Tuscanogan Fantasy

When my husband came home from his trip to Haa Nee Naa Lodge with fifty pounds of fish I jumped at the opportunity to share the spoils with friends while hosting my dream dinner party on our back deck. 

I seems I've been seduced by TV shows and movies where people gather around long tables in the gardens of Tuscan villas, laughing while they sip wine from nearby vineyards, and serve themselves from plates piled with roasted vegetables and meats.  Hunks of fresh bread are swirled in olive oil pressed from their own orchards and faces glow with pleasure in the candlelight.  It looks like such an idyllic evening I've been keen to recreate it Okanagan style.

It was approaching thirty degrees with no hint of a breeze as we set up the table early yesterday afternoon and I feared it would be too hot to eat outside.  We hung some white sheets along one side of the deck to keep out the sun and set up a fan with the hope that it would keep us comfortable until the sun sank behind the mountains later in the evening.  

We invited two of our favourite couples and when both had arrived I decided to leave it up to the majority to choose if we'd be inside our out.  Seeing my pleading face with my puppy dog eyes and the fact that the table was all set up encouraged someone to say "Let's give it a try."  We could always come inside if it was unbearable.

Over the years I'd been planning my fantasy meal with some of my favourite Mediterranean/Italian foods.  While culling recipes from some old Cooking Light magazines the week before, I discovered a menu that was very similar to one I had in mind.  I had been unsure as to what I should do with the halibut but by coincidence this Alfresco Menu had a recipe for Grilled Halibut with Three Pepper Relish

We topped up our wine glasses with Quail's Gate Rose and Mt. Boucherie Pinot Gris and gathered around the table for some Proscuitto Melon Bites, Greek olives and Grilled Pizza with Asparagus and Caramelized Onions.  Though the air was warm it was not unpleasant and my plan for a leisurely evening of good food, good wine and good conversation soon came to fruition. 

I wanted to serve a refreshing  melon apple granita between the appies and the main course and sent my husband into the garden to retrieve some fresh raspberries.  It's the only food photo I can provide, as I was too busy with cooking, serving and enjoying my guests to play paparazzi as well.

When it came time for the main course, along with the halibut we had a haricots vert salad, which consisted of tender crisp green beans with a pesto of basil, sautéed garlic and olive oil, red wine vinegar and toasted pine nuts with chopped sun dried tomatoes.   A side of grilled zucchini and red onions accompanied the meal and I also added some some potatoes roasted with Vadalia onion wedges and hunks of garlic, along with some foccacia bread dipped in my favourite olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Our wine tasting went farther afield as we sampled some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Italian Pinot Grigio.

I wish I could share our conversations with you, filled with funny stories (vat is dis zucchini?!!) book club confessions (Who's reading Fifty shades of Grey?) and How to's on crashing local resorts (Walk in  looking like you own the place!)... but I think you know the simple pleasures found with good friends of like minds and loving hearts. 

We ended the meal with dessert provided by Laura; a light and flavourful angel food cake smothered in whipped cream and strawberries, topped with a tea-light and a round of Happy Birthday to Janet who had  celebrated her birthday on Friday.  

For me the evening was a dream come true and I can't wait to do it again...this time I'm thinking more of a simple "cuisine de terroir", perhaps later in August when local fruits and vegetables are at their peak.  Stay tuned!

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