Fancy Three-Course Dinner for Our Fancy Friend

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Years ago, when the husband spent a semester in Denmark, I went to visit and we did some traveling. One of our little side trips was to Frankfurt, Germany to visit relatives on his mother's side. We were a little unsure about spending three days with total strangers, but as soon as we met these folks, our doubts melted and we had a great time. The most memorable part of the trip for me, besides falling down an entire floor of steep stairs, and getting a huge bruise, was the food.

Never before had I been served such fancy and delicious courses, plated and brought out from the kitchen, in some one's home. I grew up eating family style, and at first this type of service was a little intimidating, especially with the language barrier. But after a few beers, it seemed perfectly natural that our hostess should appear from the kitchen every 30 minutes with our next course, beautifully plated, and set in front of us with a warm smile. I thought to myself, this is what we have been missing.

So when our friend, who we haven't seen for a while, suggested we have dinner this past weekend, I knew I wanted to make a fancy multi-course meal for him. Although the title of this post indicates he's our "fancy friend", that's really only for word play. Our friend is by no means fancy. He once stated, for no good reason, that from now on he would only wear the color blue from head to toe, referring to his jeans and long-sleeve cotton shirt. That didn't last, but the point is, a fancy person would have picked a federal or cobalt blue.

Our first course was scallops with a tarragon mustard vinaigrette over a bed (yes bed!) of watercress. It looked fancy. It tasted even fancier. It was a hit. Remember folks, the trick to make things look fancy, is to serve small portions. And in this case, two jumbo scallops were plenty.
We then moved on to pimentos stuffed with manchego cheese, slightly sauteed, and dresses with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chives. I saw this recipe on the Jose Andres show, Made in Spain, and although I didn't follow the recipe exactly, the dish was good, an interesting combination of flavors and technique. Who knew sauteing cheese was a good idea?
For our main course, I roasted fennel in the oven, with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper, for about 45 minutes. I also made a hearty bolognese sauce, and served it over perciatelli pasta. I love perciatelli, it's a fatter version of spaghetti, with a hollow center. It's definitely fancier than spaghetti, but it's also fun to eat.
After three complete courses, the husband decides we must walk to the fancy Restaurant Devon down the street for desserts and dessert wines. This bit might have been a little much, but the dessert battle is not one worth fighting. By the end of the night we were collapsed on our couches, with all fanciness behind us, bellies satisfied, feet up, beers in hand, watching 60s music infomercials. Now that's how a dinner party should end.

Hearty Bolognese
Serves 6
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
2-3 spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
2-3 carrots, mine were nice and fat from the garden, so I only used two, chopped fine
3 stalks of celery, chopped fine
3 shallots, or an onion, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of dry white wine
2/3 cup of milk
8 oz tomato paste
16 oz tomato sauce
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Heat your olive oil in a pan, add all the vegetables and saute for 12 minutes or so, until everything is soft.
2) Add the meat, and cook for another 10 or so minutes, breaking up larger chunks.
3) Stir in tomato sauce and paste, wine and 1/2 cup of milk, lower heat and reduce. Sauce will need to cook for about an hour, stir often.
4) When the sauce has thickened, season, add the remaining milk and cook an additional few minutes.
5) Add your pasta to the sauce to coat. Cook together for a few minutes, and serve.

We topped our pasta with grated pecorino.


  1. Ha. I enjoyed this entry thoroughly.

    This fancy friend sounds like a great guy.

    I can imagine that the food was spectacularly delicious, and the company was even more spectacularly delicious.

  2. you're right, he's a great guy. i would introduce you two, but i don't think you'd get along.