with orange wedge, turn glass upside down and dip into grated chocolate to cover entire rim. If done in advance, chill until ready to fill. Combine all martini ingredients into a cocktail shaker half full of cracked ice. Shake for 1 minute. Strain into martini glass and top with shaved dark chocolate. Serve immediately.


Soup. In a small glass, combine 1 ounce of peach brandy (the same one used to make the soup) with 2 ounces seltzer water.


Main. An Austrian Gewurztraminer is a classic pairing with spicy and Asian flavors. For a lighter, more neutral wine, use a Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio).    


Dessert. One of the desserts is a beverage.  


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WINGS (1929)

Chicken Wings with Sauerbraten and Ranch Dips

The duo of dips, one almost black and one white, represent the two sides in the air combat portrayed in this black and white film. For the Germans, the dip is based on sauerbraten, a classic German preparation of beef marinated in vinegar, sugar and spices. The ranch dip is a classic American preparation. The Southern flyboys in the movie would have loved the added bacon bits. The chicken wings get a beer marinade, a favorite drink of both Germans and Americans. Serves 8.  


Up to 2 days and at least 1 day in advance: Prepare sauerbraten dip; cover and refrigerate; serve at room temperature.

At least 4 hours and up to 1 day in advance: Prepare ranch dip. Marinate wings.



Sauerbraten dip

½ cup red wine vinegar + ¼ teaspoon, if necessary

¼ cup Muscovado or dark brown sugar

3 cloves, ground

4 allspice berries, ground

2 juniper berries

1 bay leaf

1 stalk celery with leaves, roughly chopped

3 ¼-inch slices of parsnips

2 ½-inch slices of yellow onion

½ tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water 


Ranch dip

3 slices bacon

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon grated onion

¼ teaspoon grated garlic


Chicken wings

16 chicken wings (about 3 pounds)

6 ounces beer



  1. Sauerbraten dip. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients, except the cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for ½ hour. Remove from heat. When cool, strain, pressing down on solids to extract all their moisture. Thoroughly dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water. Reheat sauce. Gradually add the cornstarch to the mixture, stirring often. Cook for about 5 minutes, until sauce is thick and bubbly. Taste. If too sweet, add ¼ teaspoon vinegar.

  2. Ranch dip. Cook bacon slowly over medium heat. Blot thoroughly and crumble into small bits. Stir together the bacon and all other ingredients.  

  3. Chicken wings. Cut tips from wings. Cut wings in half at the joint. Place in plastic bag with beer and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain.

  4. Preheat oven to 425oF. Place wings on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until skin is browned and crispy.



Arrange wings on a platter in a V-formation to suggest military airplanes. Place dips to either side of the platter.


Shrimp Cakes with Vietnamese Sauce

These mini-shrimp cakes incorporate ingredients from the classic cooking of Louisiana, home of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Honoring the place where Bubba and Forrest met and made their plans for the company, the Vietnamese sauce has just the right sweet-sour counterpoint for the distinct piquancy of the shrimp. Serves 8.



Yield: 24-32 mini shrimp cakes

Up to 1 day in advance: Make sauce; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Prepare shrimp cakes up through Step 7; refrigerate.



Vietnamese sauce

¼ cup lime juice (from about 2 medium limes)

1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 2 tablespoons of boiling water

3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce  

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds

½ teaspoon grated ginger

½ teaspoon dried cilantro 


Shrimp cakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus ½ tablespoon

6 scallions, white parts only, chopped

½ cup celery, finely minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon Creole or Dijon grainy mustard

3 tablespoons catsup

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ tablespoon vinegar

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

1½ pounds raw medium shrimp

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup panko breadcrumbs 



  1. Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  

  2. Preheat oven to 375oF.

  3. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with ½ tablespoon oil.

  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pan over a medium-low flame and add scallions, celery, parsley and cayenne pepper.  When soft (10-12 minutes), remove from heat and add mustard, catsup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and lemon juice.

  5. Pulse shrimp in a food processor until it forms a paste. Remove to a bowl. Add the scallion/celery mixture and the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Form into small patties about the size of a tablespoon. Refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

  6. Sauté breadcrumbs in butter until browned.

  7. Dredge shrimp cakes in breadcrumbs and place on oiled baking sheet.

  8. Bake in oven for 5 minutes on each side or, if refrigerated for 1 or more hours, until cakes are warmed up.



Do an image search online for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and print the logo. Get a cardboard box large enough for the serving platter, preferably a color that contrasts with the brown shrimp cakes, to fit inside. Decorate the box with the logo.  Place cakes on serving platter. Spoon a smidgen of sauce onto each cake. Place inside box. Seal lightly with tape. Bring to the table. “Unseal” the box and serve.  


Flavored Popcorn

No movie or circus is complete without popcorn. No clowning around, fresh herbs send this popcorn over the Big Top.




3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon, preferably flavored with basil or other herb

1/3 cup popping corn

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme or combination)

Salt and pepper to taste



8 4-inch sprigs of rosemary


To serve

8 small popcorn boxes (obtain at craft/party store)



  1. Place 3 tablespoons olive oil and popcorn in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and cover.  

  2. When you hear the first pop, start shaking pan back and forth until popping begins to fade. Turn off and remove from heat.

  3. Place popped corn in large mixing bowl. Drizzle with a little of the flavored oil, but not more than a tablespoon, and toss in the chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper.



Fill popcorn boxes to top. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Place all boxes on your most colorful serving tray.  


OLIVER (1968)

Oatmeal with Peach Brandy and Cream

Oliver laments his diet of gruel (thin oatmeal) in the song Food, Glorious Food. He yearns for tasty treats such as peaches and cream.  Satisfy Oliver’s craving by spiking his gruel with peach brandy and cream, additions that turn oatmeal into “glorious food.” Serves 8.



Up to 4 hours in advance: Prepare soup through Step 1; cover and refrigerate; gently reheat just before serving.




6 cups water

6 tablespoons 5-minute oatmeal

6 tablespoons butter at room temperature

9 tablespoons peach brandy



½ cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 thin slices of peach, preferably fresh



  1. Bring water to boil. Add oatmeal and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Take off heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  

  2. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes. Do not allow to boil.

  3. Whip heavy cream with salt until stiff peaks form.



Use your most impressive soup tureen. If possible, use bowls that are peach or red in color. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Top the cream with one peach slice.





(The Lovers)

Fancy these fillets as Deborah Kerr and Kirk Douglas in their legendary love scene on a Hawaiian beach. As tender as the lovers, and just as deliciously tanned with their buttery crust, the mahi-mahi cuddle on the white “sand” rice dressed solely in their red pepper swimsuits. Serves 8.  



Up to 1 day in advance: Cut out the swimsuits; wrap tightly and refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Prepare topping; cover tightly; refrigerate.




     2-3 sweet red peppers



     1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

     ½ cup light brown sugar

     8 ounces macadamia nuts, finely chopped

     2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

     Salt (only if nuts are unsalted) and pepper to taste



     8 5-ounce, 1-inch thick, mahi-mahi fillets, skinned, cut in half lengthwise

     1 cup fresh lemon juice



  1. Make swimsuits from the red pepper. Cut out 8 trunks for the Kirks. Match the size to the size of the 4 longest fillets.  Cut a straight waist, sides at an angle to the waist, with a small cut for the crotch. For the Deborahs, make 8 one-piece suits with waist-line curve to fit the size of the remaining, shorter, fillets.

  2. Make topping. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients.

  3. Marinate fish. Place fish in non-reactive shallow pan. Pour lemon juice over. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning fish occasionally.

  4. Bake fish. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place fillets on baking sheet. Spoon topping evenly over each fillet and press gently to adhere. Season with salt (if using) and pepper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until fillets are tender and still moist. Place “swim suits” after positioning fillets on plate.



We advise plating in the kitchen (see Main Plating).


White Sand Beach

The mahi-mahi lovers lie on a beach of white grains of rice. For a beach-like appearance, medium-grain rice is best. The grains, being a bit sticky, adhere rather than remaining separate and distinct as would long-grain rice, but they should not clump as does short-grain rice. The distinctly Eastern flavorings help to suggest the setting and the scene. Thai fish sauce is subtly salty, fishy and briny, evoking the ocean in fragrance and taste. Ginger is for pizzazz. Serves 8.



It is best to prepare rice just before serving; however, the rice will not suffer if you prepare it ½ an hour in advance and keep it tightly covered.



4 tablespoons peanut oil

½ cup finely chopped sweet onion, preferably Maui onion

4 1-inch slices fresh ginger

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

2 cups medium-grain rice



In heavy pot over low flame, heat oil and sauté onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Follow directions on package to cook rice, adding ginger and fish sauce to the water in the pot.



We advise plating in the kitchen (see Main Plating).



With its dark green color, when cooked and shredded, kale very much resembles seaweed. For contrast with the mild tastes of the fish and rice, the kale is cooked with spices and chili pepper. Its texture contrasts with the crunchy fish and the granular rice. The dish could represent the Best Picture of 1983, "Gandhi." The focus of the film is "Gandhi’s" gift to the world, the non-violent resistance movement. At the heart of this movement is the Hindu concern for life, all life, expressed by "Gandhi" and many others in vegetarianism. Leafy greens are important to a vegetarian diet and kale takes particularly well to Indian spices. Serves 8.  



Up to 1 day in advance: Cook the kale; cover and refrigerate; warm on low flame before serving.



1 pound kale (2 bunches) with thin stems (under ¼-inch thick), well-washed 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced in thin strips

6 sun-dried tomatoes, drained if in oil, sliced in thin strips

½ tablespoon rice vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Trim and discard the stems and center ribs of the kale. Slice leaves into strips approximately ½x2 inches (you should have a total of about 8 cups).

  2. Heat oil in wok or large skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add cumin and mustard. Cook until seeds are fragrant and lightly darkened, about 1 minute. Add turmeric, onion and jalapeño and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add kale with 3-4 tablespoons water. Stir to completely coat the leaves.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 5-6 minutes.

  3. Uncover, add tomatoes, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until all liquid is gone and the greens are quite tender, about 3 minutes. Taste to make sure that desired consistency is reached. Drizzle with vinegar. Add salt and pepper.   



We advise plating in the kitchen (see Main Plating).



The Ocean

Green and foamy, sweet, sour and salty, this sauce simulates the surf of the Hawaiian coast. It is easy to imagine the lovers on the beach, surf washing onto the shore, bathing their toes in waters deliciously refreshing.  



Up to 8 hours in advance: Make sauce and place in a small bowl; saturate a paper towel with ½ tablespoon lime juice and pack down on top of the sauce; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed; bring to room temperature before serving.



2 Haas avocados, peeled and pitted

Juice of 2 limes (about 4 tablespoons) plus ½ tablespoon (see Note)

1 Asian pear, peeled and cored

1 medium cucumber, peeled

2 medium scallions, trimmed

Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste



Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until almost smooth.



See Main Plating below.

Main Plating

Working in your kitchen, stack the elements of the entrée on a beige or white dinner plate. Spoon avocado sauce on half of the plate for the ocean. For the beach, spoon a circle of rice in the center of the plate. Scatter kale on the “beach” to represent seaweed. Place two fillets, one long one for Kirk and one short one for Deborah, at a slight angle to each other, with “heads” touching and “feet” in the “ocean” of avocado sauce. Carefully put on their “swim suits.”



Moroccan Salad in Citrus Tagine

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To evoke the setting, create a mock tagine, the traditional clay pot of Morocco. A base unit is flat and circular with low sides; a large dome-shaped cover rests inside.  Our mock tagine employs a grapefruit shell for the base and a lemon shell for the dome. Inside is a salad, bright and refreshing with authentic Moroccan ingredients. The champagne vinaigrette not only suggests Bogart’s famous toast to Ingrid Bergman (See Menu). It also serves homage to the café’s bartender who told Rick he’d rather water his garden with champagne than let the Nazis drink it. Serves 8.



Up to 2 days in advance: Prepare citrus shells for the tagines; wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Up to 12 hours in advance: Make vinaigrette; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 4 hours in advance: Cut, wrap separately and refrigerate the tomatoes, preserved lemons, cucumber, radishes, mint and scallions. Slice the olives for garnish, cover and keep at room temperature.




4 grapefruits

4 lemons  



4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground



½ can chickpeas, drained

20 ripe grape tomatoes, halved, or 4 ripe medium tomatoes cut in small dice

4 preserved lemons, rinsed and diced

1 English (or other nearly seedless) cucumber, in small dice

12 large radishes, in small dice (about ¾ cup)

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves 

6 thin scallions, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch thin slices 



8 green and 8 black olives, preferably North African style with spices, pitted, each cut into 4 long pieces


  1. Tagines. Cut grapefruits and lemons in half, horizontally. Scrape out the flesh and reserve for another use. If a grapefruit half does not stand upright, cut a thin slice from the bottom so that it does.

  2. Vinaigrette. Place vinegar, lemon and cumin in a small bowl. Mix. Whisk in oil. Refrigerate until serving time.

  3. Salad. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix with vinaigrette when ready to serve.



Place the grapefruit half shells in the middle of salad plates. Stuff with salad, mounding it above the grapefruit rim. Cover with lemon half shells. On each salad plate, alternate 8 green and 8 black olive slivers to surround the tagine.




German Chocolate Torte

Gorgeous and easy to make, spun-sugar columns top this torte featuring chocolate, coconut and pecans, the flavors in the forefront of the classic German chocolate cake.  Almond, orange and crunchy toffee add intricacy and sophistication. With such a stunningly elegant exterior and sumptuous, scrumptious interior, this torte is certainly a suitable symbol of Berlin’s luxurious Grand Hotel. Serves 8.



Up to 1 day in advance: Bake torte, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Make frosting; frost torte; cover and store at room temperature. Make spun sugar columns; store at room temperature in airtight container.

Just before serving: Unwrap torte and place the spun sugar columns on top.




1½ cups pecans

1 cup sugar

2 4-ounce packages of Ghiardelli or other dark chocolate with toffee bits

5 large eggs, separated

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon minced orange zest

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¼ teaspoon salt



6 ounces evaporated milk

¾ cup sugar

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

3 large egg yolks

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans

¼ cup chopped Ghiardelli dark chocolate with toffee bits


Garnish - spun sugar spirals

  2 cups granulated sugar

  ½ cup water

  ½ cup corn syrup

A few edible flowers, preferably marigolds 




  1. Preheat oven to 3500 F. Lightly butter a 10-inch spring form pan.  

  2. Combine pecans and 1/3 cup of sugar in a food processor and blend until finely ground. Remove to large mixing bowl and set aside.

  3. Add to the processor the chocolate and 1/3 cup of sugar. Pulse to mix. Stir into pecan mixture.

  4. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg yolks, butter and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar until heavy ribbons fall from beaters, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. Add to almond/chocolate mixture and fold in orange zest.

  5. In medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into batter in three additions.  Transfer batter to prepared pan.

  6. Bake approximately 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

  7. Cool on wire rack. Insert a knife around pan sides to release cake.



  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a heavy, large saucepan. Whisk over medium high heat until mixture simmers and thickens, approximately 10 minutes.  

  2. Mix in coconut, pecans and chocolate. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Spread frosting over top of torte and let drizzle down the sides.  


Spun sugar

  1. Cut a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper and place on flat surface.

  2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water that will be used later to cool the sugar saucepan. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, add sugar, water and corn syrup. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Cook until candy thermometer reaches 3100F (hard crack stage). Remove from heat and plunge saucepan into ice water bath to stop cooking. Let stand in bath to thicken slightly, about 1 minute. Dip a fork into the sugar syrup and wave back and forth over the parchment or waxed paper to draw out long, fine, threadlike strands. It will cool and harden almost immediately.  



Use your most elegant cake stand, preferably a footed one.  Place the torte on the stand. Carefully remove sugar columns from paper and insert into frosted torte all around the perimeter to form a crown-like look. Place one to several flowers, depending on size, in center.


A ’Shake That’s Spiked

Cake with ice cream is always a winner. This elegant and chic ice cream ’shake is a fitting partner to the opulent chocolate torte. Symbolically, it suggests the handshake of friendship and equality, a fitting finish to the evening.  



Soften the ice cream before use.

The shake is best made just before serving.



1 cup whole milk

½ cup orange juice

1 pint of vanilla ice cream and orange sorbet swirl or ½ pint vanilla ice cream and ½ pint orange sherbet

1 tablespoon Cointreau 

Zest of one orange (for garnish)


8  champagne or other small, stemmed glasses 



Place milk, orange juice and half of the ice cream/sorbet in blender and mix well. Add remainder of ice cream/sorbet and Cointreau. Blend until incorporated.



Fill glasses and sprinkle orange zest over top.  

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