I love having a group of my girlfriends over for good food, great cocktails and some time to relax and gab to our hearts content with no significant others or children in the mix. I’ve typically held a Girls Nite In like this every year for as many as I can remember except for last summer when I was ‘homeless’ and couldn’t see putting on my annual affair while I was living with friends waiting for my new home to be completed. When I was asked if I would like to host an event by the folks with Veev Vodka to share their new Vita Frute ready to drink cocktails I thought the timing was perfect and my ‘almost annual’ event was planned.
If you know me as a cocktail maker it might seem a flip flop to host an event without creating something unique and wonderful to drink. And you might have been right at one point in my life. Back when I did so much work in preparation for parties or holiday get to-gethers that I was almost too exhausted by the time company arrived to stay awake. I learned over the years that in order to enjoy myself with my friends I need to plan accordingly. I make food and drinks that can be done ahead or are really easy to throw together. I made the featured meatloaf the previous day, even had a slice for dinner but it’s real purpose was how I love it best; in a meatloaf sandwich. Someone in my Instagram feed had never heard of meatloaf sandwiches. I have never made it without them being the intended result; which camp are you in?
Can I tell you once more how much I love having a garden again? I love the work of planting and the results of those efforts and while this patio and yard are smaller than I had; it’s still so much more fun to have friends over and make something that I grew in my backyard!
Cherry tomatoes were a big part of this affair; I planted a couple of tomato plants in large pots and they are going absolutely nuts. I supplemented a salad with some gorgeous baby heirloom ones I bought at a farmers market but next year I’m finding a source for those; I would be happy with a whole garden of cherry tomatoes and herbs; nothing else..and dishes like these are why.
First I used them in this Warm Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta. So fresh with tomatoes and herbs from the garden I almost think I could have eaten nothing else for dinner and been happy!
Can I fix you a cocktail? You want one of each? Can’t blame you! 🙂
For many years this summer celebration included friends I had met when I was a member of the Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce. When the event features a larger gathering than I planned this year I ask friends to bring something to the party. I know the most memorable dish (at least for me) are these bacon wrapped pretzel rods. Bacon is coated with a mixture of brown sugar and cayenne and then wrapped around pretzel rods that are baked. There is nothing especially sophisticated or gorgeous about these little guys but they are simply divine. I will never make them without thinking of my friend Stacy Hatch who has since moved to Oregon; funny how food does that isn’t it? Such an integral part of our memories of people and places.
Dinner was the aforementioned meatloaf sliders and another round of tomatoes in a salad. I’ve seen folks wax poetic about Yotam Ottolenghis cookbooks but admittedly do not have one. That might have to change. This tomato, onion and roasted lemon salad was featured on the August cover of Bon Appetit magazine and I knew as soon as I saw it that it would grace our table this summer. Absolutely fabulous. I made some minor changes in lieu of running to the grocery store but they were really minor and the salad was not. Did I mention Absolutely Fabulous?!!
By the time we ate dinner it was dark. I do not profess to be a nighttime photographer but it was fun and something I want to work on more. I’m certain my neighbors wondered what was going on with the ‘lights, camera and action’ business huh?
So let’s talk about those cocktails. I won’t deny, I’m as weary of some ready made products as the next guy; especially since I am known for shaking up great drinks and many of those miss the mark. So this was in part a huge leap of faith since I had not seen or sampled these before. Vita Frute comes from the folks that make Veev Vodka which is handcrafted and all natural. They are the first line of organic and all-natural ready-to-drink cocktails and those facts piqued my interest. That preparation was simply to chill them, shake and pour over ice did not hurt but as that old saying goes, the proof really was in the pudding. What can I say, quite simply we loved them. That all natural part can not be denied; each one had a fresh, crisp taste.
I wanted to keep it simple so the plan was just to have sugar for anyone who wanted to rim their cocktail (I love big sparkly sugar normally used for cake decorating) and something for a spritz of fresh juice and garnish. There are four flavors available; Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Lemonade and Coconut Colada so I made sure I had plenty of wedges of lime, lemon and orange and let everyone make their own combination. There was a moment of, ‘Here try mine!’ and we had a bit of musical cocktails going on!!
I could show photos but promised I would not. Our tradition includes come as you are comfortable. We had sweats and pajamas; hair pulled back with baseball caps and headbands and a promise is a promise but I will promise this…we will have these again. How popular were they? We didn’t finish off all of the product so when I offered to let my friends take some home… well, I’m sort of sobbing that they were all snapped up and whisked away!
Before that moment came though we had one final flourish with this dessert. Raspberry Bocconi Dolce. One of my all time favorites. That I SO wanted to snap a new photo of but it just did not happen is testimony to my having such a great time. This dessert is deceiving; it is so beautiful and so elegant and SO easy. Meringue layers are made the day before and the day of the party all I had to do was layer them with whipping cream, chocolate and raspberries. It makes a stunning finish, both in presentation and it’s billowy light yet decadent taste.
I’m just delighted to have jump-started this fun summer tradition again. There will be more and I’m gonna need a bigger patio! Look for the recipe for the Meatball Sliders later this week; I’m sharing with you today that gorgeous summer salad. Getting ready to throw a Labor Day party? Really. I mean it. Try these cocktails; just so easy and so yummy and so perfect! Which one was our favorite; that’s a hard call but have to admit; I’ve always loved a Cosmopolitan. Making it this easy sure didn’t hurt! I might have squirreled that bottle away just for me. Shh; don’t tell.
Tomato, Onion and Roasted Lemon Salad
- 1 lemon, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1/4 tsp Chinese Five Spice
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 11/2 pound mixed small tomatoes, such as Sun Gold, cherry, or heirloom, halved
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
- Preheat oven to 325°. Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain and pat dry.
- Gently toss lemon slices with sugar, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until lemons are no longer wet and only slightly colored, 15–20 minutes. Let cool.
- Whisk pomegranate molasses, spices, and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add lemons, tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint and toss gently; season with salt and pepper.
This post was sponsored by Veev Vodka and Vita Frute however all commentary is my own. Really.