Sunday Dinner with Friends

I discovered the Gourmet Worrier a few months ago when I stumbled upon a post titled Snot Blocks, the name alone had me intrigued!  I was further enticed into Nanette’s home through her beautiful site where she writes about not only food, but family, love and travel.  Then we found each other on Twitter.  For me I felt like I had just found my twin, we were so much alike, this was simply pleasurable!  The past few months, we have shared numerous tweets, emails and I am noshing, very often over at her site.  A couple weeks ago, I got a message that her charming husband, Stephen, was going to be out in San Francisco and she wanted to know if I could recommend some places for him to visit.  So, I dusted off my very rusty restaurant list, gave it an update and sent it on.  Literally, minutes after sending, I get a message from Stephen, thanking me for the list and asking if we would like to get together with him – BUT OF COURSE!  We knew there was only one place in the city that he HAD to eat at, it was a must …….. Chez Us.


We love entertaining but we don’t do it as often as we would like, so we were pretty excited to be having a guest for dinner.  Now we needed to plan a delicious but casual meal.  There were so many dishes that we thought about making, from grilled pork tenderloin to a Moroccan Lamb dish, we decided to let it simmer in our minds until Sunday morning.   The weather was beautiful when we woke up so we decided it was a must to light up the grill and dine al fresco.  We wanted the meal to have freshest ingredients that are available in the bay area, sort of the season’s bounty.  The menu we decided on was:

Spicy Walnut Spread
Warmed Olives over Goat Cheese
Toasted Baguette Rounds
Fig, Melon & Prosciutto Salad
Grilled Porterhouse Steaks with Warmed Cherry Tomatoes
Hasselback Potatoes
Mixed Berry and Passion Fruit Brown Sugar Cardamon Pavlova


Now we have never met Stephen in person.  I know of his blog (check out the work he has done with UNICEF) and we follow each other via Twitter.  I know him through Nanette as well.  I like her and was sure we would like him.  Upon arrival Lenny wanted to serve cocktails.  Instead of offering the usual cocktail of choice, the vodka tonic, Laudalino decided on making his favorite drink, the Sazerac.   Lenny has not made one before so it was trial and error;  this drink may not be the drink for trial and error either!  The drink came out smooth and delicious but not quite the Sazerac he is use too drinking.  Either way the cocktails were a great way to start the evening and were enjoyed equally by all.

As soon as Stephen walked through the door, we all hit it off.  It was like a long lost friend was back in our lives.  We had so much to talk about, from food to business, to just getting to know each other.  Lenny and Stephen had lots of laughs commiserating over being with partners who are foodies  and how they use to have “six pack abs” but now they get baked treats – Nanette, no worries, they love it, it was all in good fun & I completely stuck up for us!!!  Thanks to technology, Nanette was able to join us via Skype, it was wonderful to be able to have her there with us.  It was such an enjoyable evening, that we completely lost track of time and food, the evening flowed as smoothly as the wine.   Okay Okay, I know you all love that we loved each other’s company, but where is the food!?  Here are some highlights and recipes.


Recipe:  Fig Salad

*adapted from David Tanis




fresh mint

Lay prosciutto on platter.  Cut figs in half, scatter onto the prosciutto.  Cut melon into thin slices and add to the platter.  Thinly slice mint and scatter on top.


Recipe:  Warm Olives with Goat Cheese

assorted olives

handful of fresh herbs – we used rosemary and thyme

zest from one lemon

sprinkle of olive oil

4oz goat cheese

Put everything into a frying pan and heat just until warmed.  Flatten the goat cheese into a disk and put into a swallow serving bowl.  Pour warmed olive mixture over the goat cheese.  Serve.  Eat.


Recipe:  Mixed Berry and Passion Fruit Brown Sugar Cardamon Pavlova

*adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon cardamon

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

6 large egg white at room temperature

1 cup chilled heavy cream



2 teaspoons sugar

passion fruit pulp, if you can’t find fresh use frozen

Heat oven to 275 with rack placed in the middle.  Lightly butter 2 8-inch round cake pans.  Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.  Pulse sugar, cardamom and cornstarch in food processor until well combined.   Beat egg whites with the pinch of salt at medium speed until they hold soft peaks.  Increase speed to medium-high and slowly add sugar mixture, a little  at a time.  After all sugar has been added beat for another minute.  Add vinegar and vanilla bean paste and beat at high speed until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 6  minutes.  Spoon meringue between the two pans, smooth the tops.  Bake meringues for 1 hour, until they have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, the insides may be slightly soft inside.  Turn the oven off and prop the door open with a wooden spoon.  Let meringues sit in there until cool.  Run a knife along the sides and carefully turn meringue out of the pans.  Carefully remove the parchment paper.  They will be very fragile, hand carefully.

Combine the berries in a bowl with two teaspoons of sugar and let sit for at least an hour before serving.  Whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Put one meringue onto a serving plate, spread half of the cream over it and spoon half of the fruit onto the cream.  Drizzle spoonfuls (to taste) of the passion fruit pulp over the fruit.  Top with other meringue and repeat the process.  Serve.  Eat.


  1. How lovely to meet friends via blogs & twitter! I love Nanettes blog & her tweets. So warm and full of life. You laid out a grand spread and I love how the evening ended…with this beautiful pavlove. It’s drop-dead GORGEOUS! Love the idea of the brown sugar there…wow!

  2. All the food in this post looks heavenly, but I am interested in making a pavlova. My dear dear friend left the US for New Zealand and we exchange our foods online. She tells me its the best, so I may just give your version a whirl!

  3. Wow this was such a feast! Figs and prosciutto sound like such a fantastic combination, I’m excited with fig season just round the corner. Lovely post!

  4. De'Dee Brown says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how good that dessert looks! And it is something I can eat! So thank you for sharing I will attempt it soon!

  5. Gorgeous meal and great photos! How fun that Nanette could join you through Skype. The world is much smaller than we realize anymore.

  6. Darling Denise you clearly went all out for my man & I’m truly grateful to both you and Lenny for opening up your home, heart & kitchen to him!

  7. Oh, HELLO…i’m going to HAVE to try that pavlova!! how beautiful!!!

  8. Such a wonderful night! Food made with love and friends without borders! That’s what social media is REALLY all about! I have all the Sazerac-induced Flip footage to prove it haha :)

  9. That is totally are kind of meal!!!! Beautiful fresh food & friends, equals a feast on life! Chris Ann & Kristin

  10. I love the menu you’ve put together! I wish I was close enough to experience what your lucky friends do! And I totally agree about how we’ve all gotten to know each other so much better over twitter. You especially, have a special place for me. :)

  11. that pavlova looks good!I just love those berries !

  12. A great menu beautifully, beautifully done. Your food always looks so gorgeous — you can tell that it’s delicious just by looking at it. I love the story of a friendship formed in cyberspace.

  13. Melanie says:

    I saw this recipe and thought it would be great to try out… Call me unfocused, but I have a little confusion on the recipe.

    1. I assume the brown sugar gets pulsed with the cornstarch.
    2. Where/when do you add the brown sugar/cornstarch mix? Or is that what gets mixed into the egg whites for the meringue?
    3. Do you recommend the cardamon get mixed with the 2T of sugar and mixed in with the berries? Or was it suppose to go with the meringue?

    Feeling a little fluff headed at the moment, so I thought I would ask before I start mixing things together.


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