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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of having one of our editors, Breanne Cooley, and her parents, Leslie and Kevin, in town for dinner. We were joined by several friends of mine, and of course my own family. My father had sprung this upon me roughly two weeks ago, without actually asking me if I had wanted to cook. I was more than happy to oblige them, (after some careful prodding) nonetheless. So off I was reading cook book after cook book, scouring for recipes that would provide a simple yet elegant tasting menu. I wanted an earthy theme to the meal, so that my guests would be comfortable with what they were eating and still excited to try new things.

Armed with cookbooks, I gathered my supplies, and my friends and set up the menu. Eight courses, one after the other, beginning with a smoked salmon tartare, which was a strange but quick hit. As I brought food out, the next course would be prepped in the kitchen, so we had something of an assembly line going. The next course was twin salads, one based with bacon, balsamic, and romaine; the other with chicken salad, cranberry relish, pears and pineapple. Compliments came trickling in, as we continued our marathon meal. Every time I set foot on the outdoor deck I was assaulted by compliments and questions. While my friend Alex continued to work the main course in the smoker, I began the secondary courses.

My sous, Bryant, and I began to prep what was an early hit, our herb-nut butter stuffed mushrooms. A tremendous hit with the guests, and quite a bit of humor we got out of the name as well. As Bryant finished bringing them out, the next big thing came, our apple goat cheese tarts with candied nut topping. I actually got to eat one (which is rare cause I usually never have time do anything more than taste) and it truly was exquisite. After that, the roasted red pepper leek salad in vinaigrette.With each course that was served, I grew more and more fatigued. My strength was fading, but I knew I had to continue! Finally, it became time for the final dishes.

My Carolina-BBQ rubbed smoked pork loin was a treasure. Just beautifully smoked, juicy, tender. How its supposed to be. We served this sliced, along with potatoes stuffed with rosemary wrapped in prosciutto. The real finale was the figs. Ah, such a beautiful poached figs in port and peppercorns, topped with just a little candied peel zest. I sometimes amaze myself. This was one of those times. I needed perfection, and I needed a drink after it was all over. I’m ecstatic that everyone came and I was able to treat them to such a meal.

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