My friend Liz and I love to treat each other to simple gourmet dinners at each other’s apartments, each relishing our selections of fresh ingredients and inventiveness—and the joy we have in making them. My latest included some savvy shortcuts to a three-course dinner.


In honor of her birthday, I came up with a simple three course meal, half of which was nearly instant. For the first course I relied on a pre-made, yet sensational offering from Babeth’s Feast. They have a selection of 34 frozen hors d’oeuvres that all responsible hosts should have stashed in their freezer to pull off impromptu hosting with panache. The Petite Fig and Caramelized Onion Puffs were so rich and flavorful, and tasted so fresh after just 15 minutes in the oven, you would never think it came right out of the freezer. Plus they have the cuteness factor of being adorably mini bites.

HOBNOBMAG Shortcuts to a Three Course Dinner

For the second course, I put out some smoked trout along with some healthy chips with the longest name ever: Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips. These chips steer to the healthier end of the snack spectrum, and have a great flavor and crunch, and work nicely with the fish.


For the main dinner, I marinated some shrimp in a mix of turmeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin and grilled them. The most work went into Shirlei’s Potato Salad, which I made the day before so the flavors ripened. I love this recipe and find myself totally addicted to it. The recipe involves a lot of chopping, but it is totally worth the effort, resulting in a delightful combination of sweet, savory, soft and crunchy bits. Big thanks to my Brazilian friend Shirlei who came up with this sensational combo,.

HOBNOBMAG Shortcuts to a Three Course Dinner


The wines! Tom Gore, a second-generation Sonoma County farmer, grew up among the vines alongside his dad. His family is known for helping to develop the vineyards of Northern California into a world-class winemaking region.

We started with Tom Gore Chardonnay, which did not disappoint, even though I am not such a chardonnay lover. Tasting notes: Intense aromas of ripe apple and pear, complemented by notes of brown spice and toasted oak…ripe fruit flavors with a smooth, creamy texture and a long, full finish.

On to the Cabernet Sauvignon. Liz is more of a red wine drinker, so we opened up this baby. It was a typical, wonderful cab, with lots of complex notions. Tasting notes: Dark red in color with aromas of cherry and currant and notes of leather and tobacco leaf, along with hints of dark chocolate and mocha from oak aging…fruit forward on the entry with a rich, round mouthfeel and fine, supple tannins leading to a long finish.

The grapes for both wines were selected from the Central Coast and North Coast vineyards where cool nights and warm afternoon breezes ripen the fruit slowly for intense, delicious flavor.

HOBNOBMAG Shortcuts to a Three Course Dinner

LIZ’s Birthday Dinner Menu:
Tom Gore Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines
Babeth’s Feast Petite Fig and Caramelized Onion Puffs
Smoked Trout Salad with Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips
Grilled Shrimp
Shirlei’s Potato Salad

Babeth’s Feast, 1422 Third Ave (btw 80/81); 309 Amsterdam Ave (btw 74/75); $15.99 for 12 pieces. You can order online or head to one of their stores.

Tom Gore wines

Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips; Blended with sprouted quinoa and chia for an omega boost of awesomeness, these chips will have you snacking way better in no time. Ingredients: Stone Ground Non-GMO Whole Corn, Sunflower Oil, Sweet Potato, Sprouted Quinoa, Sprouted Chia Seed, Pure Sea Salt.

HOBNOBMAG Shortcuts to a Three Course Dinner