Small plates featuring local and seasonal vegetables-07/6/2019


For independence day I have Thursday and Friday off which gave me 3 full days to prep and cook for this dinner party.  I set out with a very ambitious menu consisting of 9 dishes and 3 desserts because I have plenty of time.  Since it is an enormous tasks to feed 15 people, I had to be very organized.  Wrote down all the tasks (cannot do it my memory any longer), had to go to many groceries stores to get all the ingredients in order to start preping and figure what can be cook ahead of time.

Once the menu is set up, I sent out an e-mail to our friends:

The air is warmer, the sky bluer, the sun brighter as summer is here with our local markets filled with bountiful fruits and vegetables.   It took me a while to put a menu together but it is set and the theme is small plates featuring local vegetables.  That been said, it will not be a vegetable centric meal, there will be plenty of proteins and seafood.

Menu will not be revealed until you sit down at our dining table, but I can let you in on a few dishes:

We will start with a Trio of appetizers, just to name one: shrimp croquettes - specially for Phuc, followed by a 6 course dinner + a trio of desserts + coffee/tea.  

I can also tell you that you will find this iconic dish: Salmon in sorrel (Saumon a L’oseille) from Troisgros, a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Lyon, France. 

Have a light or skip lunch but make sure to come with an appetite!

See you all this Saturday.

Table is set up for 15 people.  I usually spend at least a few hours to set up the table.

  I start working on it a few days ahead so I have plenty of time to add or modify the look to the way it is satisfactory to me.


Menu is printed and name tags are placed for seat assignment.


All the flowers you see are from our garden.


 I took pretty much all of the Hydrangeas in our garden and was able to make 3 large floral arrangements.

Colorful plates are piled up and can be cleared out after each course.


Each name tag has a different design with colorful vegetables drawing.

Tuan loves potatoes so I made sure the potatoes are prominent on his name tag!


Each menu has a different picture of vegetable stall at a Farmer's market.


The Menu  front and back

There are 7 course, but the appetizers course has 3 different dishes so basically there is total of 9 dishes.


While our guests are mingling, I am plating the first trio of appetizers.


Putting the tomato tartar in ring mold so they are perfectly round.

Finishing the last touch of this dish before it is brought our to the table.


Done with platting and we are asking everyone to sit down so that we can start serving.

Mark is pouring the sake for everyone and Cheryl (Kristie's sister) is our special guest tonight.  She drove all the way from LA to be with her parents and we definitely enjoy having her tonight.

The theme of the menu is small plates featuring local, seasonal vegetables.  I am going to serve most of the dishes family style and I will rotate between a hot dish followed by a cold dish.

First Course: Prawn, avocado mousse, passion fruit and pan seared eggplant, eggplant caviar, grilled pork cheeks.

I used jumbo prawn for this dish and serve it with an avocado mousse and top it with passion fruit.  The tart/sweetness of the passion fruit goes with well with the buttery avocado mousse and it also give a burst of freshness to the dish.  On the right, I pan seared the eggplant and top it with eggplant caviar (roasted eggplant) and a added a strip of grilled pork cheeks.  This is a portion for 2 people.  


The 3rd appetizer is a shrimp croquette served on a bed of tomato tartare. Click HERE to see preparation of the croquettes.

I served the croquettes many times and my dinner party and everyone always asked for me to serve it again.

The tomato tartare is really amazing! It is a recipe from Chris Santos, one of the judge from :"Chopped" and this is how he describes this dish:

This is simply one of those dishes that you have to taste to believe.  I have taken the flavors of beef tartar and applied them to roasted tomatoes for a meatless "tartare" that will have you asking. "where the beef?".  It is a great dish with an amazing concentration of the tomatoes flavors through slow roasting.


2nd Course: Hamachi crudo, peach, plum, cucumber, cilantro in an aguachile sauce -(portion for 2).

I am very happy with the presentation of this dish!  Looks really nice and colorful just like summer....


This dish was inspired by Octavia, the 1 Michelin star restaurant in San Francisco but I put my own twist in.

Octavia used Halibut but I was not able to find it so I substitute it with Hamachi.  Their sauce was Aguachile which is basically made with lime, salt and chopped jalapeno but I wanted a bit of sweetness so I added passion fruit and it was refreshing and bright.  Since summer is here the use of peach & plum made sense since they were so juicy and sweet. The cucumber added a bit of crunch and all the ingredients worked very well together. 


3rd Course: Salmon with sorrel  (Saumon a L'oseille) by Troisgros, a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Lyon, France

This is the iconic dish I talked about it when I sent out the e-mail.  Watch the video (less than 2 min) where Anthony Bourdain is talking about this dish.

Click HERE to see video.


The salmon is barely cook and the center in still raw which is something unusual in 1962 when the dish was created.  Now, people travel around and eating sashimi is quite common but back then it was unheard of serving Salmon this way in a French 3 Michelin star restaurant.

Very good dish with a tasty light creamy sauce.   I truly hope that I pay justice to this dish as it was intended to be cooked and served.


4th Course: Beef Carpaccio, seared trumpet mushrooms, fried garlic chips, fried capers

I also told the story of how this dish was created when I served it.

In 1950 Countess Amali Nani Mocenigo was visiting Harry's Bar in Venice and she had bee nadvised by her doctors to avoid cooked meat and so asked the chef at Harry's to come up with something special for her.  He came up with a dish of finely sliced thin raw beef with a white sauce which was inspired by a famous Venetian painter Vittore "Carpaccio" who always use red and white in his work. The chef splattered a white dressing over the red meat and named it after the artist. 



The secret to good Carpaccio is to use top quality filet mignon and it definitely reflecting into a very single bite when the beef just melt in your mouth.

The meat is dressed with lime juice, olive oil, salt, and chopped parley.  The pan seared king mushroom is so meaty and goes so well with the beef, the fried garlic chips, and fried capers also added another layer of umami.  Really delicious dish.  The dish was served family style.



5th Course: Grilled octopus, potatoes crema, fried crispy potatoes, roasted tomatoes, shellfish saffron reduction sauce.

I love Octopus but it is so hard to cook to get the right consistency.  I served the dish with roasted tomatoes (so sweet), fried crispy potatoes, on a bed of potato crema and drizzled with a shellfish saffron reduction sauce.  This is a portion for 2.


6th Course: Spaghetti carbonara, corn, seared assorted mushrooms, Edamame, bacon.

I always love carbonara which is a very simply dish with only a few ingredients.  Here I elevated the dish and added pan seared mushrooms, edamame, caramelized onion, sweet yellow corn, and lots of bacon.  So Delicious!  This dish was served family style.


7th Course: Roasted chicken thighs stuffed with braised short ribs, blood sausage and chicken mousse served with cauliflower puree.

This is a very complicated dish to make.  First I have to cook a pot of braised short ribs in red wine (about 3 hours) and then shred the meat to use for stuffing,

The 2nd step is to make the chicken mousse.  The 3rd step is to sauté the braised shredded meat with the blood sausage.

the 4th step, I have to debone and butterfly the chicken leg and open it up so I can put the stuffing in (chicken mousse, braised shredded beef short ribs, blood sausage) and the last step is to sew the leg so that the stuffing is snug inside the leg.  The last step is to roast the chicken for about 30 minutes.

This dish was served family style and everybody was so full but we all manage to get at least a taste of it.  I have some leftover and it was fantastic the next way.


8th Course: Trio of desserts

Desserts takes so much time and I have underestimated how long it took be to put these 3 desserts together but none the less I was able to complete all my tasks by 6:00PM which is 30 minutes before the arrival of all the guests.

The first dessert is a orange/kumquat upside down cake- Click HERE to see preparation, the 2nd dessert is a crème brulee Napoleon with Hazelnut, Click HERE to see preparation, and the 3rd dessert is a fruit tart filled almond cream -Click HERE to see preparation


Cheryl put this collage together to show on the left the menu and on the right the dishes that was served!
Very cleaver way to summarize the whole menu in one picture.


Here are the wine, Champagne, and sake we drank during the course of this meal.


As usual after dinner, the majority of the group like to play poker....


After the meal Hoa told me that he does not understand how I made it look so easy!  The dishes are coming out on timely manner, hot (temperature wise) dishes are served hot (very important to me) so how do you do this when there are so many dishes? 

It might look easy but it is not!  I have to constantly think about the next dish or a few dishes ahead, what needed to be put on the stove ahead of time to get ready, and also to keep the wait to a minimum between each dish.  I have lots of practice over the years but it is still not easy to pull a dinner like this together.

The real secret is there is no secret!  you have to really put the time in to prepare all the dishes and allow yourself plenty of time so you are not stress out.

 The dinner was very succesful and everyone had a lot of fun and enjoyed the food.

Until the next Meal!

 Filed under: Dinner Parties




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