Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there." The Dowager Countess - Downton Abbey

That's right - BITE's back for a new season of cooking, baking and friend-gathering!  With two of our four members away for the winter, BITE takes a three-month hiatus.  Now that we are all back however, we are off and running!  When we parted ways shortly before Christmas, I let the others know that as host for our April gathering, I had chosen Downton Abbey as our theme.  What a season, with drama and trauma and more than a few tears - some of them my own! I admit to having great fun as I went about planning our dinner.  

There are many, many sites devoted to hosting Downton themed parties.  I will not list them here as a simple Google search will bring you right to them.  I did try to think of what I already had at home that I could put to use in terms of setting the theme.

I don't often use the crystal-ware that my grandparents received as a wedding gift; nor do I often use my aunt's sterling silverware.  It was so nice to have them out and in use!  I do not have formal dishware other than the beautiful Portmeirion Christmas dishes that were a gift from my husband many years ago - so of course - I used them!  My husband's sterling napkin rings made an appearance (actually, I can't think of ever having used them before!)

To find period appropriate recipes, I use The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, and two of the other group members referred to it as well for their recipes.

For our beverage, I decided to not do a wine as most wines consumed in England at that time (post Titanic sinking) were French.  Instead, the wine expert at the liquor store recommended that I try something called a Pimm's Cup.  Pimm's is "a gin-based potation made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices, and spices. Served with lemon soda or ginger ale, it becomes a Pimm’s Cup. Pimm’s No. 1 was created in the mid-18th century by English oyster bar owner James Pimm."
I muddled together lemon and cucumber, then added Pimm's and ginger ale.  I think that it is probably an acquired taste - I personally didn't care much for it.  But we did stay true to the times!

Tierney was in charge of our appetizer this time around, and she chose to do the Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts.  Now - I happen to be an anchovy fan, so I eagerly anticipated biting into my first one.  It was truly delicious.  There was not a terribly strong anchovy taste - more oniony - and the crust was wonderful!

Chris took charge of our side-dishes.  Her first one was a Turnip Puree.  I confess to being a bit hesitant about this - I guess I'm not sure that I've ever even had turnips!  I was very pleasantly surprised - They were sweet, creamy and delicious - hey - you never know!  Chris's second dish was a Classic Summer Vegetable Casserole. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this dish - sorry Chris! Also wonderful, and a hint of summer flavors to come.

For our entree, I selected Roasted Rosemary Cornish Game Hens, which, if I do say so myself, were delectable!  If you follow this recipe however, allow for about 30 additional minutes of cooking time.

Lastly - Ellen, our fabulous baker, made Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce.  Now I am not the diehard chocolate fan that many people are, but I am a diehard salted caramel fan.  Oh my - in all of its creamy goodness, this pudding is one that could make a chocolate fan out of me yet!

Pimm's Cup.
Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts (please see BITE page in the righthand column of blog for this - and all other recipes)
Turnip Puree
Roasted Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
Classic Summer Vegetable Casserole on right side of dish

Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
The best part of the evening however, was getting together with good friends who have not gathered since December.  This is a good as it gets!  Next month - France!  (Watch out Julia!)

P.S.  A quick reminder that my niece Rachel's performance will be on PBS this Friday at 9:00 on Live from Lincoln Center.  Here is a local broadcasting update:

We in Cortland will get the program on WSKG on Friday the 26th at 9 p.m.  Because WCNY is having its auction, the show will not be shown on that channel until:

Sat, the 27th at 2 a.m.
Monday the 29th at 3 a.m.
Monday, the 29th at 7 p.m. (on 24.4 not the regular WCNY)
Wednesday , May 1st at 1 P.M. 


  1. Oh yeah you are back. I live vicariously through you girls. What a fun theme and looks yummy too xox Clarice

    1. Thank you Clarice! I must say, we have a good time!

  2. You always capture the essence of our dinners - nice work Tracy! Your cornish game hens and sauce were memorable! Thank you for choosing such a satisfying theme. The whole evening around your sparkling, freshly pressed, gleaming table felt like we had truly stepped back in time. Kudos to the host!