The Dish on Dazzling Dinners

Staging Fun-Filled, Impressive, Themed Dinners From Invitations to Favors

With Guidelines for Recipes and Suggestions for Simplification 

 

Whether you wish to mark a special occasion or please cherished guests, or when you need to impress or just for personal pleasure, THE DISH ON DAZZLING DINNERS is your guide.

There are 24 dinner plans that dazzle, two for each month, each with an intriguing theme carried throughout all elements of the dinner. Specific instructions cover the major features of a dinner party: clever invitations, informative Host’s Introduction, beguiling ways to greet guests, a visually striking souvenir menu, room and table décor, mood music, and charming take-home favors. Instead of recipes, THE DISH makes theme related suggestions for each dish so that you can use the Internet or your own expertise to tailor the tastes to your liking. In short, here is your guide to superlative dinner entertainment.

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SALAD

"Flowers" in a "Vase"

"Earth Day" Dinner

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ENTREE

It's about Pigs and Big Bucks

A Culinary Charade

"Back to School" Dinner

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DESSERT

Sunflower Tart

"Gifts from the Garden" Dinner

FEBRUARY

KISS! Keep it Scrumptious and Sensuous

Inspiration: Valentine’s Day

 It's easy. Let’s Celebrate Love with Foods Symbolic of Romance and Passion

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

Intimately and intricately joined to food and its consumption are love, romance, sex and passion. We can only feed you a few tidbits on the topic but trust you will develop a taste for it. 

 

Food is love: We give chocolates on Valentine’s Day for romantic love, put on feasts to celebrate great moments in the lives of our loved ones, bake cookies to welcome new neighbors or to thank those who gave us help. Lovers exchange morsels of food as they eat together. For those without lovers, food supplies solace; we feel the same inner warmth when we eat and when we are loved. 

 

As for sex and passion, just the act of eating can be intensely sensuous and stimulating. Imagine a beautiful woman slowly licking an ice-cream cone in front of her boyfriend. Or a handsome man biting into a juicy apple as his eyes lock with those of his lover. Sexual expressions are full of metaphors for eating and food. We call objects of our passion delicious, spicy, or hot and label them chicks, hunks or tomatoes. We swear that we could eat them up. Sexual organs receive food names such as buns or nuts. We speak of being consumed with passion, hungry for love or, finally, sated. 

 

Indeed, the mouth does double duty as an organ to express love as well as one for eating. The title of the menu, KISS! Keep It Scrumptious and Sensuous, alludes to this dual role. It’s an important one and not just for us humans. Dogs love us up with kisses and licks and so do pet cats. Licking, a crucial component of grooming in mammals, solidifies the bonds between individuals and helps to maintain peace within a group. 

 

In short, the relationships between food and love are essential elements of our lives. A Valentine’s Day dinner is ripe for the exploitation of these relationships. You will invite your most cherished friends and you will show your affection by making the dinner quite special. The dinner’s dishes will be beautiful, delicious and distinctive with the use of aphrodisiac ingredients that are thought to excite passion, make sex better or boost fertility. 

 

Named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, these foods can raise libido quite directly by increasing sensitivity to stimulation or activating the pleasure centers of the brain. Chocolate is one - no wonder it is the gift on Valentine’s Day. Other foods can raise libido indirectly through their resemblance to masculine or feminine body parts or through legends linking the food to sexual figures such as Aphrodite or Cupid. Some have their aphrodisiac reputations simply because they promote health, a prerequisite to a super sex life and fertility. The recipe guidelines below incorporate aphrodisiacs in all dishes and provide explanations for their titillating properties. 

 

There you have it – all the ingredients for a singularly stirring and stimulating evening to

CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY AND LOVE!

 

Appropriate for: Any date in February or any occasion that smacks of romance.

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MENU

KISS! Keep it Scrumptious and Sensuous

Let’s celebrate love with foods symbolic of romance and passion

 

THE STORY

 

Champagne Pour Chérie

with

Sexy Seafood

and

Chocolate Foreplay

lead to

Two Hearts That Beat As One

 

More Heart Beets

pave the way to

 

“I do….”

Bride

and

Groom

entwined on

Marital Bed

launching a

 

Towering Passion

climaxing with a

 

Bitterweet Ending

Sealed with a KISS

 

THE MATCHING APHRODISIACS

 

Cocktail

Champagne and Cherry Brandy

 

Appetizers

Male Shrimp & Female Oysters

Chocolate Crostini with Orange Salt

Hearts of Palm and Artichoke

 

Soup

Roasted Beet Soup

 

Entrée

Rib Lamb Chops

Asparagus Spears

Basmati Rice with Pine Nuts

 

Salad

Layers of Pear and Avocado with Passion-Fruit Dressing

 

Desserts

Chocolate Soufflé with Blood-Orange Sauce

Coconut/Pecan Meringue Kisses 

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DETAILS OF DAZZLE

With suggestions for plating and complementary beverages

 

Invitation. Use a blank card or a sheet of paper folded in half. Write “A Taste of Love” on the outside and decorate it with an image of red lips and perhaps a heart or two.

Text for invitation. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner filled with fare that fits the occasion. Dare we speak of love bites?  

 

Entrance décor. Start your evening with that quintessential symbol of Valentine’s Day, red roses. Place a vase of long-stemmed red roses on a table or elsewhere in your entrance hallway. You might scatter rose petals in appropriate spaces. Since florists’ roses usually have little or no odor, use potpourri or candles with rose perfume so that guests immediately sense the scent of romance. Add a Cupid, toy bear or other lovable creature with a sign that says “I LOVE YOU.”  

 

Greeting guests. As guests arrive, welcome them with a glass of Champagne Pour Cherie (see below) and the heart-shaped souvenir dinner menu that tells a tale of seduction with suggestively titled dishes. 

 

Souvenir menu. Print it in red on white or pale pink paper or card stock. Print “The Story” on one side and “The Matching Aphrodisiacs” on the other. Embellish both sides with stick-on hearts. Cut the printed menu into the shape of a heart.  

 

Room décor. Your décor must speak of amour. That means RED!  It’s the color of passion and strong feelings. For symbolic and visual impact, combine red with white, the symbol of virginity, and gold, symbolizing value. Stick-on glittery hearts make delightful window decorations. Place red candles of different sizes in appropriate spaces. Use symbols of love and Valentine’s Day: the heart, the letter “X” which stands for kiss, lace, Cupid and red roses.

 

Table décor. Use a red tablecloth with white napkins. Place lace (always romantic) or paper doilies under plates and wine glasses. Or, use a white cloth with red napkins. In either case, a white dinner service is the best choice. For a special touch, decorate each plate with a small stick-on heart. Roll the napkins into a heart shape (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwtFe-wQiEc) and set inside soup bowls. Set each place with a single red rose in a small vase or floating in a stemmed glass. Scatter small roses or rose petals (dried or fresh) or heart-shaped confetti over the table. As a centerpiece, use a low (so as not to interfere with guests’ vision) arrangement of red roses or a sculpture of Cupid or lovers. 

 

Mood music. Love songs, of course. A mix of classic and current ones will capture most hearts.

 

Favor. Kisses, of course. Wrap a good portion of chocolate kisses in red tissue paper and tie with gold ribbon.

Note for favor. We can never get enough kisses.

RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

COCKTAIL

CHAMPAGNE POUR CHÉRIE

Champagne and Cherry Brandy

Champagne is always romantic.  Add symbolism with cherry brandy and a maraschino cherry to be on target for Cupid’s arrow.

Preparation: Place one cherry in the bottom of a champagne glass. Add 1 ounce of cherry brandy and fill the glass with champagne.

 

APPETIZERS

SEXY SEAFOOD 

Male Shrimp & Female Oysters

No doubt about it, shrimp and oysters are aphrodisiacs. Take a look – do they not resemble male and female sexual organs? This dish makes the point in spades by forming the shrimp to resemble the complete set of male genitalia. To spice the dish up even more, flavor the butter in which the shrimp are baked with seeds. Seeds are aphrodisiacs; they exist to regenerate. To be blatantly suggestive, present the masculine shrimp and feminine oyster in pairs. 

Preparation for shrimp. Use cleaned shrimp that has the last segment of shell and the tail. Going from the head end to the beginning of the last segment of shell, slit the shrimp body in half. Curl up each half toward the tail. Briefly sauté some lemon zest, garlic, ground cumin and ground coriander in a generous amount of butter. Grease a baking dish with some of the butter mixture. Place the shrimp in the dish with the tail up and one curl to either side of the tail. Drizzle the remaining butter mixture over shrimp. Bake for 5-6 minutes at 450F.

Preparation for oysters. Your choice – raw oysters on the half-shell or fried oysters. Raw oysters emphasize the resemblance to female genitalia; fried oysters will provide a crispy crust that gives way to a soft interior. For the crust, a combination of panko crumbs, dill, lemon zest and parmesan cheese is ideal.

Plating. A blue or green serving dish will set off the colors of the shellfish nicely. Present the shrimp and oysters in pairs and place them by pairs on individual plates.

CHOCOLATE FOREPLAY

Chocolate Crostini with Orange Salt

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are virtual synonyms. No wonder! Chocolate is a stimulant that enhances sensitivity and engenders good feelings. Oranges, too, have links to the romantic. In earlier times, orange blossoms with their virginal white color and heady scent were the traditional flower for weddings. Chocolate and orange make a charming couple as any lover of sweets will confirm. In this preparation, atop a crisp crostini, the two generate a savory harmony of tastes and a sensuous mix of textures. Orange salt, a recent fashion in condiments, heightens and brightens the rich, dense flavors of unsweetened chocolate.

Preparation for the orange salt. Wash and dry the fruit. Peel off long strips of zest with a vegetable peeler. Be sure not to include any of the white pith. Lay strips on a baking sheet and place in a 200F oven for about one hour, until strips are completely dry. Pulverize to a powder in a blender at high speed. Mix with an equal amount of salt. Store in an air-tight container. 

Preparation. Toast bread slices lightly on one side. Brush the other side with butter. Spread on a generous layer of good quality unsweetened chocolate. Place under broiler until chocolate is melted. Sprinkle with orange salt. Serve immediately.

Plating. Place crostini in a circular pattern radiating out from a center. You might put a garnish of greens such as parsley in the center for color contrast.

 

TWO HEARTS THAT BEAT AS ONE

Hearts of Palm and Artichokes

Hearts of plants have value as delicacies and romantic symbols. Unusual marinades for the two hearts here result in complementary colors and tastes. Hearts of palm infused with raspberry tea become a pale red with bright, fruity flavor. Light green hearts of artichoke acquire floral notes and mild astringency from lavender. This winning couple become one in the heart-shaped presentation.

Preparation. Marinate hearts of palm, cut into ¾-inch pieces, in a strong raspberry tea. Add dried lavender buds, ground fine, to the marinade of jarred artichoke hearts cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 teaspoons of buds for a 12-ounce jar of artichokes). Marinate both vegetables for 4-24 hours, depending on taste and color.

Plating. For a stunning presentation, use a white platter. Stand the hearts of palm upright and form a heart shape. Fill in the heart’s center with the artichoke hearts.

SOUP

MORE HEART BEATS

Roasted Beet Soup

A lush red color, juicy sweetness and heart shape qualify beets as aphrodisiacs. In fact, they are a rich source of boron, a mineral that plays an important role in the production of human sex hormones. This soup is sure to generate excitement, i.e., lots of heart beats. It is visually stunning and has a heady taste that is both sweet and savory. Roasting the beets intensifies their flavor while moderating their sweetness. The finishing touch to the soup, a splash of rosewater, is much more than symbolic. Be sure to ask your guests to focus on its distinctive sweetness.

Preparation. We like a soup made from a hearty homemade chicken stock with roasted beets, onion and other aromatics such as celery or bay. After processing, add about 1 teaspoon rose water for 6 cups soup. However, add the rose water ¼ teaspoon at a time. Its effect will depend on how heavily you have seasoned the soup. 

Note. As long as you are roasting beets, roast one or two additional ones. Cut into small heart shapes to decorate the soup or salad plates. A cookie cutter makes the job simple.

Plating. Put crème fraîche into a squeeze bottle. Decorate each individual bowl with the outline of a heart. Gorgeous!

Complementary beverage. Try a very dry rosé or a dry reisling. This pairing can be tricky so, if you prefer, serve with water flavored and colored with a small amount of cranberry juice.

ENTREÉ

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The entrée alludes to a wedding, its elements depicting the bride, the groom and the marital bed.

THE BRIDE

Rib Lamb Chops

An admirable kin to Adam’s rib, the bride is young and tender, her heady aroma sure to stir up gustatory passion.

Preparation. Use your favorite marinade (we like one with olive oil, rosemary and cognac or red wine) before roasting a rack of lamb. Allow two double chops for each guest.

 

THE GROOM

Roasted Asparagus

For a perfect love match, pair the ribs of lamb with asparagus spears, their phallic shape marking them as aphrodisiac. Roast them with a double dose of aphrodisiacs (figs and seeds) for the wedded couple to resonate with heat and harmony. 

Preparation: Coat thick stalks of asparagus, allowing two or three per person, with a mixture of olive oil, fig balsamic vinegar and ground coriander seeds. Roast until crisp tender.

 

THE MARITAL BED

Basmati Rice with Pine Nuts

Rice symbolizes fertility. For example, we Westerners throw rice on the new bride and groom and in some Asian cultures a woman and man declare their engagement by eating from the same rice bowl. As for pine nuts, Ovid thought them aphrodisiacs, while nuts in general are symbols of male fertility. We chose basmati rice for its fragrance and nutty taste. Its virginal white color makes it a perfect bed for the joining of lamb and asparagus.

Preparation. Cook basmati rice according to package directions. Toast pine nuts and add to the cooked rice along with salt and butter for a rich taste.

Entrée plating

Suggest a newly wed couple joined on the marital bed. Mound ½ cup of the rice in the center of a dinner plate. Position two chops on the rice to form a heart shape. Place the asparagus spears between the chops.

Complementary beverage

We love a Châteauneuf du Pape or other Rhone but a Cabernet Sauvignon will do as well.

SALAD

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TOWERING PASSION

Pear and Avocado Salad

Beautiful and shapely, juicy and rich in flavor, pears and avocados have long been deemed aphrodisiacs. Form a tower of alternating layers of their slices held together with a thin spear of rosemary or celery. Interestingly, celery contains androsterone, a hormone secreted in sweat and attractive to women (ok, at least to some women). Complete the romantic symbolism with a dressing made from nut oil.

Preparation. For color, use red pears and do not peel. Use slices of both fruits that are about 1/8-inch thick. If you like, it will be simple to make them heart-shaped. For the dressing, combine hazelnut oil and, for its association with romance, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper.

Plating. Make a stack of  the  slices of pear and avocado. Through the center put the spear of celery or rosemary.

DESSERTS

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A BITTERSWEET ENDING

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé

Endings of happy events are always bittersweet. Fittingly, start the evening’s end with a meltingly sensuous soufflé made from bittersweet chocolate. 

Plating. Top your favorite recipe for bittersweet chocolate soufflé with a bit of whipped cream, preferably in a heart shape, a substance always sensual, always delicious.

 

SEALED WITH A KISS

Coconut/Pecan Meringue Kisses

An appropriately aphrodisiac finish to your “KISS” menu is a meringue kiss made from male and female fertility symbols, nuts and eggs.

Preparation. Make meringue kisses with coconut and pecans that are lightly ground to add sexy crunch. Or buy chocolate kisses with nuts; excellent varieties will be available around Valentine’s Day.

Plating the desserts

You must end the dinner romantically. Have each couple share the desserts from the same plate by placing a double portion on each dessert plate, i.e., two soufflés and four meringue kisses.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

Cocktail. “Champagne pour Cherie” is so appropriate and simple to prepare, you must serve it.

 

Appetizers. Chocolate crostinis are easy to make so that is your first choice for an easy dazzle appetizer. If you would like to do another, “Sexy Seafood” would be our choice.

 

Soup or salad. The soup will be easier because it can be frozen in advance.

 

Entree. So romantic and so sexy is the complete entree that we strongly recommend preparing all three elements. The rack of lamb can be readied in the morning, refrigerated and popped into the oven for roasting as guests are finishing their appetizers. Both the rice and asparagus can be prepared several hours in advance.

 

Desserts. Buy meringue kisses and, if possible, the chocolate soufflé.

 

Favor. Buy chocolate kisses and wrap in red paper or one with heart or kiss design.

AN ACADEMY AWARD DINNER

Inspiration:  Academy Award Winners

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Stage a glamorous evening and serve dishes as deserving of 

awards as the Oscar-winning “Best Pictures” that inspired them.

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

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 DETAILS OF DAZZLE shows stage directions and spoken lines for your 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 GUIDELINES.

 

Start with a decadent chocolate martini inspired by My Fair Lady and an appetizer representing Wings, the winner of the first Best Picture award, given in 1929. 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. The written invitation emphasizes that.

 

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…

YOU!

 

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.

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MENU

 

AN ACADEMY AWARD DINNER

Featuring Dishes Inspired by Oscar-Winning “Best Pictures”

 

BEST COCKTAIL

And the Oscar goes to…

MY FAIR LADY (1964)

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.

 

BEST CHICKEN APPETIZER

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. Let’s fly high with wings of crispy chicken and boldly flavored dips. As the film was in black and white, one dip is dark and one light; one is based on sauerbraten, a classic German recipe, the other on an American classic, ranch dip.

 

BEST SEAFOOD APPETIZER

And the Oscar goes to…

FORREST GUMP (1995)

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.

 

BEST VEGETARIAN APPETIZER

And the Oscar goes to…

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)

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.

 

BEST SOUP

And the Oscar goes to…

OLIVER! (1968)

In the delightful musical based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist, poor Oliver laments 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.

 

BEST ENTRÉE 

And the Oscar goes to…

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

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 that lie on a beach made of grains of rice flavored with Maui onion and fish sauce. Strewn on the beach is seaweed in the form of curried kale.

 

BEST SALAD

And the Oscar goes to…

CASABLANCA (1943)

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.

 

BEST CAKE DESSERT

And the Oscar goes to…

GRAND HOTEL (1933)

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.

 

BEST DESSERT DRINK

And the Oscar goes to…

GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT (1948)

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.

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

Invitation. On an appropriate card for mailing or on an email, place an image of “Oscar.”

 

Note. Please join us in a celebration of the Academy Awards. Our version of Oscar night is a dinner party with dishes inspired by Oscar-winning “Best Pictures.” You are a star in this show, playing one of the celebrities presenting Oscars. Black tie is optional but glad rags required. Please arrive exactly on time for a special surprise that you will miss if late. (Include time, place and R.S.V.P. if desired.)

 

Souvenir Menu. The menu plays two roles. It is a take-home souvenir and it contains the information used in announcing the “Oscars.” Print the menu on white paper. Fold and include in the package for the favor (see Favor below).

 

The “Oscar” Award Envelopes: Make them look like the real thing, front and back with the “Oscar” information from the menu inside.

 

You will need 9 Award envelopes (for the cocktail, 3 appetizers, soup, entrée, salad and 2 desserts). For each, use a white envelope, 7½ x 8½ 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.

 

Put the Oscar information for each dish on 7 x 8-inch white paper, using large, bold, black letters. Type the information for each from the menu: the movie that inspired the dish, the year of its Best Picture award, and a description of the relationship between the movie and the dish. 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-supply store) at the entrance to your residence. 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 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 model for your guests. As there are 8 Award envelopes in the hat, if you have fewer than 7 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 7 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 stir up 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 con brio: “This dinner is dedicated to the Academy Awards. Each dish you will eat was inspired by a ‘Best Picture.’ 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.

 

Room décor. Make red the paramount color in your décor. A large vase of red roses in your entrance hallway and another in your living room will be impressive. 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 décor. 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.  

 

Mood 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.

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

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.  

Preparation. 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 equal amounts of light cream and very cold vodka in a cocktail shaker half full of cracked ice.  Shake for 1 minute. Strain into martini glass and top with shaved dark chocolate. Serve immediately.

APPETIZERS

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WINGS (1929)

Chicken Wings with Sauerbraten and Ranch Dips

The duo of dips - one dark, one white - represent the two sides in the World War I air combat portrayed in this black and white film. The “German” dip is based on sauerbraten, a classic preparation of beef marinated in vinegar, sugar and spices. The “American” is that South Western classic, ranch dip, but with bacon bits in tribute to the flyboys who were Southerners. The chicken wings get a beer marinade, a favorite drink of both Germans and Americans.

Preparation. For the German dip, make a marinade for sauerbraten, thicken it with cornstarch and cool. For the American dip, use your favorite ranch dip. Add crispy bacon pieces. Marinate the wings for 4 or more hours in beer before cooking.

 

FORREST GUMP (1995)

Shrimp Cakes with Vietnamese Sauce

Shrimp cakes seasoned with hot sauce represent the cooking of Louisiana, home of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Nuoc cham, a basic Vietnamese sauce/dip honors Vietnam, the place where Bubba and Forrest met and made their plans for the company. Nuoc cham has just the right sweet-sour-salty counterpoints for the mild flavor of the shrimp.

Preparation. Recipes for shrimp cakes Louisiana style and nuoc cham abound on the Internet. Many Asian groceries sell nuoc cham.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)

Flavored Popcorn

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

Preparation. Simmer olive oil with basil, rosemary or other green herb. Make popcorn as usual and drizzle the oil over it.

Plating the appetizers

Present the three appetizers separately. (1) Arrange wings on a platter in a V-formation to suggest military airplanes. Place dips to either side of the platter. (2) Do an image search online for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and print the logo. Get a cardboard box large enough for the serving platter to fit inside. Decorate the box with the logo. Spoon a smidgen of nuoc cham onto each cake. Place cakes on platter inside box. Seal lightly. (3) Purchase popcorn boxes at a party store and fill to the top with the seasoned popcorn. Garnish with a sprig of green herb. Place boxes on your most colorful serving tray.

 

SOUP

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.” 

Preparation. Prepare very thin oatmeal. Stir in a generous amount of melted butter and a generous amount of peach brandy (or peach nectar), enough to give the oatmeal a distinctive flavor of peach. Whip heavy cream with salt.

Plating. If possible, use bowls that are peach or red in color. Top with a dollop of whipped cream seasoned with salt and, on that, a thin slice of peach, preferably fresh.

Complementary beverage. In a small glass, combine 1 ounce of peach brandy (or nectar) with 2 ounces seltzer water.

ENTRÉE: From Here to Eternity 

Fancy fish 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 a buttery crust, show the fillets dressed in red-pepper swimsuits, cuddled side by side on white “sand” (rice). Dark green kale will suggest seaweed and avocado mousse the ocean.

 

MAHI-MAHI WITH MACADAMIA-NUT CRUST

(The Lovers)

Preparation. Prepare fish fillets with a crust of buttered macadamia nuts. Make two for each guest, both narrow and one longer (Kirk) than the other (Deborah). Make swim trunks of red pepper for Kirk: a straight waist, sides at an angle with a small cut for the crotch. For Deborah, make a one-piece, strapless suit with curved waist line.

 

RICE WITH THAI FISH SAUCE AND GINGER

(White Sand Beach)

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. Distinctly Eastern flavorings will 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 will add pizzazz.  

Preparation. Prepare medium-grain rice with some Maui (if possible) onion, Thai fish sauce and grated fresh ginger.

 

CURRIED KALE

(Seaweed)

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, spice up the kale. Its soft texture will contrast with the crunchy fish and granular rice. The dish could represent the Best Picture of 1983, Gandhi.  The focus of that 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 the spices so important to Indian cuisine.  

Preparation. Cook shredded kale with onion, garlic and a generous amount of Indian spices such as black mustard seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander and chili pepper. 

 

SAVORY AVOCADO MOUSSE

(The Ocean)

Green, foamy and salty, the mousse 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 the deliciously refreshing waters.  

Preparation. Process mashed avocado with thick sour cream, a small amount of mustard and lemon juice, black pepper and sea salt. 

Plating the Entrée

Spoon avocado mousse on not quite half of the plate to suggest 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 the long “Kirk” fillet and the short “Deborah” at a slight angle to each other, with “heads” touching and “feet” in the “ocean” of avocado sauce. Carefully put on their red pepper “swim suits.”

Complementary beverage

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

SALAD

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CASABLANCA (1943)

Moroccan Salad in Citrus Tagine

Evoke Casablanca with a mock tagine, the traditional clay pot of Morocco.  Its base 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, guests find a salad, bright and refreshing with Moroccan ingredients. A Champagne vinaigrette will suggest Bogart’s famous toast to Ingrid Bergman (See MENU). It will also salute the café’s bartender who told Rick he’d rather water his garden with Champagne than let the Nazis drink it.

Preparation. For the tagines, cut grapefruits and lemons in half horizontally. Scrape out the flesh. If a grapefruit half does not stand upright, cut a thin slice from the bottom. Keep the salad simple: a few micro greens, scallions, diced tomato, chickpeas and perhaps some diced preserved lemon. Make a vinaigrette with Champagne vinegar, olive oil and a bit of lemon and ground cumin.  

Plating. Place the half-grapefruit 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 green and black olive slivers to surround the tagine.

DESSERTS

GRAND HOTEL (1933)

German Chocolate Torte

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A suitable symbol of Berlin’s luxurious Grand Hotel must have a stunningly elegant exterior and sumptuous, scrumptious interior. 

Preparation. We suggest a torte featuring chocolate, coconut and pecans, the flavors of the classic German chocolate cake. Add intricacy and sophistication with frostings on top and between the layers that add crunch with toffee and almond bits (a coarsely ground Heath bar is perfect). Top it all off with spun-sugar columns. They are gorgeous and easy to make. Place them around the cake’s perimeter. Colorful, edible flowers in the center will make this cake beyond grand.

Plating. Place the torte on your most elegant cake plate. 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.

 

GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT (1948)

A ’Shake That’s Spiked

Cake with ice cream is always a winner. An 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.  

Preparation. Make a shake with orange ice cream to complement the cake’s flavors. Spike it with an orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier.

Plating. Pour the shake into champagne or other stemmed glasses with a few chocolate shavings on top.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. A speedy substitute for the chocolate martini is chocolate liqueur over ice.

 

Appetizers. All three are easy because most of the basics can be bought. As Wings was the very first Best Picture, include its appetizer. You can purchase wings and ranch dip. You may also be able to purchase sauerbraten and use the accompanying liquid or, if necessary for a dip, add some thickener such as sour cream. You can probably purchase Cajun-style shrimp cakes and dipping sauce. Of course, popcorn will be simple enough to make.

 

Soup or Salad. The soup is easy to make. The thin oatmeal can be done a day ahead. Add the brandy and cream just before serving. The salad is more complex, although the citrus tagines can be prepared several days ahead, wrapped and refrigerated.

 

Entrée. The entrée looks daunting, but is not. The swimsuits can be cut and then refrigerated as much as two days ahead. You can purchase rice from a Chinese restaurant and reheat, adding the Thai fish sauce and grated or ground ginger. Prepare the kale early in the day and reheat before serving. For the mousse, purchase avocado mousse for dip and process with the sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

 

Dessert. Buy a round cake and cover with frosting flavored with orange liqueur. Skip the sugar columns but decorate with a broken-up Heath bar and edible flowers. Accompany the cake with vanilla ice cream covered with orange liqueur.

 

Favor. Buying appropriate DVDs is simple enough.