I recently had the pleasure of taking over my friend Jo's beautiful kitchen for an evening and cook for some fabulous foodie friends of mine. Living in a small apartment with a closet-sized kitchen means I never get to entertain at my place, but I've been itching to host a dinner for some time now. So when Jo so kindly extended an invitation to me to use her kitchen—her big, beautiful, bright, 2-ovens, 6-gas ranges, LOTS of counter space kitchen—I took her up on the offer. How could I turn down this opportunity? It was like offering candy to a kid!
My favourite part about doing a large-scale, multi-course dinner like this one is the planning stage. It's the time when I can be the most creative and have a lot of fun with the research as I starting pulling together the menu. How do I begin? Often with the season, as it dictates what kind of fresh produce I'll be able to find at the market. And then I'll consider dishes that I really want to make—s'mores cake, homemade ricotta, homemade pasta, etc. I flip through cookbooks. I go through old photographs of memorable meals I've had at restaurants. I dust off old notes I jotted down in haste—on napkins, on scrap paper, on my phone—when sudden inspiration had taken over and I didn't want to forget the idea for future use. The whole process took almost two months, constantly writing and rewriting the menu, an ebb and flow of courses and ingredients, until the tide settled and I had my final menu in place.