The Launch Party
Our launch party this weekend to celebrate A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving was an overwhelming success. The doorbell rang precisely at 5 o'clock when Angel and Curt, our dear friends, neighbors and organizers of this party arrived, and the remaining guests quickly followed. Hugs were exchanged, gifts were given, and everyone got down to the serious business of sipping wine, sampling cheeses, and getting acquainted, all while standing in the kitchen – naturally.
Most of my menu was prepared the day before or earlier in the day, so my main task as the party got underway was putting all the casserole dishes into the ovens – Italian Sausage Cornbread Dressing, Autumn Roasted Vegetables, Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin, Brown Rice with Apples, Dates and Raisins (I substituted dried cranberries this time), and Green Beans Amadine with Roasted Garlic. Oh, I almost forgot the succulent 20-pound turkey I roasted the day of the party!
I had intended to serve Three Cheese Macaroni for the kid in all of us, but ran out of time, so that recipe fell by the wayside. Yes, even the most experienced cooks run out of time on occasion, especially when this particular experienced cook is also the housekeeper and party decorator!
About an hour after folks arrived, and after plenty of cheese and beef sausage had been consumed and I had led tours of Swan's Nest, the buffet dinner was served. Obviously, no one seemed to mind having turkey again so soon after Thanksgiving, as the 20-pound bird was nearly wiped out. Another big hit was the cornbread dressing, followed by the brown rice dish and the sweet potatoes. And then there were the green beans with all that roasted garlic, and….Okay, I guess the entire menu was a hands-down winner. There's no doubt about it – these guests came to EAT!
Around 7:15pm, everyone reconvened two doors down at Angel and Curt's lovely home for dessert and a screening of the show. Angel and Curt's home was a beautiful holiday vision. In the dining room, a gorgeous selection of glazed fruit tarts awaited guests, as well as a Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake.
Once guests were served, I introduced some of the guests and told a little bit about them – Jon Clark, my A Home for Christy Rost director; Bill Tinker, owner of All-Electric and a featured character in the show; Sharon Bellina, the artist who restored and transformed Swan's Nest's woodwork; Mary Ellen Gilliland, a prolific author and Summit County historian who provided a historic perspective of Swan's Nest in the show; Phil Stevens, who painstakingly restored our 111 year-old fir floors; Bud Wheeler, an expert in foam insulation; Tim Seeling, who crawled through Swan's Nest's every nook and cranny to document and create house plans before any construction began; JD Bidwell, the carpenter who installed all the new cabinetry in the “new” kitchen wing and designed and built closets in the master suite and a phenomenal new pantry in the kitchen addition, our dear friends and neighbors Al and Liz Wickert and Angel and Curt Caughey, who appeared in the show around our Thanksgiving table, and last but not least, my dear Randy, who did a masterful job in the show and as Swan's Nest's general contractor.
At last, it was on to the screening. Eleven guests settled themselves in the state-of-the-art theater Curt installed downstairs, while the remainder of us cozied up on sofas, leather chairs, and bar stools to watch the show upstairs. I handed out red and white striped cardboard popcorn boxes filled with homemade Hazelnut Caramel Popcorn, and the show began. There was hardly a sound from our guests as they absorbed every facet of the show – the holiday cooking and decorating segments, the bits of history provided by Mary Ellen, and the fascinating highlights of Swan's Nest's restoration. For many, this was the first time they saw themselves on film, and they didn't want to miss an instant of their national television debut.
It was a memorable evening of celebration – one Randy and I will never forget – nor the kindness of Angel and Curt in making it possible. But there's one more celebration I can't wait to share with you….An elegant launch party held a couple of weeks ago in Dallas, Texas. Please check back to read about the kindness of my Dallas friends that resulted in another wondrous celebration.
BROWN RICE with APPLES, DATES, and GOLDEN RAISINS
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup brown rice
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped dates
In a medium saucepan, stir together chicken broth, water, rice, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has evaporated; set aside and keep warm.
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add apple, shallots, celery, raisins, walnuts, and dates, and sauté 5 minutes until all are tender.
Add the rice to the sautéed mixture and stir to combine well. Spoon the rice into a large serving bowl and serve.
Yield: 6 servings.