Project Food Blog #3: A Taste of the South in the North Luxury Dinner Party

Project Food Blog #3: A Taste of the South in the North Luxury Dinner Party

October 3, 2010


Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time in our busy lives for luxury. So, when we sat down and talked about ideas for Project Food Blog’s Luxury Dinner Party (challenge #3), we determined luxury simply means relaxing and enjoying good food with our closest friends– something we don’t get to do often enough.

Our city apartments aren’t quite what you’d describe as luxurious. They’re comfortable and we’ve done a fabulous job of making them our own. And during this time in our mid-20s, neither of us would dream of living anywhere else. But living in the city means making some sacrifices. Like not having huge kitchens. And not having a dining room with a long table for fancy dinners. But since we both love to entertain, we’ve adapted to our living spaces quite well. Our dinner parties are not generally traditional, but at the end of the day if there’s a table (or 2) filled with homemade food, friends crowding your couches eating and laughing, and a kitchen piled high with dirty dishes, you can consider it a success.

Northerners through and through, we decided to introduce our friends to some new flavors. Flavors from the South. We chose to cook up a Southern dinner, adding little exotic twists and flairs where we felt appropriate. We threw on our plaid shirts, boots, and a little country music and got to work in the kitchen.

But first, we made lists. Because we’ve entertained a good amount, we know how important lists are. Right after we determined our menu, we made a list of all the ingredients involved. And then we color-coded it according to items we’d be using more than once, items we already had in our kitchens, produce, baking items, refrigerated items, and condiments.

This saved so much time in the grocery store as it was super easy to get everything on the list without running back and forth through the store.

And when we started cooking, we knew we had everything we would need for the entire evening. No last-minute trips to the corner store!

Before we started cooking, we lined up our bounty of dishes. Because who wants to have the main course ready to go only to realize you have no platter for it? Organizing your serving dishes before you start cooking will help you feel so much more relaxed while cooking. We think this is especially key if you live in a small apartment where you might store your dishes in mysterious places (what? nobody else has a box of dishes in their bedroom closet?).


If you decide to design your own printed materials for your dinner party, we suggest picking a color combination and carrying it throughout. When we spotted this marigold paper, we instantly thought of a sunny day down South. We used the paper for our wall-mounted menu board and made sure to incorporate the colors throughout the evening in our dishware and decor.


Instead of sticking with traditional course titles (appetizer, entree, etc.), we decided to have a little fun and gave each course a Southern twang:





To us, it’s always important to bring in decor that relates back to your theme. We wanted our guests to be comfortable and at home while attending our dinner party, so we tried to keep the mood warm and cozy.


Drinks, of course, are essential. And should be ready upon your guests arrival. Especially if you’re still bustling around finishing up last minute touches in the kitchen. Drink in hand, spot on couch, and your guests will be good for at least 10 more minutes.


Our Southern theme inspired us to try two new drinks. We sipped on mint juleps made with a mint simple syrup and Kentucky bourbon and a Spiked Lemony Sweet Tea, made with orange pekoe tea, rum, and plenty of lemon and sugar.


If you don’t have a dining room and lots of space for a beautifully set table, you need to count on the little touches instead. We decided mason jars would be perfect for serving the sweet tea and mint juleps in. To prevent guests from confusing their beverages with someone else’s, we designed personalized rim-tags and attached them to the mason jars.


At the end of the night, we simply rinsed the jars and gave them to our guests as party favors.




When your guests ask you what’s for dinner, refuse to tell them and say, “Check the menu!” Especially when your guests are people you’ve known your whole life.


And if you, as the hostess, can’t remember what you’re serving, you can always check the menu, too 🙂


We started our guests off with a few hors’dourves to nibble on while enjoying their drinks. We served mini double-smoked bacon, arugula, and fried green tomato toasts with bacon onion jam.

Fried green tomato BLTs are a popular sandwich in the South and we thought the onion bacon jam would be the perfect way to top off the toasts for an extra punch of unique flavors.

We knew we were going to include deviled eggs on the menu, but wanted to make them more current. So, we decided to do deviled eggs with horseradish and candied bacon.


To candy the bacon, we coated the bacon in brown sugar and cayenne and baked it.


Everyone knows fried chicken is a traditional Southern entree, so it immediately came to our minds when thinking about our main dinner party dish. But could we make fried chicken even more exciting? We added lots of cayenne to the buttermilk batter and took a cue from Bobby Flay by drizzling some ancho-honey glaze on the finished chicken.




Collared greens are a traditional Southern side and we jazzed ours up with raisins, garlic, and lots of citrus.


Although we’re from the North, we know you can’t have a Southern dinner without biscuits. We put a spin on the traditional biscuit by using manchego cheese, jalapeno, and cayenne. They were crispy, but flaky and deliciously spicy.



The whole shebang:


Another good tip when playing hostess is to serve the meal slowly, so your guests will still have room for dessert.

And this is one dessert your guests will want to have room for. Actually, three desserts.


We served sweet potato cheesecake with maple whipped cream, key lime pie, and peach crumble.

We baked the cheesecake and key lime pie in square baking dishes, but used biscuit cutters, so we could serve the desserts in a mini, bite-sized form.



One more benefit to the slow-paced meal is that your friends have time to put their feet up and unwind after a hectic week.


Luxury for us is casual, relaxing, and comfortable. It’s not about limiting ourselves to the kitchen or stuffy dining room table. We open up the doors to our home and encourage our guests to act as if it’s their own.


You see? Our small apartments may have forced us to adapt to a different kind of entertaining, but it’s a kind that’s much more us anyway.


Oh, right, and once your guests leave, don’t forget to enjoy another one of those adult beverages and reflect on the evening.


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If you want to RSVP to our luxury dinner party, voting opens tomorrow. We really appreciate all your votes and support!

Thanks y’all! Hope to see you at another one of our dinner parties soon 🙂

[Sues and Chels]

80 Responses to "Project Food Blog #3: A Taste of the South in the North Luxury Dinner Party"

  1. Megan says:

    Looks like a fun dinner party! Those appetizers sound amazing. I love all the little touches — the menus, the mason jars, the bite-size desserts. And it looks like you had a great time putting the whole thing together. Good luck!

  2. I want to make EVERYTHING on your menu!! as a jersey girl now living in north carolina, your southern touches were perfection.

    good luck!!!

  3. Bridget says:

    This dinner party looks spectacular!! You guys thought of all the details which always makes a memorable experience, plus the food looks and sounds amazing! Good Luck!!

  4. Michelle says:

    This looks like a fun dinner party and I love the invitations that I assume Chels did? Gorgeous!

  5. A terrific menu and a fun party! Good luck tomorrow!

  6. Sharlene says:

    Wow! This whole event looks amazing! I especially love the menu/invitations and the appetizers that both included bacon. Congratulations on making it to round 3 and good luck!

  7. Love your idea of luxury – you certainly made the most of a small space. What an amazing menu – sounds like so much fun! Good luck!!!

  8. Shannon says:

    i’m totally there 😉 Totally need to remember the biscuit cutter idea for individual sized desserts–so easy! Love all the small touches 🙂

  9. Great party – and you guys definitely covered all the bases – prep, decoration, invites and DEFINITELY food!! Looks great. Martha would be proud indeed!!
    GOOD LUCK!!! I’m pulling for you!!

  10. Sharon says:

    Yet again, an incredible entry from WANM! You two managed to cover every detail..Your creative, artistic and imaginative spin on the Luxury Dinner Party is sure to win the hearts of all your readers. I am sure you will make it to round 4. You definitely have my vote…FANTASTIC work!!

  11. You did an amazing job! Great way to show that luxury can mean something different to every person. 🙂 You definitely will get my vote.

  12. Eva says:

    That is so incredibly lovely! Every little detail looks perfect, and judging from the appearance I’m sure the food tasted delicious too :o) Good luck!

  13. Karen says:

    Details! Details! And what a difference they all make!! Kudos for your take on “luxury.” I love the desserts cut from biscuit cutters. As a northern gal at heart, I can truly appreciate all the southern touches that I have come to know over the last several years~~and you’ve enhanced every one of them. Good luck and give yourselves a huge pat on the back.

  14. Kerstin says:

    The invitations, menu cards, and personal touches are so cute! Such a fun menu too – I’d especially love to try the biscuits 🙂

    p.s. Cute bangs Susie!

  15. great job ladies – you 2 defintiely should be the next food blogger stars – esp. with your adorable boots!

  16. sophia says:

    Y’all outdid yourself. Truly, outstanding! I love the personal touches on the menu cards. I am also TOTALLY loving your boots. So damn HOT.

    Got my vote for sure~

  17. Erica says:

    SUCH a cool theme for an event. The invites are adorable, love your clothes! My favorite parts of this meal have to be the biscuits and the desserts. Oh my goodness! I bet it was tough to pick a favorite dessert out of the trio (although key lime is always amazing in my book). Totally voting for you!

  18. Simply Life says:

    Oh what a fun time – I love the creativity in the meal and all the personal touches with decorations!

  19. Emily says:

    What a great concept. There’s no reason that luxury or dinner party has to equal over the top. I love the jazzed up comfort foods. And the color scheme and mason jars were a great touch!!

  20. Daisy says:

    your creativity never ceases to amaze. you guys hit this one outta the park.

  21. Lauren says:

    What a fantastic spread of Southern delicacies! Looks like you girls put on quite a spectacular dinner :).

  22. brandi says:

    okay. you two can come throw me a party ANY time! Especially with biscuits + fried chicken 🙂

  23. You girls did such an amazing job!!! It’s so fun to see everyone interpret the challenge in their own way. I’m voting for you tonight (hope you do the same for me 😉 ).

  24. Katie says:

    so happy to be a part of your luxury dinner party!! it was fabulous!!

  25. Chris says:

    You guys really rocked this. Such a unique take on the challenge and I feel that you knocked this one out of the park. The food and the decor both look fantastic. Great job girls!

  26. Melissa says:

    Looks absolutely amazing! Well done girls – as always, you have my vote! And Sues your hair looks great!

  27. Monique says:

    If i had made it to the next round I would have totally played up the comfort going on in this post! My GRAVY! you divas know how to party. i just voted.
    and great ideas ALL OVER THE PLACE!
    genuises you are! xoxox

  28. Becca says:

    That sounds so delicious! I particularly love the tip for the cheesecakes – they look so cute.

  29. Erin says:

    The dinner party was a blast! It was the perfect way to unwind after a long week at work and the food tasted even better than it looks! 🙂

  30. This was awesome! I love that you took a southern approach on it all. Using biscuit cutters to make the desserts look a bit more elegant is a great idea. Chels, love those black boots!

  31. Libs says:

    Love the post. It was a wonderful party – thanks for having me over (and editing out those pictures that I did not look so good in!)

  32. Kelly says:

    Gorgeous post. You girls always have my vote and I feel like you’ve definitely upped the ante in the food you have made so far in the contest!

  33. Des says:

    Yum Yum and Yum!! I would have considered delaying my trip had I known this was in the works!!!

    Loooks great:) G-merv would be so proud:)

  34. Julie Q says:

    This is totally a Julie Q/Martha Approved dinner party! What a fabulous spread you had.. and mason jars!! The perfect touch. loved how you turned the desserts into mini’s!

  35. Victoria says:

    Great job, ladies!! I know exactly how tough it can be to cook, let alone entertain, in a small apartment! You guys pulled it off and it looked like an awesome time 🙂 Good luck! I voted!!

  36. stephchows says:

    LOL i’m loving this!! fabulous jobs girls!

  37. Chefwife says:

    Definitely have my vote!

  38. meseidy says:

    You ladies are fabulous! You got my vote for sure. Hope to see you in the next round. 😀

  39. emily says:

    what a cute dinner party! love your adorable signs and glass two are so cute. i’m definitely voting for you!

  40. Looks like so much fun! I love your cute little invites and your fun menu…you guys are so cute!! Best of luck to you in the foodbuzz contest!

  41. Colleen says:

    AMAZING. I want to eat allllllll the food!

  42. A. Judy says:

    You two continue to out-do each previous challenge………I loved your follow-through from invites to dessert in keeping with the theme …..AND you enjoyed yourselves at your own party ………..only pros can pull that off.
    Add my vote……’re the BEST!

  43. loved all the details (the named mason jars, the biscuit jar, the hanging menus). Voted!

    (see my entry here:

  44. Nancy says:

    You two put a lot of work and imagination into your dinner party! It sounded like so much fun, I wish I could have been there! You got my vote again – keep up the good work! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

  45. WOW! Beautiful work!!! You got my vote!

  46. You two crack me up!! Great post… you got my vote!! GOOD LUCK!!

  47. Lovely!! As a Southerner, I can attest that you got it right. Particularly, ahem, the bacon onion jam. I’ll take a mason jar o’ that, please 🙂 You have a vote from me!

  48. riceandwheat says:

    I live in the city too, so I know how hard it is to entertain with a tiny kitchen and no real dining room/table! You guys did a fabulous job and I love love love the idea of using then giving away mason jars for beverages – I hope you won’t mind if I steal that idea some time. Good luck in PFB!

  49. Lora says:

    Incredible menu. Well thought out and beautifully executed with mouthwatering flavors. Great job ladies.

    p.s. lovin’ the pink boots.

  50. Jun Belen says:

    You ladies are fabulous! So very impressed with all the details… luxury Southern dinner party indeed! I’m a new reader, thanks to PFB I discovered your blog. Well done!


  51. peachkins says:

    I wish I was invited to this dinner. Everything looks so elegant and delicious!!

  52. You two are so adorable! Great dinner party. You’ve definitely got my vote!

  53. Katie says:

    Voted! I love the menu, and I totally have the wire and clip board you posted the menu on; looks like the pictures I have on it now are coming down next dinner party I have!

  54. Susan says:

    Aw man, this is one dinner party I wish I was invited to!!! Candied bacon is uh-mazing, and of course, I’d be all over the “adult beverages” 😉

  55. looks like fun! i love your menu & style. i voted for you girls!!

  56. Ed says:

    Great job again and Thank you, Sues 🙂

  57. You gals are quite the hostesses! Impressive spread… you’ll get my vote!

  58. Daily Spud says:

    Having just recently moved to a smaller house, I *do* have a box of dishes in my bedroom closet, lol! You party looks like a whole lot of fun – I especially love the little menu cards. Am RSVPing now 🙂

  59. This party looks like it was so much fun! My vote’s in. Good luck!

  60. AJ says:

    Love the concept of your dinner and the names of each course! Looks like everyone had so much fun!! Voting for you right now!! 🙂

  61. You already KNOW that we love our Southern food. Oh girls, you really must come to LA. We could cook it up!

  62. Looks like you all had fun. I love the after shots! I’m sending a little red heart your way. Good luck!

  63. Jessica says:

    Wow! Looks beautiful ladies! You make some stiff competition for the rest of us! 🙂

  64. great menu, ladies! looks like everyone had a great time and it’s definitely a menu i’d rsvp to (ummm…hello ancho-honey drizzle!!) you’ve got my vote!

  65. I seriously feel like you are my long lost sisters! Where have you been all my life! I love it and love you, and to find someone else that just loves the shit out of Martha Stewart is what i like to call A BONUS!!!

    keep it up girls, CANT WAIT to read more!!

  66. Heather says:

    Holy crap!!! What a totally awesome menu. I would definitely RSVP for this party.

  67. Natalie says:

    love, love, love this menu. voted for you! hope we both move forward. 🙂

  68. Niki says:

    love it – as a true southerner, you’ve captured so many of my favorite things about the south (even if you did put raisins and garlic in your collards:-)). looks delish – voting now!

  69. You had me at Sweet Potato Cheesecake. <3 Everything looks AMAZING.

  70. Lisa~KAM says:

    Great planning and looks like you all had a blast! Love the dishes and most of all the cheesecakes! My Fave! Great job ladies!

  71. ediblecville says:

    OMG, this southern girl LOVED your menu. Sweet potato cheesecake? *running to get her pan* Lovely party ladies. Let me know when you have it again and I’ll be RIGHT over!

  72. What a great night! I loved to read about the Southern US dishes, a ‘foreign’ cuisine to me 😉
    Voted for you both!

  73. Danielle says:

    Looks like a great menu and the decor so fun! Good luck in round 3!

  74. katja says:

    I voted for you- Good Luck! Can you vote for me in a different contest? It ends on the 10th.

    Thank you!

    licorice, chocolate and other foods to love

  75. Monet says:

    What a fun dinner party! I loved seeing all the pictures of your guests and your food. It sounds like the evening was a smashing success! Thanks for sharing!

  76. Your presentation was great even though you didn’t set a “proper” table, so I voted for you. Your menu reminded me of a favorite restaurant in Atlanta: Holman & Finch. Heard of it? I visited there and wrote a post about it last winter.

  77. Liren says:

    I absolutely LOVE the way you plan a party! Beautiful and whimsical, unpretentious yet very elegant! You absolutely have my vote 🙂

  78. You represented the South very well…loving all the dishes!!

  79. Leah says:

    This dinner party post had me drooling! I’m a southern girl and I love your twists on some of my favorites. Look like you all had a blast! And congrats, I see you made it to the next round!!!

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