5 Step Dinner Party: A Menu for the First Sign of Spring with Beet Salad, Lamb and Chocolate Cake

5 Step Dinner Party: A Menu for the First Sign of Spring with Beet Salad, Lamb and Chocolate Cake

I only decided to have this dinner party at about 10:00 in the morning the day of. I had one friend coming in town to stay for the week, another friend coming to visit for dinner from Santa Cruz, Rob was in NYC on business and I had a lot of things to say about all those big life decisions. What better format than a raucous Wednesday night dinner party?


Step 1: Shop
Farmer’s market is just starting to emerge from the winter doldrums of cabbage and turnips. I picked up leeks, gold and red beets, kale, cranberry beans, onions, tangerines, tangelos, blood oranges, cara cara oranges and valencia oranges. At home, I had two frozen racks of lamb from Trader Joe’s and a hunk of really good local goat cheese. Made a quick run to the store in the afternoon for a baguette, one slice of bacon, whipping cream and radish sprouts.

Step 2: Prep
I roasted the beets – skin on, with olive oil and salt – in a hot oven for about an hour. Next time, I’ll line the pans with something to help with all the splatter. Thawed out the frozen lamb in a sink of cold water. Chopped the brussels sprouts and leeks. Boiled the brussels sprouts – should have I recommend you cut the suggested cooking time in half from the recipe, they were a little overdone. Made the goat cheese mousse (which is so simple!), dished it up and put it in the fridge to set. The beet skins are easy to wipe off after they’ve cooled from the oven. Chopped up a few of the beets with blood oranges and tangelos for the salad.  Mike arrived from Las Vegas just as I was cleaning up.

Step 3: Set the table
The quince blossoms lent a lovely, dramatic feeling to the table. I paired the flowers with blue rattan placemats, blue Japanese-inspired napkins, wedding china, silver, steak knives, candlesticks. This was the debut for the handblown Spanish water glasses Margaret gave me for Christmas. So delicate…they really make a simple glass of cold water feel special.

Step 4: Last minute prep
I set out the Christmas beans and bread in the living room for our guests. With a pair of vintage french sugar cube tongs for serving, the oily beans were equal parts tasty appetizer and ice-breaking dexterity challenge.  I slipped out to add the beets, citrus and radish to the salads and to quickly pan sear the racks of lamb before tossing it in the oven.

Step 5: Enjoy!
Everyone sat down to the delicious salads. We had a leisurely 20 minutes for the first course before the lamb finished roasting and was ready to serve. Just took a few minutes to clear the plates, pan fry the brussels sprouts and carve the lamb for the main course. Kudos to Trader Joe’s, this lamb straight from New Zealand was tender and delicious!

Lisa brought dessert – an incredibly decadent chocolate souffle cake from Tartine Bakery in the Mission. I opened up a bottle of aged Australian port and served it in Turkish tea glasses.

We went on far too late into the night, drinking the whole delicious bottle of port, eating as much cake as we possibly could, burning the candles all the way down and – finally – finishing with a french press of decaf coffee to close out the night. Rob returned from the airport at 11:00 – just in time for some cake and wine with us before we all said goodnight!

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