Diary of a Hostess

November 06, 2014

My friend Casey, an author and former food writer and restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, hosted a luncheon last week in honor of a friend's birthday.  I was able to capture a few pictures and coerce her into sharing her day with you.

A surprise birthday luncheon for my friend Rana provided a rather startling surprise for me in the kitchen--a small green bowl of raw egg yolks. But that's the end of the story. Let me start at the beginning.

Like Kristen, I love planning the table setting for a party. Because Rana recently has taken up horseback riding, I decided on an outdoorsy, equestrienne theme. Grass green chargers, my white Gien plates, French fruit jar water glasses, Ralph Lauren flatware and Riedel Chardonnay glasses were the starting points. I found beautifully crafted nickel napkin rings in the shape of riding bits  on-line at Horse Country and had over-sized green and white pillow ticking napkins made by Un Original Americain at Etsy. (I dislike standard US  napkins which usually measure 16 or 17-inches  square; a 22 to 23-inch square feels much more luxurious.) For the centerpiece I found an antique wooden brick-form which I filled with succulents, a small flowering plant and air plants. A small bronze sculpture of a horse completed the setting.

Rana's best friend, Sue, brought two pies for dessert, as Rana is not a cake-lover. Having one course completely taken care of was a huge help, so I had time to fuss a bit with an appetizer: bacon-wrapped dates from the wonderful AOC Restaurant in Los Angeles. I did not stuff them with cheese since I was serving a cheese soufflé as the main course, but doing so would make them even more delicious. They were surprisingly quick to assemble, even though they sound fussy. Just be sure to use the type of dates called for. The more common Medjool dates are too sweet for this recipe.  I also set out a bowl of my favorite Castelvetrano green olives.

Before everyone sat down, I filled half of each plate with a green salad accented with spiced grapes, walnuts and wedges of persimmon from my backyard tree.  After everyone was seated I passed a big copper pan of a soufflé pudding I've made at least 50 times over the past years. It's very easy, very light and very tasty.  When I finally tasted my portion it seemed a bit different, but I couldn't pinpoint why.  It was even lighter than usual, but plates were cleaned and I considered it a success.

Pies were served, songs were sung, Puligny Montrachet was quaffed and I felt good about the party. And then I went into the kitchen and noticed the bowl of egg yolks--the egg yolks that were supposed to have gone into the soufflé.  I laughed and fed them to my border collie.

The soufflé recipe really is a treasure -- good enough that it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Just be sure to include all the ingredients.


Castelvetrano Green Olives
Salad with Spiced Grapes, Walnuts and Persimmon
Speedy Cheese Souffle 
Key Lime Pie
Boysenberry Pie

Casey gets fresh eggs from the chickens that reside in her "palais de poulet".

I thought you'd enjoy poking around her pretty home, built 100 years ago as a summer home for a a wealthy San Francisco divorcee and her son.  Many of the older homes in our town were built as summer country homes.  Los Altos enjoys mild sunny days from spring through fall and was a welcome change from the often foggy chilly San Francisco weather, less than an hour to the north.  These days Los Altos can hardly be considered a country town as we are in the heart of Silicon Valley but our weather is still gorgeous.


A small reading room off the entry way opens to a beautiful wisteria covered patio.

Sideboard vignette in the dining room mirrors the oil painting.

Billowy silk curtains in the living room.

The sunny family room.

Through the dining room window you can see the pool house.

Late October and Casey was still able to pick these spring-like First Prize roses.

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  1. wow, what a stunning home, and beautiful photos!

    1. Thank you Julie. The entire house from top to bottom is gorgeous!

  2. You and your friends do know how to live the good life! Her table and home are very pretty. Thank you for the recipes, going now to check them out! Libby, a regular reader

  3. A beautiful blog. Casey's taste and talents are something to be admired. I'm going to try the soufflé with the whole eggs.


  4. What a beautiful luncheon- everything looked perfect! So honored for our napkins to have been a part of it! Many thanks!!

  5. Nicole: I'm crazy about your napkins--planning to order some from other fabrics soon.

  6. Oh, my gosh...what a gorgeous home!!! I love the entryway and that reading room! Every room is so beautifully appointed. Casey has excellent taste that shows through and through! I love it that she took the time to consider the interests of the guest of honor to create the centerpiece. It turned out great! I love it that she kept the table bare, too. It's such a rich look. LOVE the napkin rings!!!

    SO funny about the souffle!!!!!! The guests had no idea, and the dog got a treat...win/win!

  7. What a treat to see these pictures of Casey's home! What a gorgeous table, too! And I loved the joke at the end about the soufflée. I served a lemon meringue pie once to rave reviews but I realized the moment I bit into my piece that I'd forgotten to bake the lower crust before I added the lemon filling! These little mishaps just go with the territory of hosting dinners, don't they?


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