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Jan 19

How to Host a Party (and not do anything)

I hosted a small dinner party the other night for several couples. Had Kevin let me, I'd have invited about 8 more people, but I had to cut back. (So if you're a dear friend, don't be mad at me. I picked couples I thought would gel nicely and well, our house only holds so many people.)

Usually when we host a party, we shell out at least $500 in food and alcohol. Then we kill ourselves trying to make everything from appetizers through to dessert. Kevin often spends about half of the party in the kitchen and sometimes the food goes awry. This time we tossed that entire model out the window.

I did two things differently. First, I asked everyone to bring an appetizer or a bottle of Spanish wine. This worked beautifully, as we ended up with a gorgeous cheese plate and several dips. Kevin also prepared some mini quiches, baked cheese sticks, and mini herbed goat cheese balls. Good Spanish wine can be found for under $15 – in many cases under $10 – so we weren't asking our guests for too great of an expense.

Everyone brought a bottle or two of wine, which was fantastic. In fact, we emptied 10 bottles plus a magnum. I kept the wine out on our bar and just let everyone serve themselves.


Wine and appetizers. So far, an easy party with very little expense to us. But what about dinner? Well, for dinner we brought in Hector Esteve of Paella at Your Place. Hector arrives with his burner, a giant paella pan, all the ingredients and a great personality, and then he whips up some paella. I was worried about the small size of our kitchen, but Hector requires only a stovetop and a small countertop. Alternatively he can use a garage, or in the warmer months, your deck or patio.


We had a sausage and chicken paella, but he made a portion of it meat
free for our two vegetarian diners. He offers other paella combinations
of various meats and seafoods as well. Hector also arrives with a great salad and bread that starts off your meal. Once the paella is ready, he brings it to the table and sprinkles it with sherry. Alcohol makes everything better, yes?  Then he serves the paella to your guests.

Hector left our kitchen even cleaner than it was when we arrived. Outside of the appetizers, Kevin and I had no need to even be in the kitchen. It was the easiest party I've ever put together and because of that, one of the most fun. I could actually enjoy my guests instead of worrying about feeding them. In fact, we wouldn't have been in the kitchen at all except that everyone was fascinated with the paella process. Hector will tell you about it, step by step, if you wish, with all the patience in the world.

Hector requires a minimum of 10 people (those pans are big you see) and starts at $10 per person. We fed 15 people, although he can feed a party of up to 150. At those prices, feeding 15 people paella is a cheaper option for us than what we would normally shell out to host a dinner party. Kevin just mentioned that by using Hector, we saved about $200 in party
hosting and more than that in time and stress, therefore this is a
Recession Tip! Host a party with your own chef and save money – who

I know I'll be bringing Hector back for future parties at this house and once we move in about a year. I recommend Hector and his paella (and apparently his tailgating options as well). In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to get him to the pre-Jimmy Buffett parties out at Riverbend. How perfect would that be?

Not sure how you feel about paella? That's okay. Hector will be dishing up his excellent paella at several local stores in the next few months. You can find him at The Party Source on Jan 31 and March 26. I think, although I'm not positive on this one, that he'll also be grilling up some paella at each Liquor Direct for a Jorge Ordonez tasting on February 27 and 28.

I'm embedding a slideshow or you can view our photos on Flickr.

Contact Hector at PaellaAtYourPlace.com or via email (hfesteve [at] fuse [dot] net) or phone: 513.528.5241.

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Oct 02

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Dinner

A few weeks ago, Michelle and I had a chance to have a bourbon-inspired dinner by Woodford Reserve’s chef David Larson. He offered a tasting demo at the Party Source and we were treated to

Course 1: Woodford Reserve with Gravlax

Course 2: Woodford Reserve Lemonade with Tomato Watermelon Salad

Course 3: Woodford Reserve Corn Pudding and the Best Roast Chicken

Course 4: Cold Lemon Souffle and Bourbon Flavored Coffee


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Sep 03

Oceanaire Wine Dinner Preview

Yesterday, Julie (Wine Me, Dine Me) and I had the great pleasure to meet with Andrew Cecil, Ass’t General Manager of Oceanaire. We were given a lovely complimentary preview of their upcoming wine dinner. From what I understand, the wine dinner is the first time our particular Oceanaire has attempted such a thing. Based on the menu, wine pairings, and affordable price, I think it will work out well for them.  The dinner is on Sept 12 and is $65 per person. Reservations are required.

I’m not much of a seafood fan, so other than mentioning the menu for pairing purposes, I’ll leave the food information sharing to Julie. I want to talk about their wine for the upcoming dinner.

Andrew and Chef Dumcum made a decision to focus on Spanish wines for the meal, all from trusted importer Jorge Ordoñez, distributed locally by Cutting Edge. As many of you know, Spanish and French wines are my absolute favorites, so I was thrilled to see so many high-quality, high-value wines on their list. In fact, if you find you’re interested in the wines, you can order the wines directly from Oceanaire (without a huge markup) during the wine dinner. All of the wines retail for under $15 in Ohio and in some cases, under $10 in Kentucky. In addition, all these wines are "drink now," so if you go home with a few, you don’t have to worry about cellaring.

The wine list for the dinner is amazingly easy-drinking and approachable, even for those who aren’t big fans of wine.
My overall score for their wines and pairing:


Marques de Gelida Brut: The list I have states this is a non-vintage Cava, but Andrew shared a 2004 vintage with us. This is high in acidity and tart, with a lemony fresh result. It had soft bubbles that tickled the back of my throat. Throughout our tasting I kept returning to this particular glass as a palatte cleanser. Sparkling wines are a great substitute for sorbet, and I found this one light, refreshing and up to the task.
Pairing: Tatmagouche Shooters, Iced Granny Smith Apple Mignonette

Basa Blanco Rueda 2007: This is a light and fruity wine composed of Verdejo, Viura, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. If I was just sniffing away blindly, I would have called this a viognier. Told I was wrong, I probably would have guessed a sauvignon blanc. That’s how tropical and light this particular wine is. It’s the perfect summer wine, and enjoyable on a day when the temperature breaks 90 degrees.
Pairing: Mixed Field Greens, Pickled Watermelon, Sunflower Seed Brittle, Tarragon Chevre, Mango Vinaigrette

Vega Sindoa Chardonnay 2006: This particular bottle wasn’t available for us to sample, but I hear that it’s earthy and only lightly oaked.
Pairing: Grilled Hawaiian Sea  Bass, Sweet Corn Butter, Charred-on-the-Vine Tomatoes, Baby Bok Choy, Roasted Peach Beure Blanc

Tres Picos Garnacha 2006: I love this wine. Kevin and I have purchased cases of previous vintages and the 2006 is no disappointment. This wine is such a great drinker for such a bargain. This has a lot of deep berries and plums. It’s 100% grenache from some pretty old Spanish vines.
Pairing: Seared Earl grey Brined Duck Breast, Butternet Squash Puree, Chocolate-Blackberry Demi Glace, Mint Oil

Jorge Ordoñez Especial Moscatel 2005: Ah, dessert wine! I do enjoy dessert wine – almost as much as I enjoy dessert. This particular wine is not what you might expect – it’s not heavy and mead-like. Instead, it’s light and floral. In fact, I was sort of hit upside the head with the floral nose of this wine. It’s bright and easy to drink, with some honey, floral, and lemon notes – a perfect ending to a meal on a hot summer night.
Pairing: Brie-Pear Tart, Lavender Honey, Fig Compote

Other than the Moscatel, I’m fairly certain you can find the majority of these wines at either Liquor Direct or Party Source, both right across the river in Kentucky. I know that I’ve tried most of these before, which is what leads me to believe they came from one of those two stores. Party Town out at Turfway also has a fairly large Spanish selection. Overall, these are excellent pairings for the food and approachable wines.

Oceanaire on Urbanspoon

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Aug 25

Restaurant Week: 9/2 – 9/7

Need I say more?


Greater Cincinnati Independents

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Posted by Michelle at 7:05 am in Cincinnati, Food and Wine Pairings, Restaurants | Permalink | Comments ()
Jul 31

Restaurant: Boi Na Braza Scotch Dinner (Johnnie Walker)

Michelle and I have been looking for an opportunity to try the rodizio-style restaurant that opened downtown for a few years, but we never found the right time to go until this past week. Master of Whiskey Robert Sickler was hosting a pairing dinner at Boi Na Braza alongside 5 different blends of Johnnie Walker. Overall the chance to have an enormous amount of meat with the chance to taste different sipping whiskeys was too good to pass up.

   – Kevin

Our overall reviews:

Boi Na Braza

(We only had our cell phones as cameras. oops!)

Follow the jump for all the gory and gluttonous details.

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