Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chic Couples Dinner Party: Part 1

New Year's Eve 2011 was truly magical. Our dear friends, Meghan and Scott packed up their bags and flew from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to spend the holiday weekend with us. Meg and I had been dreaming up the weekend for MONTHS and it couldn't have been better. It should not be a surprise that the food was the highlight of this weekend visit, our New Year's Eve eats taking center stage. We enjoyed our daily g-chat sessions as we centered them around creating our NYE menu and by the time the McConnell's touched down in the Windy City, we knew exactly what we had to look forward to.

This menu is perfect for a chic couples night in. It's fun to get dressed up and go out, but I truly believe this is even better. Don't let prep time scare you, we all had the BEST time in the kitchen getting everything ready for our fancy night in. We turned up Michael Buble, put on our aprons, and went to town. The result was a beautifully delicious night with friends and plenty of glitter and twinkle lights to keep it festive. We put on our holiday best and enjoyed one of the best nights ever!

I'll be sharing our menu in two parts: Sips and Small Bite Starters today, then the Main Course and Desserts tomorrow.

To Sip:
Winter White Sangria with Pomegranate and Lime

Small Bite Starters:
Crostini with Shaved Parmesan and Honey
Bloody Mary Soup Shooters with Shrimp
Caprese Bites

Winter White Sangria with Pomegranate and Lime
recipe adapted from I'll Have What She's Having

1 bottle white wine
36 oz. 7-Up or Sprite
Splash of Triple Sec
Seeds (arils) from one pomegranate
Two limes, sliced

Pour white wine, triple sec and limes into a large pitcher or punch bowl and let everything marry together for about 30 minutes. The pomegranate seeds will float. When you are ready to serve, add the 7-Up for fresh bubbles.

Crostini with Shaved Parmesan and Honey

Good crusty baguette, sliced thin diagonally
Good parmesan, shaved
Herbs de Provence
Olive oil for brushing
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and Herbs de Provence. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. While the crostini is baking, prepare your shaved parmesan. This can be done easily with a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler. When the crostini has cooled, top with shaved parmesan and drizzle of honey.

Bloody Mary Soup Shooters with Shrimp
recipe from Epicurious

Peeled and deveined cooked medium-sized shrimp
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
Green olives
28 oz. can no salt added San Marzano tomatoes in juice
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup low salt chicken stock or broth
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. vodka (we tripled this)
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. celery salt

Toss shrimp with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a large bowl. Thread one shrimp and olives on a toothpick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place tomatoes with juice, green onions, 1/2 cup stock, Worcestershire sauce, vodka, horseradish, celery salt, and remaining lemon juice in blender. If mixture is too thick, add more vodka by the teaspoonfuls. You could substitute this with more stock. Season Bloody Mary mixture with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pour soup into shot glasses or small glasses, and garnish with shrimp and olives.

Caprese Bites

Grape tomatoes
Basil leaves
Fresh mozzarella, cubed
Olive oil for drizzling

Arrange tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella on toothpicks. It looks extra pretty if you weave the basil leaf around the tomato and mozzarella. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Preparation tips-
Almost everything on the starter menu can be prepped ahead of time! Here's how you can get a head start so you are not slaving away in the kitchen the day of your dinner party.

1. Cut your limes and peel your pomegranate to get all of the seeds (arils) out. Refrigerate and they will be ready to go when you are ready to mix up your sangria.

2. Crostini can be made a day ahead of time. Just store in a ziploc bag.

3. Bloody Mary Soup can also be made ahead of time, in fact, it should be. The flavor gets better over time. Blend and store in a covered container in your refrigerator for one or even two days ahead of time.

4. Cook and chill your shrimp so it's ready to go!

5. Caprese bites couldn't be easier to assemble but you can take a few minutes off the prep time if you cube your mozzarella the night before.

The rest of our dreamy New Year's Even menu is coming tomorrow!


  1. WOW...that all looks amazing! Thanks for posting...I'm planning an anniversary dinner for my husband and I, you have so many great ideas!

  2. so festive! that winter sangria looks amazing!