Somewhere between seeing "Letters to Juliet" and developing my obsession for the French water bottle, I decided that I wanted to host a dinner party - Tuscan style.
I have not traveled to Italy, but love the beautifully-filmed scenes from movies such as "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Letters to Juliet." The way the sun bathes the countryside reminds me of the low sun in the Northeast Ohio sky during the fall.
The scenes are set with long tables filled with family and friends and food. Our little-used patio under our deck was to become our arbor. We set the table with fall colored linens and plates. I bought kitchen towels to serve as napkins so that they could generously cover our laps (and protect us from all the olive oil!)
My internet research told me that Tuscan dining is all about fresh food, so that was our main quest. In addition, fresh flowers, sunflower motifs, and candles adorned the table.
I have had these apple candles for four years and they are still burning strong!
Even St. Francis made an appearance!
The stage was set. Italian opera was playing.
Our guests arrived, one complete with thin mustache, neck ascot and straw hat - he looked like he just walked in from the vineyards! They brought lovely bouquets for us which I am still enjoying long after the party ended.
There was Italian beer and Italian wines.
There was a bit of a chill in the air, so the chimenea gave us a bit of warmth, especially when we finally retired from the table, which was after about five hours!
Yes, with the Italians, it is all about the food. We planned six courses and started with a simple antipasto.
Our friend made this beautiful tomato mozzarella dish. The presentation equaled its taste!
We continued on to the bread course, which included garlic bread sticks, Tuscan bread, and a sunflower seed baguette paired with flavorful dipping oils.
Yes, I know that is a Guinness glass - I ran out of "earthy" containers.
The next course was an Italian Wedding Soup made by another guest. It was out of this world and perfect as the air started to cool.
The main course consisted of Chicken Vesuvio. I had never made it before, but it was simple and enjoyable. I decided it wouldn't be an Italian dinner if we didn't have some pasta, so the main course included a side of rigatoni with my own sauce.
It was getting dark, so I don't have photos of the later courses. We enjoyed a salad after dinner, "to cleanse our palate". Finally, we conquered a wonderful vanilla caramel gelato and a home-made Macadamia nut/white chocolate biscotti. The cookie was fantastic! I can't wait to get the recipe from my friend and try it myself.
As the evening wound down I was happy that we had accomplished what we had set out to do: have an evening with friends in which food and conversation was the entertainment. We couldn't believe we had been sitting, talking, and eating for five hours! We enjoyed good foods (no chips or pretzels), but the best part about the evening was sharing it with friends whom we feel blessed to know. I suspect that Italians warmly embrace the love of family and friends - and it couldn't be shared in a more lovely manner than around the dinner table.