My home friends have had plenty of exposure to my ~fabulous~ dinner parties but my college friends have had no such luck! It’s harder here- my kitchen at home is stocked with lots of random stuff that I don’t have to go out and purchase, it has my mom who knows what to do with any given culinary problem, it has a large table and plenty of chairs and small votives and table decorations. I have none of that at college. But 3 of the beautiful gals in my friend group are graduating, it was my 21st birthday, and I wanted to do it with and for them before they leave me!
My apartment does not have a table, which was plaguing me the entire week leading up to the party. I ended up having a stroke of brilliance the day of, taking the table our TV rested on, pushing it next to a side table, then covering it with a beach sarong and then a vintage tablecloth my mom just got me for my birthday. It looked like a perfectly normal and lovely table setting! We sat on the couch, our patio furniture, and my roommate and I’s desk chairs. We do what we can, y’all. We do what we can.
Along with the normal challenges of a college dinner party, I also had some dietary restrictions to work with! My very good friend Taylor has celiac disease, so this party had to be mostly gluten free (something I have trouble with, clearly). Temi doesn’t like cheese and Cherie is picky about so many things I can’t even keep track. No vegetarians though, thankfully (was that rude? sorry). So I went forth bravely, creating this menu.
I started with a favorite, Ina Garten’s Warm Goat Cheese Salad. I made this for my first ever dinner party (this is a picture from then!) and it is a favorite! This was my only non-gluten free dish, which I only realized the day of the party. I improvised and garnished Taylor’s salad with some pecans so she could have a little bit of interest. Everyone else loved the salad, even my girls who don’t like cheese (?!?!?!). Some people had never even had goat cheese before!
Next up was the dish I was most excited to both eat and make- dijon and cognac beef stew from Smitten Kitchen. This seemed so rich, comforting, and flavorful, and I couldn’t wait to make it. It didn’t disappoint, and I only wish my stew-loving little sister was there to eat it with us. I served this family style out of my Le Creuset and it was very homey and nice. Everybody loved this! I served it with some baguettes to soak up that lovely sauce. Buying the bottle of cognac was my first legal alcohol purchase at an actual liquor store, and the guy was real confused as to why this was my choice.
Liquor store owner: You like cognac?
Me: I’m actually making a soup.
Liquor store owner: Wow! Gonna be good soup.
Me: Really good soup.
And it was.
Dessert was chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream, with the recipe from Smitten Kitchen as well! Who doesn’t love this? This is one gluten-free dessert where I don’t even find myself missing the gluten. I made this the day before the party to save myself some time. I used some wonderful Lindt bittersweet chocolate in this, and it really makes all the difference.
It was a really lovely night with my friends. I’m glad they got to enjoy a home cooked meal and I’m glad they got to taste my cooking! This is something I really love to do, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday.
P.S. Thank you to Taywad for the pictures!