Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I belong to a Dinner Group with 12 other ladies who live in my neighborhood. Two people pair up and once per year we host a dinner. We go all out with invitations, place settings, menus, etc. It is one of my favorite nights out. On April 18th, my amazing partner, Jennifer, and I hosted an evening with 'The Critters of Wonderland'. Our original idea was a mad-hatter tea-party, but it morphed into a full dinner, and it was so easy, I couldn't have been more pleased. Of course we couldn't have done it without her amazing husband, Brent, who helped us by making 48 boxes, set up, clean up, plating, technical effects, and moral support, big kudos to my friend Brent!

Here are the pictures and the recipes we used.

Our menu was:

The Ladybug and Butterfly
The Caterpillar
The Cheshire Cat
The Doormouse and Turtle Tea

At her front entrance we propped a mirror next to the doorbell, and this sign:

The sign reads: Step through the looking glass and Ring the Bell to take a trip down the Rabbit Hole!
We hung up a plastic black tablecloth at the end of the hallway and used red flashing lights to create the "Rabbit Hole"

We had her son dress up as the White Rabbit (it took a bit of 'promises' to encourage this activity), he answered the door and was supposed to say "I'm late for a very important date!" and run down the hall, but I think most of the time it ended up as a conversation about how the rabbit hole scared him.

Using the boxes that Brent made we stamped a label to put on top of each box that read "Eat Me". We removed the labels from bottle of sparkling juices, and stamped a label that read "Drink Me". We refrigerated these and set them up on the appetizer table next to the food.

These crazy teapots were 50% off at Hobby Lobby, and they were just too perfect to pass up!

Jennifer bought some adorable colored paper lanterns and Brent hung them up with some out door lights around her gazebo. We also used them and some perfect butterflies and dollar store pink and yellow placemats for the place settings. We made Mango Lemonade, Kiwi Limeade, and Blackberry Lemonade and put them in these beautiful curvy carafes that Jennifer had as part of centerpiece.

Each person was given a menu card with a colored dot, representing the color of a lantern. next to the name of each course. Between courses Brent piped to the outside speakers the sound of the Mad Hatter yelling: "Clean Cup, Clean Cup, Move Down!" from the Disney movie. Everyone had to get up between courses and move to the colored dot shown on their card.

Our salad course was The Caterpillar. We took mixed baby greens, melon balls, carrot slivers, and Mint Dressing for Fruit

To the dressing we did add some honey since the vinegar was a bit overwhelming, salt and pepper, and substituted parsley for the cilantro because we have parsley in one of the other courses.

The Cheshire Cat was our main course. We used Greek Pork Loin, Greek Browned Butter Pasta, steamed baby squashes, pita bread toasted with olive oil, herbs and Parmesan cheese. We arranged the pasta in the shape of a cat with a tail, used the pork loin as the face, which was resting on pieces of pita for the ears, green olives for the eyes, a kalamata olive for the nose and extra pasta for the whiskers.

We pan seared the pork before putting it in the slow cooker and let it rest for several minutes so that it would slice up easier without falling apart.

For dessert we had the Doormouse and Turtle Tea
We used Carrot Souffle cut in a round to look like cheddar cheese. I was really unsure of the idea of carrot souffle but Jennifer made it for me a few weeks before the party and it really is tasty. It had a strawberry dipped in white chocolate and painted on eyes, nose, and feet. Brent was a master at plating it with fruit, caramel, and some delicious cinnamon whipped cream that he made himself. I didn't get a picture of the turtle tea, but we used Mascarpone Brioche Sandwiches with Chocolate Soup as the Tea, we drizzled it with caramel and sprinkled it with pecans to make the 'turtle' part. Jennifer was really unsure of the idea of chocolate soup but I made it for her a few weeks before the party and it was a hit. We made the chocolate soup the night before then just stored it in the refrigerator and put it in a crock pot the day of the dinner to get it warmed through.

We approached the evening with a modest budget, and a really relaxed perspective and I think it turned out perfectly. Everything was just as I'd hoped for and there wasn't a huge amount of rushing around last minute. We actually had the opportunity to sit with our friends and enjoy the dinner. And everyone said that we served food that they would make again, so it was a big success as far as I was concerned.

I love Gourmet Group!


Lindsay said...

too cute, and way awesome. love the idea! gourmet group sounds fun. and also, thanks for the update on the whole PD thing. hope you're happy!! lindsay

The Thorsons said...

Sounds sooo fun, You guys did an excellent job, everything was very creative. I'm bummed I couldn't make it.

The Webbs said...

Wow, that is super creative! What a fun night. Sounds like you had fun.

Anne said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. I wish we had a close nit group around here like that. Too many deployed soldiers!

Anne said... the background change. Lori changed hers too!

Colin -N- Lori said...

holy cow that is so great!! it looks like a ton of fun. I love the lanterns at night. Very cool.

Lori said...

I am so impressed! The decor' was awesome and the menu sounds delish!