A Fall Barn Dinner

A couple of weekends ago I co-hosted a super fun dinner on a farm in my hometown, Petaluma, California. There’s nothing that makes me happier than a dinner party and this one was absolutely spectacular. Although it was cool and cloudy, the rain held off until the following day. The guest list consisted of 9 people, so everyone sat around a large circular table that we set up in the middle of the barn.

The look was rustic with lavender daisies, mini pumpkins, and a hodgepodge collection of votives acting as the centerpiece. I ripped paper bags into 12×12-inch squares and used these instead of placemats. With a sharpie, I simply wrote each guest’s name on the corner of the paper bag, so we didn’t have to create place cards.

The hearty menu featured some of fall’s favorite flavors (pumpkin, potatoes, kale). We started with large oysters from Drake’s Bay. We threw the oysters on the grill until they popped open, then topped them with an herb, garlic, and parmesan butter. I absolutely love this easy recipe from Saveur, and have made it several times, so I highly recommend it. We also topped the oysters with a classic mignonette that I threw together with shallots, red wine vinegar, chives, salt, and pepper. Alongside the oysters we offered a few local favorites: Full Circle baguette and Point Reyes Toma cheese. We also served an Argentine parmesan cheese. Most grocers carry a good selection of Argentine parmesan for half the price of Italian parmesan, so it’s one of my go-to cheeses.

The main course consisted of Ina Garten’s pot roast, classic Caprese salad, and a potato and kale gratin. The gratin layered thinly-sliced potatoes with kale that had been lightly sautéed in olive oil and shallots. On top of each layer of kale, was a generous sprinkling of finely grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of oregano-and-garlic infused heavy cream. Everything tasted fabulous!

If you make Ina’s pot roast, be careful when you puree the vegetables, my blender overflowed and boiling hot liquid got everywhere — including on my wrist, which now has a scar. The meal concluded with pumpkin gingersnap tiramisu, a recipe I found on Food and Wine’s website. It’s crazy good and is an excellent choice for those who dislike pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. The whole event was such a success that I hope to help host another barn dinner soon!

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