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Be My Valentine Test Nest

Ask my mom and best friends and they’ll tell you my least favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day. Last year however, I caught a little bit of the love spirit with my two hearts and chocolate dinners. They were fun and I enjoyed thinking of creative ways to incorporate hearts. So I decided that with V-day on a Monday it would be a perfect opportunity for a fun celebration of good food, friends and love – it was a fabulous evening. This menu was a popular one so I increased the number and had 9 fabulous testers join me: Olesya Gol, Daniel Evans, Martin Rigby, Tami Barker, Heather Heiner, Nate Mecham, Jami and Richard Gordan-Smith, and David Caine. Thanks Martin for taking the beautiful pictures.

Winter Swizzle (4.5 Stars)

Two testers gave it a 5. This fresh grapefruit mocktail was a crisp and refreshing compliment to the complete menu. It went well with the soup and main course. Topped with ginger ale and honey, allspice and cinnamon. Use a cocktail shaker to mix 2 cups grapefruit juice, 4 T. honey, ¼ t. allspice and cinnamon. Fill glasses with 2 ice cubes, ½ grapefruit mixture and top with ginger ale.

Candied Grapefruit Rind (3.5 Stars)

The suggested garnish for the drink, this recipe had mixed reviews. Richard and Olesya who grew up in Europe loved the candied rind, the Americans turned up their noses. J I liked it, but since it took about 24 hours to make with various steps, I probably wouldn’t bother to make it again and maybe instead add candied ginger or a grapefruit/Clementine wedge.

Creamy Caramelized-Onion Soup (4 Stars)

Testers were mixed on this recipe as well. Some thought the bites with caramelized onions made the dish, others liked the puree more but they added a little salt. Good suggestions however were to slice the caramelized onions in half or strips so easier to get into the spoon with each bite. I wanted more caramelized onion. The creamy onion puree was light and full of flavor with the robust mixture of leeks, shallots, and Vidalia onions. The garlic was also faintly noticeable.

Filet Mignon with Peppercorn-Orange Sauce (5 Stars)

I love having sauces for meat, and although filet mignon cooked well rarely needs any addition, this sauce is FABULOUS. The flavor contrast came out in each bite – one with a citrus twist, another with strong peppercorn. This dinner was my 1st successful preparation of meat to all of the guests desired doneness. A few guests preferred their meat well and by the time everyone was served the well steaks were ready and everyone was happy.

Baked Potato Fans (4 Stars)

Fun presentation, these baked potatoes take on flavor from brushing them with vinaigrette before roasting and then sprinkling with grated Parmesan cheese. Dave said, “sometimes I cute the wedges too large so I appreciated the portion control.”

Rosy Apple Tart (4 Stars)

Beautiful presentation and a great light finish well paired with the chocolates. I used store bought pastry, which wasn’t great, so a homemade or high-quality pastry would be better. The buttermilk cream filling turned out more like a meringue. Richard suggested sprinkling some cinnamon and sugar on it or maybe even torching it. Great ideas. I tried the leftovers with the some cinnamon on it and it definitely added flavor, although would change the look of the presentation so maybe pass around the table for guests to sprinkle. Thanks Jami for helping with the apple roses, they were beautiful!

Chocolate Truffles (3 Stars) and White Chocolate Covered Cherries (4 stars)

I wanted to have a little valentine for all of the guests and made gift boxes with two truffles and chocolate covered cherries in them to take away. I also passed around the extra to compliment the tart. I was glad the tart was light so that the sweetness of the chocolates weren’t overwhelming. Many testers were not white chocolate fans, but for those who did like white chocolate they loved these. Next time I need to find higher quality maraschino cherries or even make with fresh cherries and pit them.

Daniel made a special valentine for everyone – a booklet (which he specifically requested have a disclaimer that he created it during an hour and a half law class so not his preferred quality of work) highlighting the history of the holiday. It was very educational and fun to read and a treasure. I thought I’d share the poem he made to honor the evening.

On this cold day,
I found myself,
Without a lady love,

So Amber said
To come and eat
An invite with a shove.

So thanks to you
Pleasant young folk
For sharing your good mood

As together
We eat our fill
Of Amber’s good home food.

Last, but not least, thanks to my mom who yet again sent me a valentine’s package (she hasn’t missed a year since college), Martin for the hot cocoa, Daniel for the tulips, and Jami and Richard for the fab kitchen towels.


3 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. Mom (March 12, 2011)

    I love your creative centerpiece. Someday I want you to make the tart for me. You know how I love sauces on my meat, maybe I’ll try this one to enhance my taste buds from A1.

  2. Former Roommate (March 15, 2011)

    This sure beats watching “Cool Hand Luke.”

  3. Jeff Mulcock (April 6, 2011)

    I was bummed that I couldn’t squeeze in a test meal with you while I was in town briefly this weekend. I will put this as a top priority for our next visit! Everything looks awesome.



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