Sunday, December 14, 2008

Memories of a wonderful party; Ruby Sippers

There have been many times in my life where I have wanted to go back in time, live through a moment, an experience, one more time, and be able change it for the better. I’m hoping that most other people want to do the same at one occasion or another, and that I’m not the only one who feels is way. But also, there are those events which I would just like to relive, ever and over, as they occurred. Last weekend had many of those “relivable” moments stuffed in a 20-hour period.

We had a small party at our lake house to celebrate Jack and my 25th wedding anniversary. Because it was small, and we wanted something nicer than we could determine would be possible using a caterer or restaurant to provide the food, I spent a few weeks planning a rather easy (yet elegant!) menu. We cleaned the house, and decorated the heck out of it (as Jack said). At times, I thought as though I had made the wrong decision as, along with Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas holidays, there seemed to be way too much stuff to pack into each day recently. But I slogged through and, well, it was definitely worth it.

What I would really like to do is have a sort of rewind button for those occasions in life. There were several moments during this past weekend when I would like nothing more than to experience them again.

The lake house was dressed up in its rustic, lodge-y splendor. Karla had brought over an armful of hemlock branches and holly which I used to make a centerpiece then, with what was remaining, I proceeded to decorate the sideboard, mantle, etc. There were candles and tiny white lights everywhere. The stone fireplace wall and the red oak posts and beams just seemed to glow. Our lake house is not large, in fact if there are more than 6 or 8 people there at any one time it can feel rather crowded. But the high ceilings and large windows overlooking the lake give it a sense of spaciousness. And last weekend, with the trees bare, the lake icy, and snow on the boulders and rocks outside, it was the perfect, absolutely perfect, setting for this winter celebration.

Three of our guests had a rather bad trip down. Jack and I were unaware until they called en route, but a series of unexpected snow squalls had caused traffic delays and numerous accidents. So, of course, by the time that they arrived, they were more than set for a party! Our other two guests are neighbors, and they were at a Christmas party before they arrives, so both of them were in celebratory moods as well.

I can picture this all in my mind. The greenery, the twinkling lights and candles, our friends gathered around, drinking and laughing. I just want to keep it forever, somehow, so that I can rewind and play the various scenes over and over again.

I have to admit that this was probably my best all-around effort, and I am so thankful that it all went off without a hitch (except for Jack knocking a wine glass off of the counter onto the stone floor, but in the merriment of the evening, it was barely noticed).

My menu was:


Sparkling Citrus Punch

Ruby Sippers

Lucy's Sidecar


Assorted Crackers with

© Dutch Gouda with Walnuts

© Cranberry Chevre

© Pesto-Dried Tomato Torta

© Tuscan Cheddar

Spinach Dip with Crudités

Mini Crabcakes

Mushroom Turnovers

First Course

Roasted Pear & Butternut Squash Soup w/ Gorgonzola*

Salad & Bread

Mixed Field Greens* with Pear-Cranberry Vinaigrette*


Main Course

Lobster Ravioli in Pink Sauce*

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce*

Gorgonzola-Walnut Ravioli with Butter*

Artichoke Tortellini with Tomato Cream Sauce*


Dark Chocolate Cake* with Milk Chocolate Mousseline*


And yes, it was easy because I made only those starred items (the pasta was frozen and I pre-prepared the sauces), and mostly everything except the pasta was made ahead of time.

I would like to provide all of the recipes and photos, but that would take a very long time, in a season where my time is very tight. So I will hit on the highlights.

First, the Ruby Sippers. Featured in Cuisine at Home magazine in December 2006, this was a perfect cocktail for such an occasion. A cranberry syrup, infused with orange, was mixed with an Italian sparkling white wine.

Ruby Sippers

Makes 6

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup sugar

rind and juice of 1 orange

1 bottle sparkling white wine, such as Prosecco

Pulse cranberries & juice in a food processor until the berries are coarsely chopped. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in the sugar, rind, and juice until the sugar dissolves. Cook until syrupy, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain. (I refrigerated this for 2 days)

If desired, rub the edges of a champagne flute or white wine glass with a wedge of orange. Dip the rim into red sugar and turn a bit to coat. Pour 2 tablespoons of syrup into the glass, then top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a few whole, fresh cranberries, if desired.

With any luck, I’ll be more productive in the next few days that I anticipate, and will be able to post a few more of the recipes.