Tasting Table's Dinner Parties

Our Year of the Dinner Party continues with an evening meal in a downtown loft. We came together over brightly-hued cocktails and wine to toast a sweet-meets-savory menu: crackly bread and a trio of spiced compound butters to start, then cinnamon, cumin and brown sugar chickpeas and mole-glazed pork ribs for the main event. An iced saffron-olive oil cake gave our evening a sweet finish.

With a year of endless entertaining possibilities, we're already eager for the next gathering.

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Click the links below to explore the recipes in this menu:

Honey-Curry Compound Butter
Cinnamon, Cumin and Brown Sugar Roasted Chickpeas
Pork Ribs with Mole Glaze
Saffron-Olive Oil Cake

Plus, enjoy two bonus recipes, Vanilla-Poppy Compound Butter and Lavender-Thyme Compound Butter, available on our Facebook page.

We think there are two ways to build a wine plan for this particular menu:

The first approach involves sharing a bottle of white wine after a round of Bittersweet Shandies (click here for the recipe). The flavors of the compound butters and spiced chickpeas span the globe. So a versatile, high-acid wine with a touch of sweetness, such as the 2010 Dr. Loosen Dr. L Estate Riesling ($14 for 750ml) from the Mosel region of Germany or a food-friendly white blend such as the Sokol Blosser Evolution ($14 for 750ml) from Oregon, would be appropriate.

Then follow the white with a zippy red such as the 2010 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha ($10 for 750ml) from eastern Spain. This type of wine goes superbly with the sweet-savory aspects of the menu which leads us to the second approach: Keep it simple and just drink the Evodia throughout the entire meal.


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We sought out decor with colors to brighten up a late-winter evening and classic tableware and glassware to complement our menu. Try these entertaining tips to strike a similar note:

Bright Contrast:
After choosing a vibrantly patterned tablecloth, we stuck with simple white plates and matte-black flatware, to add contrast to our table setting. Classic white dinnerware from Lenox draws attention to the rich colors of the chickpeas and mole-glazed ribs. For an unusual twist, we set the table with striking Portuguese black flatware from Design Within Reach ($40-$60).

Hues that Pop:
With such clean basics for the dinnerware, we turned to hand-painted porcelain pieces from West Elm to serve our sweet finish: saffron-olive oil cake. A yellow place mat in a modern print brought a vibrant touch to the setting.

Surprise Details:
Although our taste skewed toward the simple and clean, we appreciate the odd eclectic touch to make a dinner party memorable. We selected cobalt-striped serving dishes ($29-$39) from Design House Stockholm to make a lasting impression. For the finishing touch, we turned to Dinosaur Designs for striking accessories.

The best pre-dinner cocktails are both refreshing and hunger-inducing. With the smell of mole-slicked ribs wafting from the oven, we wanted a drink and we wanted it quickly. So we assembled our version of a late-winter shandy. Sure, the combination of beer and citrus is traditionally served during warm months, but orange juice is at its best during the winter, and the splash of Campari gives the drink a gently bitter edge.

Bittersweet Shandy