Tasting Table's Dinner Parties

Set the table for an intimate eight-person dinner featuring an Indian-themed spread. Jewel-toned dishes of rhubarb chutney, five spice roasted cauliflower and leg of lamb with cilantro and spiced oil are served family-style on a long table adorned with richly colored dinnerware. After the meal ends, wrap the night with a silky cardamom and coconut panna cotta, topped with bright red candied rose petals. This spring, India graces the dinner table in high style.

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

Spinach Salad with Mango Vinaigrette and Cashews
Okra Raita
Spice-Roasted Cauliflower
Naan with Nigella Seeds and Cilantro
Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Cilantro and Spiced Oil
Cardamom-Coconut Panna Cotta


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Though it leans heavily on Indian cuisine, the night’s menu is far from classic or predictable--and the soundtrack should follow suit. We’ve built our playlist (click here to download) on a backbone of Indian tracks, some familiar (from big-screen hits like Monsoon Wedding and Slumdog Millionaire) and some new discoveries. They’re interspersed with an eclectic, globe-trotting mix of songs--from The Beatles and Cornershop to Buena Vista Social Club and Ethiopian jazz--that fit the dinner’s laid-back, low-lit, bright-flavored vibe.

"India Love Affair"--Aakarshan
"Yèkèrmo Sèw"--Mulatu Astatke
"Aimer"--Rokia Traoré
"Dancing in Madness"--Anoushka Shankar
"Within You Without You"--The Beatles
"Ganges Delta Blues"--Ry Cooder and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
"Aaj Ki Raat"--Sonu Nigam, Mahalaxmi Iyer & Alisha Chinai
"Sleep on the Left Side"--Cornershop
"Tropicalia"--Beck
"Baraat"--Mychael Danna
"Eva"--Ozomatli
"Good Shit"--Cornershop
"Chan Chan"--Eliades Ochoa
"This Must Be The Place"--Talking Heads
"Love - Dance Ecstasy"--Ravi Shankar & George Harrison

To set the tone for a relaxed yet finessed Indian feast, look for earthen shades of dinnerware to play up the brightly hued food and dark. The striking serving pieces add an element of drama. For this eight-person menu, dishes and décor from our partner, the Conran Shop, created an eclectic, global feel: Choose standout pieces like the Black Lace serving bowls ($99) and edged china platters for side dishes. Colorful Eames chairs ($349) brighten up a wooden table and dark dining area.

For dinners served family-style, choose a range of sizes and textures for the serving pieces, creating a layered look on the table. Focus the meal around a main dish, like butterflied leg of lamb and spread smaller sides like okra raita across the table. Neutral plates ($45) keep the table decor simple and let vividly colored food stand out. More dramatic pieces like lacquered black bowls make a statement without overwhelming. Then, be sure to mix in small elements of color, such as hand-painted red and gold dessert plates to showcase pale, creamy panna cotta.

Keep the floral arrangements to a minimum with any menu that showcases such visually stunning dishes. Choose several small bright blooms, such as orange peonies. Use small votive candles for a touch of dramatic nighttime lighting, and add splashes of color with woven Chilewich placements ($13).


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The Cocktail: Trade Route

An appropriate cocktail needs to stand up to the bold flavors coursing through this Indian-inspired menu. Yet it also needs to be light and refreshing. Starting with a base spirit of gin, add freshly squeezed lemon juice and sweet tea; fresh ginger gives the cocktail a spicy edge.

Spice-heavy Indian cooking is notoriously difficult to pair with wine. Seemingly simple rules like drinking red wine with red meat are turned on their head by the flavors of sauces; a lamb curry might find its best wine-match with a white grape. High-acid whites--especially those with a touch of sweetness--rosés, and lighter reds with no new oak would all play well against Indian fare.

For this Mumbai-inspired feast, we picked a stony Muscadet and a sharply acidic and slightly sweet Spätlese Riesling, either of which you can drink regardless of what’s on your plate. But in deference of that lamb, two shades of red: a berry-scented Beaujolais and a classic Provencal rosé.

Pepiere 2010 Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($13)
Terres Dorees 2010 Beaujolais l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes ($16)
Mas de Gourgonnier 2011 Les Baux de Provence Rosé ($15)
Dr. Fischer 2004 Ockfener Bocksein Riesling Spätlese ($15)


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