, , , , , , ,

Springtime in Columbia

Brian and me on Easter Sunday at his parents’ house

You really can’t beat the springtime weather around here. Though it only lasts a few short weeks, Columbia boasts near-perfect temperatures of mid-60s to 70s in the spring and fall. Once we get through the inevitable pollen storm each year (and each year say to each other, “I think this is the worst year yet…” or “I can’t remember it ever being this bad!”), the yellow dust always washes away at some point in April or May, leaving behind a beautiful green landscape with pops of color everywhere you turn.

Brian and I decided to make the most of the gorgeous weather over the weekend by hosting a small dinner party. He had just treated himself to a fancy-schmancy new grill – the kind that cooks your food, cleans the kitchen and does the laundry (or so I thought for the price he paid!) – so I came up with a nice make-ahead menu (posted below), including a featured blackberry bourbon drink that I made from scratch.

Tulips from Trader Joes

Okay, so I will go ahead and admit that I am something of a foodie. I have to say I spend on average way more time than is normal – or probably healthy – dreaming up food and menus for parties, or even just for Brian and me.

Columbia has several “fancy” grocery stores that enable aide me in my food obsession, including Trader Joe’s (my fave), Earth Fare (some of the best Scottish salmon we’ve ever had!!!), Whole Foods, Rosewood Market (if you just join their email list you get 20% off your entire purchase one day a month!!), Publix and more.

The night before our dinner party I headed to Trader Joe’s, where I picked up some gorgeous (and cheap!!) tulips for a centerpiece for my table, as well as the majority of the groceries for the dinner. Most importantly, I picked up the ingredients to make my blackberry bourbon cocktail so we could test it ahead of time. I mean, we had to make sure it was good…right?

Our bar, featuring my blackberry bourbon cocktail

Saturday morning, Brian, Cooper (our crazy one-year-old fully grown labrador puppy) and I went out to Soda City, the all-local outdoor market on Main Street (you guys, this is every Saturday and you have to check it out if you haven’t been there yet! But more on that another time!).

As we do on many a pleasant Saturday morning, the three of us got dragged by our dog strolled around the market, perused the local produce, listened to the street performers, picked up food from local vendors, and taste-tested herbed goat cheese from Trail Ridge Farm and Grade A Goat Dairy. The goat cheese tent is quite possibly one of my favorites at the market because they make and season their own goat cheese. Anyone who knows me probably knows that cheese is one of my favorite foods in the entire world. (Also cake, but don’t get me started because I could sing odes to cake all day long…) Whenever we have a party and can justify buying that much herbed goat cheese, I try to head over there to pick some up to serve. Also, it makes me feel better about all the taste-testing…

Tomato Bruschetta and Herbed Goat Cheese on Belgian Endives

The rest of the day was spent working on prepping the food so I could enjoy my guests and not be stuck in the kitchen (as I always seem to be when we have guests over). Busy as I was, my sweet husband had to go all over town to help pick up the items I had forgotten/realized we needed – including Belgian Endives… sorry, honey…

In the end we all had a great time, and the weather was almost perfect. It had rained earlier in the day, so there was just a light coolness to the air. As the sun set, it even got a little chilly on our porch, which is kind of hard to think about this week as we’ve already hit the 90s on the thermostat!

Also, we found the greatest Pandora station ever called Hipster Cocktail Party. You. Guys. It had a little of everything – from Ray LaMontayne to Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra to KC and the Sunshine Band. I highly recommend it for your next dinner party (or even your workday sing along).

Make-Ahead Dinner Menu

Tomato Bruschetta
Local Herbed Goat Cheese on Belgian Endives

Main Course
Herbed Grilled Chicken
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Spring Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle