As in, forgot to take the pictures. Sigh. So my friends suggested taking a picture of the table and proclaiming a good time was had by all.

I am part of a foodie group that enjoys dining and socializing. There are five couples and myself in the group. Each month one household prepares a formal dinner for the rest of the group. I was the last in the line to host this past weekend. I had planned to take pictures of everything, but as usual, forgot.

My menu was:
- shrimp wonton appetizers
- fresh green salad with grapefruit dressing
- kumquat chicken over wilted spinach
- wild rice and quinoa pilaf
- semolina pudding with strawberry balsamic pepper sauce and black currant sauce

My intentions were good because I took a picture of the kumquat preparation. LOL


The shrimp wontons are actually a Pampered Chef recipe that I really like. Of course, you need a mini-muffin pan to make them.

Shrimp Wontons

24 square wonton wrappers
1 T. butter or margarine melted
8 oz. shelled deveined and cooked medium shrimp
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 C. grated carrot
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 C. (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. With pastry brush, brush one side of each wonton wrapper with melted butter. Press wonton buttered side up into muffin cup. Bake 8 minutes or until edges turn light golden brown. Remove pan from oven. Finely chop shrimp. Combine cream cheese, garlic and Worcestershire sauce in bowl, blend well. Stir in chopped shrimp, green onions, carrot and mozzarella cheese. Using small scoop fill each wonton cup with rounded scoop of cream cheese mixture. Top with reserved shrimp. Bake 5 minutes or until wontons are golden brown and filling is bubbly around edges.

Yield 24 appetizers.

My goal for the meal had been to make things using seasonal items that people might not have had before. For the salad, I used the grapefruits from my tree to make the grapefruit dressing.

Grapefruit Dressing

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cups fresh grapefruit juice (about 3 grapefruits)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Pour oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté shallots 5 minutes. Pour in grapefruit juice and let boil over medium-high heat; cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup, about 6 minutes. Take mixture off of heat and let cool.
2. Using a food processor or blender, puree juice mixture with cilantro, sugar, and pepper until smooth. With motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil and blend until fully combined.

Kumquats are not too common in the grocery store and can be pretty expensive. Luckily, my best friend has a large kumquat tree in her backyard. So I was able to go over and pick a bunch. The recipe is from the Food Network. It calls for sauteing the chicken breasts. But I was serving nine people. I decided to make the sauce on its own and take the chicken breasts and cook them on my stoneware bar pan in the oven. One great thing about stoneware - it keeps meats nice and moist. The recipe also calls for wilting the spinach in the sauce. I had a lot of spinach (could have had more) and so I used a trick I read somewhere. I put the washed, wet spinach in a bowl, sealed it with wrap, and microwaved it for 2-3 minutes first. This reduces the size down by about half, making it easier to fit into the pan for the final wilting in the sauce. Lastly, since I was greatly increasing the recipe for nine people, I ended up guesstimating the amounts of the sauce ingredients. Luckily there was plenty of sauce. This sauce is also nice because it has a nice hint of heat with the red pepper flakes.

Kumquat chicken over wilted spinach

3 kumquats
1 large shallot
2 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1/8-teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 cups packed spinach leaves (about 1 bunch)

Separately cut kumquats and shallot crosswise into thin slices, discarding any kumquat seeds. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a skillet heat butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides and saute chicken, skin sides down, until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook over moderate heat until just cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm, covered.

Add shallot to fat remaining in skillet and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over shallot and cook, undisturbed, until sugar is melted and golden. Immediately stir in kumquats, water, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stir in parsley and salt to taste and, if sauce is too liquid, simmer until thickened to desired consistency, about 1 minute.

Transfer two thirds sauce to a small bowl and to remainder add spinach and salt to taste, turning with tongs until just wilted.

Divide spinach between 2 plates and top with chicken. Spoon sauce over chicken.

For the pilaf, I just made a big batch of quinoa and threw in a package of pre-cooked wild rice, green onions, and craisins. I kept it warm and ready in the crockpot.

Lastly was dessert. I had tried semolina pudding in an earlier post. This time I wanted to use strawberries since they are now in season. Then I had a huge bag of frozen black currants from my dad's bushes in Oregon. So I made a sauce from those as well. It was quite a difference between the sweet strawberry sauce and the tart currant sauce.

Balsamic Strawberry Pepper Sauce

2 cups strawberries (about 1 pint), trimmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a small heavy saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring, and skim surface. Simmer mixture, stirring and skimming foam occasionally, 15 minutes, or until thickened and translucent. Remove pan from heat and cool preserves completely. Preserves keep, covered and chilled, 1 month. (I pureed the sauce.)

Finally I decorated the table with these beautiful flowers.

All in all, the meal was a success. Considering my usual track record of not having enough food, I did pretty well except for a little low on the spinach. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal.
La Provence Restaurant and Terrace on Urbanspoon

La Provence prides itself on so many awards for this and that - Reader's Choice, Best French, 5 star, 4 star, on and on. Our experience was just 3 star.

I had gotten one of the Y92 Half Price Thing discounts. You pay $25 for a $50 gift card. I had read such good things about the restaurant and had been meaning to go for some time. La Provence is not exactly in a convenient location though. It is out in suburban Roseville in a residential area. We finally took the time to drive out that way for an 8:00 dinner.

The restaurant is large and very spacious and open. It has gas fireplaces, high ceilings, and a rustic look. We were seated promptly and handed the menus. The menus had many interesting dishes. We knew it was pricey, but that also added to our high expectations.

We started with the escargot. Not everybody can take eating snails, but I can get it done if I turn off the "it's a snail!" voice in my head. They were served piping hot with plenty of garlic and herbs. They were tender and delicious. A good start.

The first entree selection was Navarin d'agneau Printaniere - spring leg of Placer County lamb, baby vegetables and steamed Yukon gold potatoes. This was a very flavorful dish that was really a stew. The description implies a lamb leg or a cut of the lamb leg. Instead it was just small chunks of lamb, and not much at that. Good, but chintzy on the meat.

I had the Lapin a la Moutarde - fresh rabbit quarters roasted with thyme and Dijon mustard, bacon-wrapped stuffed loin, Yukon gold smashed potatoes, haricots verts and Dijon mustard sauce. The picture is above. Although tasty, the rabbit meat was very dry and there was hardly any sauce to offset the dryness. It was also a real chore to eat the rabbit. I struggled considerably with it. Not tender or easy to enjoy at all.

As for the service, it was mediocre. As it would be in France, the time between courses is lengthy. French take their time and enjoy their meals over a few hours versus 45 minutes like Americans do. That wasn't an issue since it was to be expected. But we were annoyed that such a nice restaurant would not have taught the waiters better serving etiquette. Our server was constantly reaching right across us to get a water glass or light a candle. It was like an invasion of your personal space and not done gracefully or politely.

I'd like to give La Provence another chance sometime. I'll probably wait for another coupon though. Certainly not inclined to go out of my way to full price based on this experience.