Project Food Blog: Luxury Dinner Party*


Throwing dinner parties can be a lot to take on…especially when they have multiple courses. No one wants to come to a party where the host spends the entire night in the kitchen. And trust me…that used to be me. I used to be the girl in the kitchen, covered in flour, when my guests arrived…and left. But along the way I learned a few tricks of the trade. And here they are, my 5 tips on how to trick your guests into thinking you are Martha throw a successful dinner party!

Menu: Think your recipes through and really consider your menu. Don’t pick recipes that are overly ambitious or something that takes a lot of hands on time.

Prep Work: Prepping some things the day before your dinner party can be a large help. For example, I made my soup and dough the night before the party and I also chopped up all the vegetables.

Game Day Plan: You need a game day plan. No this isn’t football, but the same rule applies. You need to have a plan of execution for your courses, what you can make ahead of time and what will require your attention before and during the party. With a good plan, you will have a better chance of not seeming frazzled in front of your guests. For this particular dinner party, I made the soup the day before and just had to reheat it. I made the dessert the morning of the party. And most importantly, I picked an entree that would need little attention from me while it cooked for an hour and a half.

Entertain Your Guests: Think ahead to how you plan to keep your guests entertained. A small, intimate group can be more difficult then if you have a large group of guests. A large group will tend to mingle amongst themselves, while a small group will look to you, the host, for entertainment. So have something planned! For example, we had a Pumpkin Ale Tasting before sitting down to dinner, which was a great way to distract our guests while I put some last minute touches on our salads.

Relax: In the end, RELAX! A relaxed host is really all that matters. If you are relaxed, your guests will immediately feel at ease. If something doesn’t work out, it’s ok! There is always next time! :-)


For my Project Food Blog Luxury Dinner Party, I decided that I wanted to celebrate Fall! It finally dropped below 90 this week….and for Florida….that’s Fall! So in true Fall celebration, we started our night off with a Pumpkin Ale Tasting!

We had 4 different brands of Pumpkin Ale and 2 flavors of “Fall” beers. I was so happy to find out that ABC Liquor allows you to “Mix & Match”, which means you can make your own 6 pack! So for $13, I got to pick 6 different beers to try! It is a drunk girl’s pumpkin lovin’ girl’s dream! We each tried all 6 flavors, and after careful consideration…I choose Shipyard’s PumpkinHead as my favorite.

Jorge however choose Michelob’s Pumpkin Spice Ale as his favorite. Leave it to him to pick the cheaper beer! Not gonna lie though…I did love it as well and really like that it is available in almost all grocery stores. I am honestly considering stocking up on a bunch of Pumpkin Spice Ale since they refuse to sell it all year!

After our Pumpkin Ale Tasting, we headed inside for our first course, Vertical Pear Salad. This was a huge hit! Not only is it completely different from any other salad, it was a tasty way to start our meal. The salad was a watercress salad with pecans, blue cheese, and vinaigrette…all stuffed in pear, topped with honey! It was a new combination of flavors, definitely worth trying! To try to keep the length of this post down, I will be posting this recipe later this week!


Our second course, was Pumpkin Thai Soup…and one of my favorite courses! I must first confess that I have a crazy obsession with Fall…so part of my love for this course was because I got to serve it in pumpkins! But the other half…was the flavor! I loved the spices in this soup and the ease with which it came together. It has hints of curry, garam marsala, and just enough heat for that slow long burn I crave. This recipe will also be posted later this week!

For our 3rd/Main course we had Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Ratatouille and Mashed Potatoes. This was the most talked about dish of the night! I was slightly nervous about working with pork, which I find to be temperamental, but thought this recipe was straight forward enough and worked well into my time frame. The pork was perfectly seasoned and thanks to all the veggies did not dry out at all. The Ratatouille was easier then I could have hoped for…and with the combination of capers and garlic on top, it was a real winner! This recipe was so delicious, that I have already been asked to make it again in two weeks! Check out the recipe at the end of this post!

As our last and final course, we had an amazing Apple and Cranberry Galette! This was delicious and just screamed Fall to me! The combination of apples and cranberries was perfect. And the crust was truly one of the best, and easiest crusts! No eggs, no milk…instead butter and sour cream! Thanks to the balance of sweet Granny Smith Apples and tart Cranberries this dessert walked the perfect line! Not too sweet….and not too tart….but just right (you are free to now make the Goldilocks references)!  This recipe will also be posted later this week….and make sure and check back, because it would be perfect for Thanksgiving!

Thank you Foodbuzz for making this Challenge #3! I loved coming up with this menu and decorating for Fall! And even more so, I loved pushing myself to come up with new and interesting dishes. This was truly my favorite challenge yet!








Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Ratatouille

Yield: 6 servings


2 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. freshly ground peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
1 boneless pork loin roast, about 3 lb.
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 baby globe eggplant, peeled and cut into chunks
1 zucchini, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. capers, including brine


Preheat an oven to 400°F.

To make the spice rub, in a small bowl, combine the oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels and rub all over with the spice rub. Place the pork in an oiled heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold it comfortably.

Arrange the tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and onion around the pork. Sprinkle with the garlic and basil, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the capers over all.

Roast the pork until it is cooked through but still slightly pink in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat should register 155°F to 160°F. Turn the vegetables once during roasting.

Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice and arrange on a warmed platter. Surround with the vegetables and serve. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Roasting, by Barbara Grunes


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78 Responses to “Project Food Blog: Luxury Dinner Party”

  1. 1

    Jenn — October 2, 2010 @ 4:40 am

    Wow, you did an AMAZING job with this dinner party!!! Love the idea of the pumpkin ale tasting to start too! So seasonal and festive and it looks totally scrumptious – that vertical salad is so creative!! Best of luck in round 3!!

  2. 2

    Blog is the New Black — October 2, 2010 @ 6:04 am

    Wow, everything looks amazing, especially the vertical pear salad. I am very impressed with your party!!!

  3. 3

    amanda @ fake ginger — October 2, 2010 @ 7:39 am

    WOW!! Perfect dinner party! I love the pear salad – that was a brilliant idea!

  4. 4

    Lea Ann — October 2, 2010 @ 7:52 am

    Fabulous dinner party! I’m a big dinner party thrower and totally agree with your execution. I write down timelines, prepare anything I can in advance and have even sent out little invitation (even to close friends) with a detailed menu. Fun! Your food selection is out of this world. Love that pear! I just posted a pear salad that was delicious so was glad to find this and can’t wait for the recipe. And that pumpkin soup! ohmy. Great job and good luck with the contest.

  5. 5

    Sharlene — October 2, 2010 @ 8:49 am

    Wow! Such an impressive dinner party. All of the food looks fantastic presentation-wise AND taste-wise. I’m so jealous! Congratulations on making it into round 3!

  6. 6

    Beth — October 2, 2010 @ 10:45 am

    Everything in this post is absolutely gorgeous! I love love love the vertical pear salad!! You’re going to go far in this Food Blog competition!

  7. 7

    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) — October 2, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

    Your dinner looks incredible! You deserve to win! What an amazing spread….it looks so professional and gourmet!

  8. 8

    Debbie — October 2, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    Fantastic Job!! It all looks gorgeous and fun too!

  9. 9

    Liren — October 2, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

    What a beautiful and fun Fall menu! I especially love the vertical pear salad and Thai pumpkin soup (I would especially love to taste the latter)! Congrats on a lovely post.

  10. 10

    Stay-At-Home-Chef — October 2, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    Wow – everything is beautiful about your post! The setting, the photos, the food…gorgeous. Definitely full of that beautiful and vibrant feel of fall. Good luck in round 3!

  11. 11

    Katie — October 2, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Wow – this looks absolutely amazing! I am in love with the soup served inside the pumpkins! Presentation = awesome! And also, the table setting you prepared is so adorable! The candles inside the pumpkins were a nice touch!

  12. 12

    Leah — October 2, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    Wow! I think you just knocked this one out of the ballpark! I love your tips for entertaining and that menu sounds awesome! You’re pictures look amazing. You’ve inspired me to have a dinner party myself. Good luck with round 3, you’ve got my vote!

  13. 13

    Jan/Thella — October 2, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    most definitely, i would rsvp to your party :)

  14. 14

    Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt — October 2, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    You dinner is amazing! You did a fantastic job and put a lot of thought into everything from the presentation to the beverage pairings. Nice work!

  15. 15

    Julie Roberts — October 2, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    Looks amazing!!

  16. 16

    Denise — October 3, 2010 @ 1:39 am

    Everything looks amazing and delicious! Great pictures too. You captured the “fallness” of it all.

  17. 17

    Amanda — October 3, 2010 @ 8:45 am

    I cannot WAIT to see the pumpkin thai recipe! Everything sounded delicious!

  18. 18

    Samarie — October 3, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    It came out amazing. Love the soup! I might attempt to make it, but think I might need your help.

  19. 19

    Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — October 3, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

    Congrats!! I absolutely love this party, especially the salad…so creative!! You’ve got my vote! 😀

  20. 20

    Amy (Sing For Your Supper) — October 3, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    Well done, Jess!!! It all looks so beautiful!! Great post!!

  21. 21

    ErinsFoodFiles — October 3, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

    WOW! You rock! That looks like an amazing party! And PS. I’m drinking a Shipyard Pumpkin Ale right now!

  22. 22

    Ali @ His Birdie's Nest — October 3, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

    OMGoodness that all looks so amazing! The pear salad is my favorite and I may have to copy you sometime 😉

  23. 23

    themilkmanswife — October 3, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    Everything looks so great! Love the idea of a beer tasting before dinner. And the soup in the pumpkin is so stinkin’ cute. I think you nailed it. :)

  24. 24

    Eileen — October 3, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    A great post. Delicious food, great pics. I say no worries!

  25. 25

    Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot — October 3, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

    Looks beautiful Jessica! I adore your vertical salad! Such a classy dinner and I would definitely RSVP. :)

  26. 26

    kokomama — October 3, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

    I totally understand about fall in FL – the weather has been a balmy 85 this weekend – sounds like fall to me! I love your pumpkin candles. And that pear salad looks amazing.

  27. 27

    Shannon — October 3, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    WOW!!!! Everything looks absolutely wonderful. I love the use of the pumpkins, as bowls and as decorations! And that pear salad looks incredible. Your picture looks like I could just reach into the computer and grab it! Terrific Job!!

  28. 28

    melissa — October 3, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    What a beautiful dinner party menu! The vertical pear salad was gorgeous and sounds delicious. And the picture of the pork was perfect. Good luck in round 3!

  29. 29

    Joanne Choi — October 3, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    Fantastic looking party…I’m looking forward to the galette crust recipe…sounds simple and the welcome of fall seems very apropos. As soon as voting open, you have my vote!

  30. 30

    Sakura — October 3, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

    Beautiful and drool worthy. Excellent job. I keep voting for you. :) Must try and make. Good Luck

  31. 31

    Kerstin — October 3, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

    What a lovely fall menu. Everything looks delicious and the presentation of the pear salad and soup are so fun!

  32. 32

    In the world of food this week – 3rd September « iEyeFood — October 4, 2010 @ 3:24 am

    […] Project Food Blog gets to Round Three. Personally I’m rooting for The Novice Chef who’s just recently put up her entry for the third round. This round’s theme is a […]

  33. 33

    Jackie — October 4, 2010 @ 3:42 am

    TOTALLY beautiful! Luxury is all about elegance and girl, you have HEAPS of elegance. You’ve got one of my votes for sure 😉

    Well done! Good luck for the next round – have my fingers crossed for you!

    Jax x

  34. 34

    Vertical Pear Salad » The Novice Chef Blog — October 4, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    […] for this Vertical Pear Salad…I choose it for my Fall Dinner Party for Challenge #3 of Project Food Blog because it is impressive looking! But it is actually very easy to do! You can put any salad you […]

  35. 35

    Rodney — October 4, 2010 @ 8:42 am

    ……we voted!!

    Best wishes and good luck!


  36. 36

    Jenna — October 4, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    I’m so impressed . . . the decorations, the soup served IN a pumpkin . . . amazing job! I can’t wait for the rest of the recipes! I happen to have a pork loin hanging out in my freezer, so this recipe is just in time. =)

  37. 37

    Eliana — October 4, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    The next time you throw a dinner party like this I’m inviting myself over because this spread looks amazing!!! You’ve got my vote girl and I’m sure you’re making it to the next round.

  38. 38

    » The Novice Chef Blog — October 4, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

    […] Project Food Blog: Luxury Dinner Party […]

  39. 39

    Kerri — October 4, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

    so sorry i missed this… it all looks completely amazing jess! congrats!! :)

  40. 40

    Julie @ Willow Bird Baking — October 4, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    Voted for you! That vertical pear salad totally sealed the deal 😉

    My dinner party was designed to take the diner food from Gooch’s Diner, where my parents first met over 40 years ago, and elevate it to luxury for their 39th wedding anniversary. Come see if you’d like :)

  41. 41

    Emily Z — October 5, 2010 @ 10:05 am

    The vertical pear salad and the Thai pumpkin soup look AMAZING! I wish I had been at your lovely dinner party, it looks fantastic! Good luck!

  42. 42

    Emily Z — October 5, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    PS. Just voted for you!

  43. 43

    Debbie — October 5, 2010 @ 11:31 am

    Voted for ya, I hope you make it! I love your creativity with the vertical pear salad, it looks too pretty to eat!

  44. 44

    Whit@AmuseBouche — October 5, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

    omg im NOT OVER that pear! GORGEOUS! you have my vote sister!


  45. 45

    Ed — October 5, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

    That pear is awesome!! You have my vote. See you in RD 4.

  46. 46

    My Barbarian Table — October 6, 2010 @ 12:01 am

    absolutely fabulous! i love your menu and this post! i would certainly RSVP, you’ve got my vote darling!

  47. 47

    Shannon — October 6, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    Wow, the presentation of the salad is awesome, and what a great soup– can’t wait to see the recipe 😉

  48. 48

    Megan — October 6, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    Thanks for you vote! Looks like you had a hoot as well with all the delicious beer! And I loved how you presented the soup, perfect for autumn weather – Megs @ Foodalution

  49. 49

    doggybloggy — October 6, 2010 @ 6:56 am

    did my comment post?

  50. 50

    Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops) — October 6, 2010 @ 6:56 am

    Loving the pear salad !!! What a great idea for a tasting before gives you some extra time and it shows your guests that you are thinking of them. Photos are amazing and love the table decoration. Voted !

  51. 51

    Barbara — October 6, 2010 @ 7:03 am

    Congrats on making it to the third round!
    Your dinner party menu is smashing. Such a cute idea to have pumpkin ale tasting! I love all the fall aspects of your presentation; the pear salad is a delight.
    Good luck on this round…I’m voting now.

  52. 52

    shaz — October 6, 2010 @ 7:20 am

    Love that vertical pear salad, gonna steal it thank you! What a wonderful way to greet fall, and I’m totally intrigued by the pumpkin ale, never heard of it before. Great job hosting, great tips and you got a vote from me :)

  53. 53

    Simply Life — October 6, 2010 @ 7:40 am

    What a great meal – i love that idea for the pear salad!

  54. 54

    stephchows — October 6, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    Wow! love you post too! Good luck and I also hope we both make it to the next round! voted!

  55. 55

    Eileen — October 6, 2010 @ 8:29 am

    Oh, how I would have loved your party! The food looks so delicious and festive. And, we have something else in common. My mom had a dog (Max – RIP) he was a westie. I came home from work one night (when I was in HS) and went to say goodnight to her. When I sat down on the edge of the bed Max got up and bit me in the ear too. He was a fiesty little thing who always tried bullying me around. LOL You got my vote!

  56. 56

    Sarah the Bear — October 6, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    Your dinner looks beautiful from beginning to end–honestly, I’m having a hard time picking my favorite course. A true fall feast! Here’s a vote and some good luck :)

  57. 57

    Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz — October 6, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    Oh what a fabulous dinner, everything looks great. That vertical pear salad is too cool! Got my vote. Thank you for yours :-)

  58. 58

    Ruby — October 6, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    Wow – I love the presentation of the pear salad and the soup in the pumpkin!

  59. 59

    Jeanne — October 6, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    Everything is so beautifully presented, you really could be Martha! 😉 I love pumpkin ale, though I’ve only managed to try 2 different varieties so far. The vertical pear salad is genius. Excellent work, I’m voting for you right now!

  60. 60

    Heather — October 6, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    That pear is so cool looking!!

  61. 61

    Joanne — October 6, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    Fall is such an absolutely lovely thing to celebrate! I love the presentation of the pumpkin soup. And that pair is just pure artwork! You’ve got my vote! Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my entry!

  62. 62

    Lisa~Korean American Mommy — October 6, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

    Your dinner looks delicious. And that vertical pear salad, oh my! AND I LOVE BEER! Great job. Voted (=

  63. 63

    Becky — October 6, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    Great pictures!.. yes cross your fingers we both make it through to the next round.. this suspense is just killing me!

  64. 64

    Daily Spud — October 6, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    I *love* the look of that vertical pear salad – great presentation. Am I’m just damn intrigued by the idea of a pumpkin ale tasting, seeing as pumpkin ale is not something I’m likely to find in Ireland! Hope this round goes well for you, I’ve just voted :)

  65. 65

    riceandwheat — October 6, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    That vertical pear salad is so cute – I love it! Good luck in PFB!

  66. 66

    Crystal's Cozy Kitchen — October 6, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    It looks delicious! I love the pear salad ;). Sending a little red heart your way – Good Luck.

  67. 67

    Reeni — October 6, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

    The pear is so elegant! And very festive. Everything looks insanely good! Best of luck – I’m off to tweet you!

  68. 68

    Amy (Shiny Cooking) — October 6, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    Well hell. Anyone who uses a whole pumpkin in their menu gets my vote. :p Seriously, though, lovely dinner. Good job!

  69. 69

    Katharina — October 6, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

    I love the tips you gave at the beginning. I am the same way as you when it comes to approaching having a get-together. I also had a small intimate group, and I loved that! It was funny because none of them knew each other beforehand, but my friends are open and friendly people so I knew it would be alright. Also, great idea to have a tasting beforehand. Now on to the menu!!! What an incredibly creative salad. I would’ve loved to be a guest at this party. The food is all displayed wonderfully, sounds delicious, and you seem like such a genuine person :) Cheers to this fall feast!

    XO you’ve got my vote! Best of luck!

  70. 70

    n — October 6, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    Love the pear presentation. Consider it stolen.

    voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)

  71. 71

    Dana — October 6, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    It looks like you did a wonderful job! I love the whole spread, especially the pumpkin soup INSIDE the pumpkin! SO creative!

  72. 72

    Danielle@Runs With Spatulas — October 6, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

    You whole menu looks amazing, and that pear salad is crazy! Great presentations! Good luck in round 3!

  73. 73

    Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris — October 7, 2010 @ 2:19 am

    Visually stunning…lovely combination of flavors!
    You have my vote!

  74. 74

    eataduckimust — October 7, 2010 @ 7:58 am

    wow i want some of that soup!!!

  75. 75

    Amanda (The Culinary Passport — October 7, 2010 @ 9:30 am

    I want that pumpkin soup!!! You have my vote :)

  76. 76

    natalie (the sweets life) — October 7, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    got my vote it in the nick of time! what a fabulous dinner party–I want to make all of those dishes!!

  77. 77

    Foodwhirl » Pumpkin Thai Soup (and a whole Fall Dinner Party) — October 8, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    […] Over at The Novice Chef Blog, Jessica shares a fabulous looking fall themed dinner party, complete with menus, recipes, and organizational tips. Love it! Check out one of the menu items… Pumpkin Thai Soup–isn’t it gorgeous! Throwing dinner parties can be a lot to take on…especially when they have multiple courses. No one wants to come to a party where the host spends the entire night in the kitchen. And trust me…that used to be me. I used to be the girl in the kitchen, covered in flour, when my guests arrived…and left. But along the way I learned a few tricks of the trade. And here they are, my 5 tips on how to trick your guests into thinking you are Martha throw a successful dinner party! Read Jessica’s tip, and get the menu here. […]

  78. 78

    Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Ratatouille and Mashed Potatoes | — February 22, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

    […] Source: […]

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