Valentine’s weekend

Our first dinner event centred around Valentine’s Day weekend where we created a special Italian fest on the Friday and Saturday nights for 6 couples.

Bellini’s were served at 7:30pm in the guest lounge while everyone got to know each other before being ushered upstairs to the dining room where candle-lit tables for two were laid and ready for the dinner to begin.

I’antipasto was a ‘nduja (Calabrian spicey pork salami paste) mixed with roasted peppers and popped into the oven with Pecorino cheese from Tuscany and when bubbling was topped off by some unctuous Burrata cow’s milk cheese – this was scoped up by our guests with our home made green olive bread-sticks. A unfiltered organic sparking Chiffon wine was the perfect accompaniment for this with its dry finish.

Il primo was home-made linguine pasta which on the second night disaster almost struck when the newly bought pasta cutter ceased up and we had to cut the entire batch by hand! However, the lemon oil and lemon zest combined with back pepper and black truffle shavings seemed to be liked by all; going by the empty plates! Complimenting the lemon theme of this dish was an old standard, a chilled glass of Duca di Salaparuta Corvo bianco from Sicily.

For il secondo we presented organic chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto with sage from the garden atop mashed potatoes, honey glazed carrots with thyme and Italian beans in garlic, olive oil and black pepper all washed down with a large glass of  Montepulciano.

For the sorbetto, we invented a dish using our friend’s at Saffron Ice Cream’s lemon sherbet sorbet which we mixed with a sprig of mint and then topped this up with Prosecco – the longer one leaves it, the more of a drink it becomes!

Dolce – Chrissie presented little heart shaped dishes filled with chocolate and chilli mouses with strawberries and home made heart shaped shortbread. A Tuscan Passito worked great with this with overtones of honey and almonds.

Caffé – our Lavazza espressos were taken with gusto as was our offer of Afforgato, again melding the Italian/Anglo (as Chrissie is half Italian and Max as English as you can get) with hot espresso atop local vanilla ice cream.

For the berretto da notte, we finished the guests off with an offer of a grappa, homemade limoncello or an espresso martini.

All in all, for a couple of home cooks, I think we did pretty well – it took masses of planning but this definitely helped on the day for service to run smoothly. We would be lying if we didn’t admit to being exhausted  by the end of the weekend having learnt a valuable lesson that having a night cap with one’s guests when you have to be up early for breakfast service the next morning is not a good idea, however attractive it was at the time!

On the Sunday when all the guests were safely on their way home, we waked across the fields with Harry and Hamish (our two rescue beagle-bassets) to our favourite local pub, the Fleur de Lys at Widdington where Chris and Ellie cooked us a fab roast beef with all the trimmings. We then made it half-way through the Agatha Christie drama on the Beeb before nodding off!

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