Friday, December 16, 2011

Birthday Raclette Dinner

For Ray's 30th, I bought him a present. It's kind of wild for me because we rarely buy gifts for one another. Well, he buys more gifts for me (jewelry, etc.), but buying for men is just plain hard. And, I'd prefer we just purchase the items he wants in real time rather than waiting all the way until December to receive something he wants. He works hard and therefore deserves to reap the benefits all year around in my opinion.

All those excuses to say that I can never think of something he'll love and make sure I know the exact item to buy at the exact time birthdays or holidays roll around. That, and gift-giving is not really my love language. That's not helpful when I have an entire family full of them, including my husband! Anyway, I thought I hit this one out of the park. When we visited Switzerland, we were able to have an authentic dinner with some local Swiss called Raclette. Ever since that evening, we talked about buying one of those grills. Except, we rarely just spend $140 on something just because... and this is one of those just because kind of things. This was our occasion and quite a fantastic one, I might add. He was genuinely surprised up until the day before Andrew's birthday when I allowed him to open the gift. We figured that since his birthday is a week after Andrew's, we'd soften the blow a very, teeny tiny bit by having this be something we looked forward to on that day. I intended for him to help me shop and prepare for the dinner party we were throwing, so at some point, he figured it out. Regardless, I purchased this lovely number for him us:

To explain, the raclette grill offers some features: grill meats, seafood and veggies on the top while you place a semi-soft/hard cheese in the bottom trays to melt. Marry the meats, veggies, potatoes (cooked on the side) on a plate and pour the melted cheese on top. There is traditional raclette cheese that can be purchased, but most is very expensive or unpasteurized. This pregnant lady refuses to throw a dinner party for a bunch of people with raw milk cheeses. That, and I hate buying things I normally can and will eat at a premium but won't eat for something as silly as it being unpasteurized. Emmantaler, Edam, and raclette cheese are standard. I purchased some brie (though a traditional soft cheese, but familiar to most people), Jarlsberg, and raclette cheese from Trader Joes. We actually found raclette-labeled cheese at Trader Joe's! Already sliced! It tasted quite authentic to boot! That just means they'll stop selling it soon because it's something we like. Trader Joe's is good at that sort of thing. 

I roasted veggies in the oven so there would be more grill space for meats and shrimp. Our intention was to create a formal party with touches of informal thrown there. Raclette grills are designed for no more than 8 people and we were inviting 18. Considering this, we had the grill on all night and various appetizers and items to graze on throughout the night. Sitting was optional and it was more like a cocktail party with lots of food. All were required to drink from wine glasses. Thank goodness we have 18! We had various bottles of wine, bottled water, and lots of sparkling drinks (grape/apple). We even had wine charms! We're not the wine charm type, but we realized hours before the party that people wouldn't be able to tell their drinks apart and it would be a fiasco with 18ish people in the house. Wine would go wasted and new glasses would be assumed, despite having only 18 to fulfill the 18 people who RSVP'ed. Off to Michael's we went! We purchased some round, silver earring hooks and were planning to purchase some beads. However, the husband decided the wine charms needed to be "manly" and deemed it necessary to purchase more manly charms for the glasses. We settled on decorative buttons with animals and monsters. And don't think we didn't use a 40% off coupon for each of our transactions! :)

My pictures are blurry and just plain suck, but hopefully you get the idea. The four charms in view are two monsters, a donkey, and panda. I do believe the pig was last to be chosen. Wonder why? ;)

I'd love to say I can offer up tons of photos... but as usual, I forgot to take them. The ones I do have completely suck because I'm so stubborn and just won't learn how to use our fancy camera. I put that on the list for a baby distraction project in January. Learn a new trick a week on the camera and give myself a homework assignment. I. need. to. learn. this. Argh.

Our total menu was as follows:
Sliced beef marinated (1: olive oil, garlic, cracked pepper), (2: spiced beef marinade from a bottle. Don't judge).
Polish Sausage
Sliced cheeses (Brie, Jarlsberg, Raclette)
Boiled Saltzkartoffel, stored in crock pot after (salted, German potatoes: Peel and boil in cold water until soft, but firm)  
Roasted veggies in lemon olive-oil (carrots, green beans, bell pepper, onion, zucchini)
Cheese fondue (one 12oz beer & tbsp Dijon mustard, 16 oz. shredded cheese tossed in a little cornstarch. Add cheese slowly after boiling beer/mustard on stove) Served with grapes, apples, and cubed sweet bread, crackers, broccoli cutlets
Caesar salad with Trader Joe's dressing-- my fave! Mix of field greens and romaine
Antipasti tray (breadsticks, salami, cornichons, stuffed olives, mixed olives, pepperoncinis)
Tortellini/cucumber/cherry tomatoes on toothpicks & marinated in Italian dressing
Mini sausages in teriyaki sauce (used mini crock pot)
Sauces: sweet onion (bottled), Sriracha, and a homemade (omg. so amazing) chimichurri sauce

A friend from work who honestly directs us to the very best restaurants in town every time gave me this recipe. I was certain to try it and I'm so glad I did. It's incredible. If you like the following ingredients, I highly recommend you make this. I used red wine vinegar and I just about want to put this stuff on my pancakes in the morning. It's that good.

Our friend Alli is pretty crafty and is always pinning a bunch of fun crafty ideas that I could never even consider. I belong in the kitchen... not in front of glue guns and sewing machines. She decided to use the party as a good chance to try out her birthday banner. It was great until it fell down at some point. Again, the flash totally ruins this photo. The goat photo is also courtesy of Mrs. Ferguson. We have a very, very large framed goat in our foyer as I've mentioned before. It's now been set that we'd collect such photographs in frames.

We added Alli's table to our informal living room and she brought in some table accents and balloons as well. This was for the runoff (since we have a 10-seater table and a 4-seater = 14. We had 18 guests and lots of desserts that needed a place to go!).
 Crappy photo # infinity. Our 4-seater cheapie Ikea table, balloons, and snow-covered deck.
 One of the only photos we have of the food setup. Raclette grill is on the far end... but totally hard to see.
 A few photos of friends... no idea who took these photos but I'm happy they did!
 Happy husband and friends.
Oh, Tommy. Let's just say we had a few conversations about being aware that if he spilled red wine on my new boots, we'd have serious words. That, and I may have been afraid of him shattering a wine glass I'd have to clean up. Luckily, he has a very awesome wife who handled the sitch. We love Tommy. He's a wild one.

As the only requirement, I asked that all guests bring a plate of homemade brownies. This was the surprise that I managed to keep until everyone arrived with their brownies! There was an incident where some friends dropped them off the night before very stealthily and another knocked on the back door to hand over theirs, but the secret was kept. I took equally crappy quality photos of all the brownies... hooray! It was truly awesome, though. People were pumped and of course Ray was super excited as brownies are his absolute favorite dessert.
 Hi! I'm thirty! I love brownies! :)
Totally crap quality, but here's the table of almost all the brownies. 
Again, my friend Alli came to the rescue and found a way to score (through a friend) completely free to-go boxes for the brownies! There was no way we'd be able to keep them all in our house! Then our friend Liz was clever (as usual) and thought of a fun little catch-phrase for the box labels. :)
"E" would be Elliot. That's Ray's first name. Ray is his middle name... been calling him Ray on the blog since the beginning since family was the first to read (and the only to read for a long time)... and Ray is what he's known as to family. Just in case that was utterly confusing for all of you, consider me! I switch between family and friends on a regular basis. Elliot? Ray? Back and forth. To me, he's often just "husband". Hah.

Here are some brownie photos...
I can't go into detail about all of the brownies, but there were caramel brownies, walnut brownies, peanut butter brownies, regular brownies, brownies made with zucchini and carrots, peppermint brownies, brownies stuffed with Hershey's Hugs, Oreo and peanut butter stuffed cupcake/brownies, and a chocolate truffle cake.

...and then there's the guy who didn't follow directions:
That would be a Starbucks box. Not homemade by any means. And yes, I did eat all 3 of those brownies even though they were probably intended for the husband. ;) He was super hilarious and commented about how he RSVP'ed and not his wife and therefore felt responsible for the brownies... but that he has no culinary abilities. Totally funny. He definitely gets credit. 

At some point in the night, there was also a toast and birthday song while toasting Bailey's Irish Creme & Godiva White Chocolate Liquors out of chocolate dessert cordial cups. Like these:

All in all, it was a very nice night of grazing, wine drinking, laughing, and socializing while celebrating my favorite person. Happy birthday, my love.


Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

What a party! How cute! I love the picture of Ray/Elliot (haha) with the "I'm 30! I love brownies!" caption. :)

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

Ray is a lucky guy! It looks like you threw him a lovely gathering. Those brownies look so good that I'm going to have to leave my warm bed in search of some chocolate covered pretzels right now...

Ben and Katie said... [Reply to comment]

Ummm you can come be my lady husband any time you want and throw me a party!
That grill looks amazing! I want that at my party too...just saying!
Maybe I should call ray/Elliot husband too...I thought you did it to not use his real name! Next card "husband and brandy"
Good work and looks like y'all had fun!!

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

That looked like SO much fun! I wish we could have been there to celebrate Ray with you :(

Renel said... [Reply to comment]

Awesome job! You did good!

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

It all looks so delicious and now I'm hungry. ha.

Molly said... [Reply to comment]

Nice job! I'm impressed!

Alli (and Tommy too!) said... [Reply to comment]

I know who was behind the photos ;)
Fun to celebrate E with you! Thanks for having us, even though we ended the night early, haha.

Melissa @ A Dozen Years Later said... [Reply to comment]

Wow!! What a fun party with lots of great things to eat.

Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

I love the brownie surprise! All the food sounds delicious and now I want soft, unpasteurized cheeses.

Krista and David Hart said... [Reply to comment]

Looked like an amazing party! Happy 30th Ray!!!

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! I'm totally impressed!