We have many amazing hostesses in our family who can simultaneously cook, entertain and look fabulous for dinner parties, cocktail parties, and kids’ birthday parties. I still have yet to break out the formal china for our first official dinner party, though I always feel inspired to throw one when reading Southern Living. For some reason, I am thrilled to make countless appetizers (usually with lots of cheese) for cocktail gatherings, but am intimidated by the prospect of coordinating a menu with multiple courses.
On a recent ten-day trip to our family beach house, my mother and aunt Anne decided to host an impromptu dinner party honoring one of summer’s most delicious fruits: the tomato. While our cousin (and beach neighbor) and family were away on vacation, he invited us to pick from their impressive crop of tomatoes including heirloom and orange varieties. Growing up, we learned that tomatoes belong not only in salads and recipes, but are even more delectable enjoyed sliced or munched like an apple with just a sprinkle of salt.
All of the guests arrived at the dinner party with their own unique “tomato inspired” dish. The simple theme yielded some very impressive culinary creations from my uncle Steve’s round cut tomato sandwiches with bacon, to cousin Eric’s shrimp cocktail with sauce presented in a seashell. Our cousin Mary cooked up two different tomato pies to contrast a traditional recipe with a healthier, lighter version of the dish. For the entrée, my mother and Anne made a delicious greek-style pasta dish with fresh shrimp, chopped tomatoes and feta cheese. My contribution was the only one without tomatoes – a key lime pie with garnished with raspberries & blueberries.
We dined on the fantastic spread of tomato dishes with a beautiful view of the Intracoastal Waterway from my aunt and uncle’s house. Just like the best Southern parties, the most important ingredients were a beautiful setting and a table filled with family and friends.
Below are a few pics of the menu spread from our coastal Tomato Fest: