February 28, 2012

2012 Oscar Viewing Party: A Themed Menu

Once again, my favorite party of the year: an Oscar viewing party with a course inspired by each of the nine 'Best Picture' nominees. Though it wasn't a great year for movies, these were great movies for food. After all, two took place in Paris and The Help was filled with scenes that centered around food, creating an insane craving for fried chicken (not to mention vivid imagery for a questionable chocolate pie). And since, Barney's Greengrass (the sturgeon king) was the location for all of the meetings between a grandfather and a boy in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I had a great excuse to splurge on the famous New York smoked fish. My show-off moment was a clock made out of cookie-cutter cut croque monsiers for Hugo. While Tree of Life was hard to sit through, it was beautiful to look at, so I knew I wanted to do something with color. Hence, a salad made of things that grow in trees. Plus, to celebrate the 'art project' element of the film, a raw egg sat beside the salad, representing life. Finally, the winner for best course went to the best picture winner: a black and white dessert bar for The Artist. Luckily the flavors of chocolate, vanilla, coconut, sugar & cream all fit the bill (see full list and menu below). Amy used palm leaves to create an old Hollywood feel--ala The Beverly Hills hotel--and printed bright movie posters to set a festive tone. The favor was simple: star sugar cookies flecked with edible gold and glittered gold truffles, all packaged with a custom Oscar stamp. Now that awards season is over, and I've seen a lot of movies that I wouldn't normally see (um, War Horse...how many times can a horse survive?!), I can get back to my old ways: romantic comedies and too much Bravo. I still think Bridesmaids was robbed!!

'oysters on the half shell with champagne mignonette'

'hot dog balls & cracker jacks'

'barney's greengrass' smoked sturogeon on toasted bagels with cream cheese, cucumber, capers, dill & chive'

'clock croque monsier'

'Minny's fried chicken'

'Hawaiian plate lunch: kalua pig & macaroni salad'

'Joey's braised turnips & turnip greens'

'things that grow in trees--citrus, avocado, walnuts, pecans--salad with egg'

'black & white dessert bar'
homemade oreos
chocolate cheesecake squares
cookies & cream ice cream
minny's chocolate pie
coconut cupcakes
black & white cookies
almond sugar cookies with black sparkles
vanilla bean pot de cremes
grapefruit gummies

February 18, 2012

Fat Tuesday: A Mardi Gras Celebration

For an impromptu dinner party this weekend, I needed a theme. Luckily, Mardi Gras is right around the corner and what's more fun than carnival? With only a few hours to throw it together, I reminded myself that it didn't have to be perfect and that it could be simple. So I gave myself a budget of $20 at the 99cent store and scored these quite lovely masks, a bag of feathers and (thank god) Mardi Gras beads. Fifteen minutes of scattering the infamous beads onto a few cake stands, plus, feathery masks at each place setting, and, voila, a very festive and colorful table. For dinner, a cornmeal crusted fried oyster, served on a bed of spicy greens, was inspired by the po'boys Greg and I enjoyed in New Orleans. Then a quick sautee of diced celery, peppers & onion (the heavenly Southern trinity) with tomatoes and shrimp--paired with cheddar-enhanced instant grits--yielded a New Orleans classic. Finally, to represent the theatrics of the parade: flaming bananas foster. And what would a Mardi Gras celebration be without some cocktails? Greg and I drank our fair share in the big easy (truth: we did little other than stumble around the French Quarter) so I went with our favorite--a classic--the Sazerac. As tempting as a Hurricane was (cocktail, not Katrina), I wanted to spare my friends the inevitable Hurricane hangover. Just having masks made the night silly & fun and really reminded me that a little goes a long way. I hope this inspires a batch of gumbo or shrimp & grits for Tuesday...there's always something to celebrate. It makes life more fun.
The Menu


herbsaint, rye whiskey, peychaud's bitters, simple syrup, lemon peel


black-eyed pea dip with sweet potato chips

to start

cornmeal fried oysters with baby mixed greens, remoulade & cider vinaigrette


shrimp & grits

stewed collard greens


bananas foster ala mode

February 6, 2012

Spicy Black Bean Crab Dinner Party

Despite my great love for parties, I didn't have a wedding; Greg and I eloped. Some people found this shocking but I always knew it was a moment I wanted to celebrate with just Greg. However, that doesn't mean that I haven't imagined every detail (food-wise) of what I would serve if I had had all of my loved ones to Central Oregon for a wedding celebration. And for our rehearsal dinner, it would be this spicy black bean dungeness crab. It is my all-time favorite meal to share with others. It's messy. It's interactive. It's simple. And, it's delicious. I can't take much credit for the amazing flavors of this menu, it's my mom all the way. It was a Campbell family staple (often enjoyed on New Year's Eve). My memories of giggling as we ate, tickled with delight and shocked at how much we could consume, are why I would want to share this meal in a rowdy, festive atmosphere. Newspapers spread down a long table and plenty of bowls for shells, are the only decor elements necessary. The sweet & sour cucumber slaw is the perfect cooling compliment to the spicy kick of the crab sauce. And the satisfaction that comes with a meal you have to work a little for (all the crab cracking) is something I cherish. Plus, the very best thing about this meal might just be the copious amounts of garlic bread one gets to justify eating as a means for sopping up all of the garlicky, gingery black bean sauce that clings to the wok. After this rich feast, refreshing ice cream seemed like the right amount of sweet. I'm loving Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home cookbook for unique flavor combinations and the best ice cream recipes I've ever made. Though I didn't have a wedding, I'm not opposed to a ten year anniversary party, so I have plenty of time to plan the details of my rib-fest and a catch and grill your own trout departure brunch! Until then, please enjoy the crab and slaw recipes...
The Menu


ginger & lemongrass infused vodka sours


wasabi peas

sesame crackers & peanuts

herb salad rolls with vietnamese & peanut hoisin dipping sauces

family style, sit down

spicy, black bean dungeness crab in woks

sweet & sour cucumber slaw with bay shrimp

garlic bread, lots and lots of garlic bread


momofuku's cornflake-marshmellow-chocolate chip cookies

ice cream trio
peanut butter & banana. toasted rice & coconut. key lime frozen yogurt

February 2, 2012

Baby Shower in a Box

I love my friends. I really do. But since I grew up in Oregon, went to school in New York and now live in Los Angeles, those friends are pretty spread out. And since life continues to be full of celebrations--birthdays, engagements, weddings, showers of all kind, babies and more--it's impossible to fly around to celebrate all of them in person. So, for my expecting friend Deirdre, who lives in Charleston, I created a "Baby Shower in a Box." I sent an email to the rest of our college friends requesting: a baby photo, a decorated onesie, and their favorite children's book. Packages arrived from London, New York, Minneapolis & Oregon (thank God for Amazon) and I had all of the elements for the box. Laura clearly found her calling as a vet as all of her books feature animals (loved being reminded of Babar). My mom decorated her onesie with cowgirl details in homage to Deirdre's trip to Oregon where she purchased cowboy boots and fell off her horse. And Eric may take the cake with his book--Eric, the Wild Car--since, in his words, "I'm pretty sure she doesn't have this one." For the task of making the gifts pretty, I enlisted Amy's help. She wrapped the books in craft, and the onesies in hot pink; plus, we created the classic baby photo guessing game, complete with answer key. One advantage of the 'baby shower in a box' is that you only need one party favor. For Deirdre, I assembled an array of samples of perfumes that all have 'notes of Daphne' (the baby's name). I'm pretty excited about my new solution to showing love for moms-to-be when getting everyone together isn't in the cards. This way we can all save our visits to Charleston for a time we can meet baby Daphne.
"Baby Shower in a Box" Elements

a single party favor

baby photo guessing game

"decorate a onesie" onesies

"favorite children's book" books

celebrity's baby's names guessing game