Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wine & Dine: Brazilian Carnival!

This month for our Wine & Dine Dinner, we are celebrating Carnival with Brazilian fare! Here's some info on Brazilian Carnival...

The Brazilian Carnival, or Carnaval is an annual festival in Brazil held four days before Ash Wednesday (which is this coming Wednesday, February 25, 2009), the day of fasting and repentance that marks the beginning of Lent. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians abstain from the consumption of meat and poultry -- hence the term "carnival," from carnelevare, "to remove (literally, "raise") meat." Carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which, adapted to Christianity, became a farewell to certain pleasures in a season that honors Christ's death. -- Wikipedia

It was a delicious dinner where we feasted on Brazilian inspired dishes. For our dinner, we enjoyed the following dishes (with clickable recipes)...


Preparing a day before:


  • For our Wine & Dine dinner, I opted for a a colorful table runner to add some color to the table and red chargers for my dinner plates to rest on.

  • I normally don't use any centerpieces because the focus on my tables are usually the food and wines. But if you wanted to have a centerpiece, I would suggest something simple and low so that you and your guests are able to see each other across the table. Nothing is more annoying at a table than a centerpiece you have to dodge around to see and speak comfortably with guests!

  • To save time, I set the table the night before with all the serving ware & utensils, dinnerware, appropriate flatware, glassware, chargers/placemats and linens. I also take some time to fold napkins to add some flair to the table.

  • Since this dinner is a potluck, I have various serving ware (bowls & platters) and serving utensils ready for friends to transfer their potluck dishes into. This allows a more streamlined presentation at the table and ensures all dishes can be passed easily. When having a family style meal, it's important to note that your serving pieces should not be too heavy and are easy to pass. Avoid large, heavy serving pieces or ones that are an awkward shape for your guests to handle at the table.

  • I also have a water carafes set on the table which prevents having folks to get up for drinks.

  • I set our buffet table as our Caipirinha bar, where I placed glasses, a bucket of crushed ice, serving dish of various fruits for everyone to make their own caipirinha, a bowl of sugar and muddlers. I also placed my punch bowl of sangria on the buffet for guests to help themselves.
  • In the living room, I have a woven baket with teacups, saucers, teaspoons, and coffee & tea accompaniments, along with carafes. About an hour before my guests arrive, I'll brew some tea and coffee which I'll place in these carafes which will keep hot until we're ready to enjoy it after dinner.

Preparing the day of:
  • In the living room, we have a few bookcase shelves filled and ready with various boardgames which we can play after dinner.

  • I clean up the living areas in which we will be in during the dinner - living room, second bedroom, bathroom, dining room & table and kitchen.

Preparing 1 hour before guests arrive:
  • Regardless of whenever my event is scheduled, I finish preparing the dishes I'm serving about 1 hour before my guests arrive. To keep them warm until then, I set my oven to 200-250 and store my prepared dishes there, with the serving pieces/utensils I plan to use nearby. I don't like fussing over things I need to do when guests are over so I make sure I set my deadline to 1 hour before they come... that way when they are here, I can give them 100% of my attention.

  • When folks are bringing dishes to a potluck, it can be a little challenging as the hostess, especially if I'm not ready for them. One big distraction is a cluttered and messy kitchen. An hour before guests arrive, aside from having my prepared dishes ready, I also clean my kitchen and workspace:
    -- No dirty dishes, pots, and pans are allowed in my sink when they arrive - friends can wash up and do some last minute prep without having obstacles in the way in the sink. I also make sure soap and paper towels are refilled if needed.
    -- My stove, oven and microwave are clear of any pots, pans, bakingware and are wiped down clean - friends can use my stove and ovens to warm up or finish cooking their dishes.
    -- The garbage has been taken out and a fresh empty garbage can is nearby - so folks can discard foil, plastic wrap, packaging, etc without asking where the garbage can is and from having the garbage can getting too full.
    -- Counterspace is all wiped down and is ready for friends to use.

Preparing 15 minutes before guests arrive:
  • About 15 minutes before my guests arrive, I filled my water carafes with ice and water, opened up my wine so they could breathe a bit and lit my tealights to set the mood. I also put on some Brazilian music to add to the mood.

  • I brew the coffee and tea then place in carafes to stay warm out on in the living room.
  • I also check the bathroom to ensure there is enough toilet paper available, the hand soap is refilled and clean hand towels are ready.

  • Lastly, I do one more walk through of the places where my guests will be going through to check for cleanliness - living room, second bedroom, bathroom, dining room & table and kitchen.

Event start time/as guests arrive:
  • As guests arrive and settle in, I have them place their coats, jackets and belongings.

  • I also have drinks and appetizers ready for folks to nosh on while we await for all my guests to arrive.

  • I then welcome them into the kitchen to plate the dish they've brought to the potluck. If they need to do any last minute prep, my kitchen is available for their disposal. If they need to transfer their dish to something smaller or more appropriate, my serving ware and serving dishes are ready for their use.

  • If folks need to use the oven, I remove any dishes being warmed, plate and set on the table.

  • Once their dishes are plated, I take them to get photographed (for blog and our group website purposes) before we place them on the table.

  • For my dinner parties, I generally allow a 30 minute cushion to allow for traffic, parking, and public transportation timing. I tend to start our meal 30 minutes after the set time I indicate in my invitations. This is communicated to my guests and I also welcome them to arrive early if needed.

About 30 minutes after our event time/as guests arrive:
  • We all gather at the table and do a round of introductions along with a little explanation or information of what we brought to share at the table.

  • Then we dig in! It's such a great time to be able to enjoy various dishes and learn about the recipes and each other.

  • We enjoyed dessert, coffee, tea & more wine, which was easy to do seamlessly since everything was ready the in the living room.
After dinner:
  • We moved into the living room and settle in with our food coma to play boardgames and relax.

  • We was definitely a fun time enjoying a fabulous meal, learned more about Brazilian cuisine, celebrate Carnivale and had a great evening with friends!