The Challenge: Create a late-winter dinner party menu for 20 with light hors d’oeuvres, an all-age friendly main course with sides, and dessert. What do you cook?

At a brainstorming session with my chefs, Laura and Laura, we cast visions of phyllo-wrapped asparagus, herb-crusted pork loin, baked salmon, pear and blue cheese, and ginger-pear studded cheesecake. We filtered the concepts to remove any unpleasant and unnecessary steps and to add extra fun. We put the pork on the back burner. The salmon became “en croute”, or wrapped in phyllo, to make pre-party-day preparation easier and to avoid a fishy smell on party night. We de-formalized the appetizers, choosing to serve them in mini taco-cones, which are easy to prepare and eat. We planned a build-your-own dessert bar bar, with several sweet options and with fabulous toppings to mix and match.

The date changed from Saturday to Sunday, so we revised our salmon to a less time-sensitive option: ribs (braised food always taste better the day after). Despite setbacks, we finished preparations Friday evening. Here is the final menu.

Appetizers

Taco Cone Trio: Pear with Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts; Shrimp Salad; and asparagus with prosciutto

Main Course

Pomegranate-BBQ ribs and Chicken Fingers with Potatoes au Gratin, Pineapple-y Corn and Carrots, and Fennel Slaw

Dessert

Dessert Bar Bar: Citrus Bars, Coconut Cranberry Brownies, and Cheesecake  with Pear Ginger, Raspberry Sauce and Chocolate Sauce

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