Ciao Chow — Winsome Western Magnetism Meets Iconic Italian Tradition

September 4, 2012

Food Memories Then and Now: Part II

It’s always exciting when the first of your friends gets married. I was 20 years old when I had dinner at one of my first-to-be-married friends’ homes. Kathy was three years my senior and it was fun to see a girlfriend play a real-life “homemaker.” Because I grew up with my grandmother, mother and aunties always entertaining, I had high expectations. Hosting a dinner – however large or small — can be a daunting task for a young woman. Kathy prepared a dinner for four at her new home, and I can still remember the menu and the table setting to this very day. Everything looked perfect to me: cutwork table linens, including cloth napkins that were handed down in her family, with blue-and-white dishes that sat under a blue-and-white chandelier — and of course there was candlelight.

I was amazed that this friend who was now oh-so-grown-up; after all, this was the same friend with whom I had shared dating tales, shopping excursions and deep- as well as light-hearted discussions on the meaning of life. This was the first time I tasted chicken cordon bleu served with twice-baked potatoes and green beans with a touch of bacon fat and onions. The dessert was an unforgettable family-recipe cheese cake. I loved it, and I have to chalk this up as a wonderful food memory. It also confirms in my mind that how you serve food is as important as the food itself.

Fast forward a generation. One of Kathy’s four terrific sons was about to get married. In her home in Colorado, Kathy was making preparations for the rehearsal dinner. I would like to share this with you because it stuck with me as yet another lovely memorable night of food and entertainment. The challenge was met of intertwining the western location of Colorado for the rehearsal dinner, and the location of the marriage, which was to take place in Italy.

In the photos below, you will see cowboy boots filled with sunflowers and earthy Italian Chianti bottles dripping with candle wax. The table settings included rooster-stenciled tablecloths in the colors of sunny Italy, as well as the mason jars for drinks with burlap and raffia to finish the look. Throughout the evening, the background music reflected some Italian songs mixed with spaghetti-western style instrumentals. This fabulous event is engrained in my memory as a Western welcome with an Italian twist.

We grazed on such hors d’oeuvres as Colorado buffalo satay, petite Navajo elk tacos and Italian sausage pinwheels. The entrée included herb-rubbed choice beef tenderloin with huckleberry sauce, farfalle pasta with cream sauce made of applewood-smoked bacon, sweet peas, tomatoes and parmesan cheese, and of course abundant fresh salads and delicious vegetable side dishes.

I challenge each of you to shake it up in your home and try something you have not done. Stretch. Heck, I once collected 20 tin cans, took off the labels and served homemade chili in them and used pie tins for trays where guests could place cornbread and crudités. It was unexpected. I would like to thank all my friends and family who open their homes to share a bite to eat and good conversation. I have learned not only from my wonderful mother, sister, sister-in-laws and aunties, but also from so many dear friends.   Thank you, Nancy and Pam, for first introducing me to buttery chardonnay. Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful focaccia sausage bread. And, Laurie, where is that crab quiche recipe? Terry, remember your carrot cake? Debi, your Asian dinner party will never be forgotten. And thank you to so many other friends who have both surprised and taught me the art of entertaining. We can always go to a restaurant, of course, but opening your home is far more intimate and rewarding. Let us share with our daughters and sons so that they, too, can feel the reward. Oh yeah, the only bad thing: washing the dishes! : )

Your table settings and themed party décor can be something original you create from inspiration. At a spectacular wedding rehearsal dinner in Colorado I attended, this cowboy boot at the front stoop immediately conjures up a Western welcome with a Tuscan twist.

Check out the sunflowers set in straw hats, as well as the mason jars for drinks.

Here’s an overall shot of the Western-meets-Tuscan themed wedding rehearsal dinner at my friend’s home in Colorado. You can see how the Western-inspired rooster-stenciled cut tablecloths work great with the red and yellow hues of Tuscany.






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