For the most recent installment in our seasonal entertaining series, my friend Annie Campbell of Annie Campbell Catering created a simple, authentic dinner party, complete with an exceptional no-fuss menu. For the next installment, it was all about fun (and of course fabulous food and drink) as Annie hosted a game night featuring elevated B.L.T. sandwiches as the star of the show.
The cause for such an occasion? An avid game-player, Annie was eager to host a game night, and had been looking for an excuse to throw a party highlighting her favorite sandwich. Thus, an evening of games and B.L.T.'s it was. For this event, Annie kept it to a small group of six – perhaps her new favorite number for a party – allowing for a perfectly intimate get-together in which her guests could truly connect. XXJKE
To set the table and the scene, Annie used elements from her "table uniform" collected over the years for just this sort of occasion, including Essential Dinner Plates from Crate & Barrel, stemless wine glasses from New Stone Age, red and white Belgian linen napkins from Libeco and mix and match hotel silver. She ran white with red stripe table runners from Pottery Barn across the table from place setting to place setting, and as the centerpiece, displayed a gorgeous, theme-appropriate assortment of tomatoes from the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market.
As the mixologist in the family, Annie's husband Greg serves as the driving force behind the drink program (and its popularity) within their catering company. Thus, it was only fitting that he create a signature cocktail for this festive get-together, namely a Blackberry & Thyme Shrub Cocktail, served with guests’ choice of vodka, gin or bourbon.
Given Annie and several of her guests' fervent love of kombucha, a shrub cocktail felt perfectly suited for the group. To make, Greg created a fruit based syrup, then added vinegar, creating a tart base to which guests could add their spirit of choice. And, as a no-fail cocktail alternative, Annie also served a selection of Belgian beers.
Keeping the nibbles light so that guests would have plenty of room for dinner, Annie served an assortment of homemade pickles, including carrots, fennel, cucumber, red peppers and purple cauliflower, pickling the cauliflower separately so that it didn't bleed. In addition, she served Charred Cherry Tomatoes & Padron Peppers with Aioli, adapted from Chris Cosentino’s Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal.
Dinner was served family style, with B.L.T.’s of black forest bacon, little gems, heirloom tomatoes & basil mayonaise as the star, accompanied by light, seasonal sides. Annie's bacon of choice: black forest from the meat case at Whole Foods. She shared the one could, of course, use turkey or vegetarian bacon instead, or as another great meat substitute: avocado.
As the light and complementary seasonal sides, she served an Arugula Salad with Grilled Corn, & Shallot Vinaigrette, a Roast Potato Salad with Celery & Dill and Honeydew, Cantaloupe & Mint with Marcona Almonds.
As the sweet finish: Bourbon-Spiked Root Beer Floats, a festive and unexpected adult version of the much-loved summer classic. To make them, Annie used Maine Root Root Beer spiked with Basil Hayden’s bourbon whiskey, topped off with Sweet Rose Creamery Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream. And for other sweet treats, she also served an assortment of classic candies during the game-playing portion of the evening.
An admittedly competitive game player, Annie chose to keep the games light, social, and not overly skill-based. In this case, a wildly inappropriate favorite, Cards Against Humanity. Some of her other surefire party favorites: Apples to Apples, Celebrity (a parlor game), and Pitch (a card game).
And lastly, much as the chef in Annie would have loved to can or make a tomato jam out of the tomatoes used as centerpieces, the week wouldn't allow. So, the hostess in her decided to instead give them away as favors. Stay tuned for the all the charming details of this inspired, season-perfect party favor.