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Simple Spring BBQ Dinner Party

With the stress of starting and running our new boutique catering company, Alex and I have been slacking on the dinner party front. It's hard to muster up enthusiasm for planning and cooking an elaborate meal (and washing mountains of dishes) when it's what we do now everyday.

So for our most recent dinner party, we decided to keep things simple, but add a few flourishes for a moderately fancy feel. See that pretty geometric teal runner under the table settings? That's silky stone wrapping paper from Tai Pan Trading. And the tapered candles? Dollar store. By using leftovers and things we had lying around, we pieced together a dinner party for eight in our living room with not too much effort.

Alex handled the meat. He smoked some pork ribs we had squirreled away in the back of our freezer the day before and wrapped them in tinfoil. Then 30 minutes before our guests arrived, he popped them in the oven to warm up. Super simple and spot on with my Rhubar-BBQ sauce, made with rhubarb jam from the stalks in our garden, ketchup, sugar, apple cider vinegar, sriracha and black pepper.

I handled the rest of the meal. To start things off I made a simple syrup with lilac flowers plucked from the bush in our backyard, sugar and a few scoops of loose chamomile tea. I used that concoction to sweeten a modified Old Fashioned recipe that uses Scotch instead of Bourbon. The flowery chamomile and lilac were a nice counterpoint to the smoky scotch and bitters. Here's the recipe I modeled the cocktail after.

Everything else on the menu was pretty straight forward. The deviled eggs got their heft from a dollop of sour cream and a little bite from Alex's homemade shallot mayonnaise.

I de-veined the sugar snap peas and sliced them diagonally before tossing them with fresh arugula, thawed frozen peas, mint, olive oil and shaved parmesan. Then I cubed and boiled some new potatoes until just tender but not mealy and let them cool. Once they were just slightly warm, I tossed them with sour cream and loads of fresh tarragon and chives from our garden and a little lemon juice.

And for dessert, I followed the Strawberry Shortcake recipe to a T from our tattered America's Test Kitchen baking book. The shortcakes were heavenly with a big messy plop of fresh whipped cream and the strawberries were a wonderfully fresh way to welcome the start of summer.

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