Tuesday, July 10, 2012

McCormick Gourmet Dinner Party Chain Feast

Some people dream about winning their ideal beach getaway, being transported to white sand beaches and spending hours relaxing while enjoying drinks with tiny umbrellas.

I dream about throwing fabulous dinner parties, spending countless hours planning a cohesive menu, shopping for the freshest ingredients and sitting down with friends at the end of a long day of cooking to enjoy the feast.

After seeing the fantastic dinner party Joanne put together for her family, I decided to enter McCormick's Gourmet Dinner Party Chain Contest for my own opportunity to host the dinner party of my dreams. I sat down at the computer, crafted my 50 words or less describing my ideal theme (a farmers' market feast), and hit enter.

Two weeks later, I got an email from McCormick informing me I had been selected as a winner (Remember, I'm a pretty lucky person)!

Thanks to McCormick I had the resources I needed to bring my dream dinner party to life. The boxes started coming in. A spice rack featuring 16 of McCormick's Gourmet Collection Spices. A handy tote bag (perfect for farmers' market excursions), stuffed with spoons, a mortar and pestle, cookbooks and more. An American Express card to buy groceries. A $100 gift card to buy wine (wine!) from Lot 18. And then a half case of wine in the mail about a week later.

It felt like Christmas in June.

I started planning immediately, within minutes of getting the email from McCormick informing me of my win. I'm not sure if they anticipated the weeks of enjoyment I would get out of pouring over blogs, visiting the farmers' markets to see what was fresh and local and even creating my own Pinterest board with some of my favorite ideas.

I wanted the food to be fresh and seasonal, to create a menu based on what was available that day in the New York City farmers' markets.  Nearly every ingredient we served up was sourced locally, from the coarse cornmeal in the polenta rounds to the scallops and goat cheese. And I wanted each course to feature a different McCormick Gourmet Collection spice, so I could really showcase the range of flavors the spices offer.

Remember those really great friends I ate dinner with last weekend? While I'm the "let's all serve ourselves straight out of the pan" type, they've got a sophistication to them that I admire. They helped me curate the perfect, cohesive menu that stretched me out of my comfort zone.

Those same friends came with me to shop at the farmers' market that morning so we could source as many ingredients locally as possible. Then they came over to my apartment, on a 90 degree day, where the oven was turned up to 500 degrees, to help capture my cooking on camera. And they agreed to host the meal, so our guests wouldn't be subjected to the stiffing heat and lack of ventilation in my kitchen.

I know, I'm lucky.

Our dinner lasted for hours, nine of us around one big table, sharing food and wine, laughter and stories.

We made it through three flights of pinot noirs, paired with the different courses.

 We played cards for hours.

We strengthened friendships. 

And we ate very, very well. Here's a peek at our tasting menu, with recipes to come (I didn't want to overwhelm this post with too many of them).

McCormick's Tasting Menu
Chickpea Spread on Homemade Sesame Seed Crackers with Radish and Parsley: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Smoked Paprika and McCormick Gourmet Collection Toasted Sesame Seeds
Polenta Bruschetta with Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach Pesto: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Crushed Rosemary
Rhubarb Cocktail: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Saigon Cinnamon 

Summer Salad with Cucumber, Cherry Tomato, Snap Peas and Lemon Basil: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Tuscan Seasoning Blend

Warm Golden Beet Salad with Beet Greens, Goat Cheese, Almonds and Arugula: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Ancho Chile Pepper

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with a Sweet Corn Puree and Chopped Tomatoes and Basil: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Chipotle Chile Pepper
Homemade Ciabatta Bread with Herbed Butter: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Thyme Leaves

Rhubarb Pudding Cakes with Homemade Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream: featuring McCormick Gourmet Collection Saigon Cinnamon

Here's to many more dinner parties! Cheers!

Photos courtesy of Megan Milnes and Jeff Taylor.


  1. That is so cool!! You are so lucky!!

  2. You are fortunate, indeed - and not just for winning the contest. What a fabulous dining experience and what a beautiful memory you were able to create with your friends. Brava!

    1. Thank you! I did truly feel fortunate to have that night with friends.

  3. I'm SO glad you won!! Mostly because I want to eat all of these right now. Can't wait for you to share the recipes!

  4. Congrats. I especially love the tasting menu you made. Such a talent. Will be revisiting some of your posts as I experiment in the kitchen this summer.

    1. Thanks Sara! I had such a delightful evening. I'll be experimenting a lot in the kitchen this summer too!

  5. Wow, everything on the menu sounds amazing! I can't wait for the warm beet salad post and the pan-seared scallops. Congratulations!