Dinner Party Place Setting

There are a lot of ways to set the table for your next dinner party.

Casual, Formal, European.

It can be elaborate or simple depending on your style and theme.

Here's the basic place setting I use and you can build from there.

I like to use chargers and/or placemats. Forks go on the left, knives on the right. Be sure to use the dishes that are appropriate (i.e. salad plate, bread plate, spoons, bowls) depending on what you are serving.

Also offer wine glasses and a water glass.

For a more formal feel, I put the napkin on the plate but this can easily be switched up and placed under the knife.

Hosting a Super Bowl Party

Or any sport-themed party!

Sports parties always call for the classic bar food and drinks. We hosted this year's Super Bowl party and it went off without a hitch. Here's how I did it.

1. Set the Menu - of course Super Bowl parties remind me of fried, bar snacks and dips. I brought the deep fryer out of storage and used a few crock-pots to keep food warm throughout the night.

Make sure to put out condiments for all the different snacks including marinara sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc.

2. Prepare for your guests by setting up the living room with enough seating for everyone. Set up a projector screen if you're really intense, we did! 

3. Set up the table - I highly recommend using tablecloths especially with messy foods like chili, meatballs, and dips. It will save you so much time during clean up. Position those messy foods at the edge of the table so no one spills all over the table when making their plate. 

Also set up a beverage table with beer and wine on ice, bottled waters, soft drinks, cups, glasses and an ice bucket. Don't forget the bottle openers. Everyone can help themselves without having to go into your fridge or cabinets.

4. Time to prepare the food! Choose your platters and label them with sticky notes so everything is ready to go when the food is prepared. Most of the menu needs to be served hot/warm but do as much as you can beforehand like any prep work. I also staggered some of the food so everything wasn't cold by halftime. This will take away from you watching the game but if you're like me, I'd rather cook than watch football! If you prefer to stay out of the kitchen during your party, I'd suggest food that can be served room temperature.
Chicken wing dip stuffed jalapeno poppers

Tuesdays at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
If you haven't been to Entyse Wine Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, you need to plan an evening!

I visited a little while ago and truly enjoyed my experience. Read more about it here. They host wine events throughout the week including:

Raw Bar & Wine on Wednesdays 5:30-8:30
Sushi Bar & Wine on Thursdays 5:30-8:30
Live Music on Fridays and Saturdays

And select Tuesdays, Sommelier Vincent Feraud is opening up shop! For $22, sample 5 wines and a selection of cheeses and have the option to purchase these wines.

Here's the upcoming schedule:
February 11 - Sparkling Wine from Around the World
February 25 - Rhone Valley of the North
March 11 - Bordeaux
March 25 - Burgundy
April 8 - Spain
April 22 - Argentina
May 6 - Chile
May 20 - Loire Valley

Hosting a Winter Wonderland Party

Our dear friends are getting married this year! The bride originally wanted a winter wedding but instead they are getting married in August (exact opposite, right?!).

So we decided to throw them an engagement party with a winter wonderland theme.

The idea was to have everything light and white, including the food. Theme colors included white, silver and Tiffany blue. I re-purposed a lot of household items/decorations to take this party over the top.

First up, the food table. A simple white tablecloth was used for the color scheme and also easy clean-up. Thankfully, all of my entertaining dinnerware is white so that also helped with the color scheme. Small, sparkly blue and clear diamonds helped bring some color and bling to the table. Icicle lights were hung to add a pop of light and tied with pom poms at the end. Silver Christmas ornaments were also used to add some sparkle.

TIP: Add height to your table by using dishes and platters that are elevated or use white shoe boxes turned upside down to double as a stand. Add a placemat on top of the boxes too!

The candy bar incorporated the blue color scheme from the napkins and was an easy, no-cook dessert!

Now onto the food. There are not many foods that are white but here's what I went with for this cocktail party:

  • Rice Crispy Treats - a great hit and completely gone by the end of the night
  • Queso Blanco with tortilla chips
  • Popcorn cups with parmesan
  • Candy bar with white and blue candies, including organza bags
  • Cheesecake
  • Spinach and Goat Cheese Tartlets
  • Garlic knots
But a party is more than just setting out a food table. We added a fun element with a homemade photo booth. We used a black and white backdrop that was purchased from a party store but you can easily use a large piece of fabric and pin to the wall.

I also designed, printed and cut out mustaches, hats, bow ties and cards with sayings on them to be used for the photo booth. These can easily be customized depending on the theme of the party. Simple silver and white balloons were scattered around the backdrop to help frame it so it's not just pinned to the wall. This was a fun addition to the party and everyone was able to use their own cameras and phones.

The happy couple!

The Wining Hostess To-Go

Whether it's a friend who has just moved into a new place, just had a baby or is under the weather, there's no gift like the gift a warm dinner in the comfort of their home.

My friend recently had her 2nd baby girl (awww) AND broke her finger (ouch!).

So what better way to go meet the new addition and bring dinner along?

The best and easiest option is lasagna. Perfect to make ahead, carry and re-heat. Plus it's a great family friendly meal and who doesn't love ooey-gooey cheesy pasta? So comforting.

No Italian meal is complete without garlic bread and a salad. Also, very easy to prepare ahead of time, just don't dress the salad until you're ready to eat.

Pack up the items, bring a bottle of wine along and hey, flowers never hurt either.

Classic wine pairings include a nice Chianti, Syrah, or a Malbec blend. All are easily accessible and don't break the budget.

What are you waiting for? Take dinner to a friend tonight.

I've Found My "Sushi Prince"

After moving to Fairfax 2 years ago, I've been on a quest to find new favorite restaurants. There's not nearly the selection as inside the beltway so this has proven quite the task.

When the sushi craving hit, I did some online research and came across Sushi Prince in downtown Fairfax. Great reviews, trendy menu. From their site "The place for people who know sushi. Your eyes will be pleased, Your taste buds will be delighted. Your Highness, your table awaits."

Ok, I'm sold.

I called to make reservations since a lot of the reviews said it's a small dining room, only about 20 seats! (Highly recommend doing this) When we arrived, the entire staff welcomed us and there was a personalized card on the table. Nice personal touch.

The restaurant is cozy and intimate with a small sushi bar seating 4. I also loved the Japanese parasols hanging from the ceiling.
Spicy Tuna Gratin

The appetizer menu is extensive with both hot and cold options. It was hard to narrow it down and I could have easily made a meal out of just apps. The Spicy Tuna Gratin caught our eye, very different than other appetizers at Japanese restaurants and man were we pleased!

A gratin of rice, avocado, spicy tuna, crab meat, cream cheese, aioli and soy, baked in a small casserole dish and served warm. Delectable! A must-try. Hot appetizers we want to try next time: Heart Breaker and Volcanic Mountain.

Now onto the sushi, the main reason for our visit. The sushi menu is also extensive with a lot of creative, and great sounding chef's signature rolls. They also have nigri and classic sushi rolls on an a la carte menu.

Our sushi selections were: Crown Royal Roll (tuna, salmon, crab and spicy tuna!), Crunch Infinity (shrimp tempura and crab), spicy tuna roll, avocado roll and spicy salmon roll.

Crunch Inifinty (left), Crown Royal Roll (right)
With the vast selection, I can't wait to go back and try some of the other signature rolls like Las Vegas Roll, Super Volcano, Spicy Spider and more!

And how about the service?

5 star. We were welcomed by the full staff when we walked in and also when we left. Attentive servers kept our drinks full and food coming.

I highly suggest this little gem in Fairfax for your next sushi date.

Reservations: 703-383-0588
10256 Main St, Fairfax
Open for lunch and dinner

Cheese & Charcuterie

It’s not a cocktail party without the basic cheese and charcuterie platter. It’s as simple as choosing a selection of cheeses and meats and placing on a nice platter with some spreads and garnishes and of course, the right wines.

Select a wide range of cheeses to appeal to all palates. The platter should have at least 3 different cheeses. Adding garnishes like fig spread, honey, grapes, apples and dried fruits help take your platter to the next level. Don’t forget some crackers and hearty bread.

Common charcuterie selections include salami, chorizo, paté, speck, proscuitto, soppressata and more.

Via A Beautiful Mess
Check out these basic cheese and wine pairings:

                    Goat Cheese – soft, goat milk, “chevre” ------- Crisp, acidic White – Sauvignon Blanc
                    Blue Cheese – soft, cow, sheep or goat  -------    Sweet, dessert wine – Port or Sauternes
                    Brie – soft, cow’s milk                         -------    Full-bodied, round White - Chardonnay
                    Cheddar – firm, cow’s milk -------    Tannic, bold Red – Cabernet Sauvignon
                    Gouda – firm, cow’s milk                     -------     Fruity, balanced Red – Merlot
                    Manchego – firm, sheep’s milk, Spain     -------     Rich, fruity Red – Malbec

Favorite ways for plating:
                    *  On a wooden chopping block             *  On a slate board

An All Season Table Setting: Teal & Silver

Be ready for a dinner party any day of the week, any season of the year!

This simple table setting is not only pretty but great for everyday use. Basic colors also allow for this setting to go from winter to spring and summer to fall.

Simplistic white plates with white cloth napkins, silver napkin rings, silver placemats, silver-rimmed, lacey wine glasses, silver bowl and tall silver votives can easily match any color runner. I chose a teal and white patterned runner for a pop of color. Change the entire look by switching out a new runner. Make it your own!

(Runner, placemats, votives and bowl were all finds from a recent trip to HomeGoods)

Getting Crafty with a Homemade Initial Wreath

Maybe I'm more crafty than I thought!

I attempted to make an initial wreath for a friend as a gift. I browsed pictures of others and roamed around Michael's to find everything I needed. Here's what I got:

1 grapevine medium wreath
1 wooden letter
1 large colorful flower
3 small ivory roses
1 piece of greenery
1 small can of spray paint for the letter
1 spool of florist wire
1 spool of ivory ribbon
1 wreath hanger
(will also need hot glue gun and hot glue)

Step 1:
Spray paint the letter, outside, on each side. Let dry.

Step 2:
Cut the flower stems off, leaving a few inches to attach to the wreath. Also, save some of the leaves for decoration.

Step 3:
Assemble the flowers, leaves and greenery on one side of the wreath, sticking the stems into the wreath. Use the florist wire to ensure they stay put.

Step 4:
Once the letter is completely dry on both sides, find the appropriate position so you can begin to hot glue the letter to the wreath. Hold in place until it dries.

Step 5:
Cut a large piece of ribbon. Use this to hang from the wreath hanger. Tie in a simple bow.

Step 6:
Hang the wreath hanger on a door and hang the wreath!

VintoVino - A New Social Network for Wine Lovers

Another day, another social network.

This time it's one focused on wine lovers, VintoVino. You set up a profile, like you do on so many others, and you can connect with other wine lovers and even the wineries themselves.

You also have the option to sell wine on the website. This is ideal for small wineries who have yet to distribute and want to sell to a captivate audience.

It's a great concept but still has a long way to go before it will be useful. There are only a handful of wineries to "like". It's very similar to Facebook but does add the value of purchasing/selling from the same site.

I've signed up and we'll see how it grows!

Favorite Eats of 2013

It's no secret that I love to dine out and try as many new dishes as possible. Here is a highlight of my favorite eats of 2013:

Little Goat Diner in Chicago, IL

Chicago is a foodie town and we had some fantastic meals while visiting. One of the most eclectic was at Little Goat Diner where I ordered "Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing". And it was just as bizarre as it sounds! Honorary mention: brunch at Wishbone. Read more about our full trip here.

Fiola in Washington, DC

We celebrated my birthday this year at Fiola in DC, a well-recognized Italian restaurant that had been on my "must-visit" list for a while. We ordered bison tartare and tortellini of baby lamb with seared fois gras. Absolutely amazing! Also, sushi and sparkling at The Source beforehand was a great way to start off a birthday celebration!

Blue Smoke in NYC

For our 1st wedding anniversary, we took a trip to NYC and of course there were numerous fantastic eats during that trip! We were caught by surprise when we visited Blue Smoke for some southern BBQ. And man, was it delicious. 

Ai Fiori in NYC

Our anniversary dinner was celebrated at Ai Fiori where we received fantastic service and complimentary sparkling and dessert! Always the way to my heart. I enjoyed the lobster risotto.

Trummers on Main in Clifton, VA

Trummer's has been on my "must-visit" list for a long time too. We finally went for an impromptu date night. I've had rabbit a few times before but the rabbit ragu dish at Trummer's tops them all. For my entree, I enjoyed the short ribs. Definitely a must visit in NoVa.

And what's Favorite Eats without Favorite Drinks?!

Ripple in Washington, DC

Craft Spirit of Poe was an event held on the anniversary of Poe's death and numerous bars in the DC area crafted original cocktails to match with a Poe reading. Ripple did it best with a cocktail including a chicken foot! It was aptly named "Raven". Surprisingly, it was delicious!

And it's not a great year without Grand Cru Burgundy from the Ritz-Carlton!

Here's to many more experiences in 2014...


New Year, New URL

In efforts to streamline my online presence, I've changed my blog address to www.jesshagadorn.com starting this year!

Managing multiple social media accounts (personal, wine blog, YoungWinos, etc), I've decided to downsize and use my name as the one alias. Don't fret, there will still be wine! It'll just be much easier to keep up with the conversation.

Follow me and join in the conversation: