Julie Anne Rhodes and Amanda Eliasch

I’m missing a glorious birthday bash for Her Royal Hotness, Amanda Eliasch, in London by just a couple days… so frustrating, but the airlines are not terribly flexible these days with the volcanic Gods reeking havoc. So I planned a surprise birthday lunch for Amanda before she left LA instead. It was not without drama when the guest of honor (not knowing the party was for her), booked a flight back to London early, then thankfully stayed.

Her Royal Hotness at work

Amanda and I first met a little over year ago. I tagged along with friends to a party at her exquisite, Hal Levitt designed house, for the launch of her book Cloak, Dagger and Butterfly. I was too transfixed on watching the amazing Dita Von Teese perform in a huge martini glass to make conversation, so Amanda and I really met through our blogs, became friends on facebook, and eventually “ladies that lunch” with fellow blogger A Bloomsbury LifesLisa Borgnes Giramonti, and film producer Julia Verdin.


Amanda Eliasch, Lisa Borgnes, Jewels, and Julia Verdin

Amanda is a renaissance woman who writes her own blog,RATS’ TALES BY AMANDA ELIASCH, one forThe Collective Review, and indeed entire books of poetry from her Blackberry. She’s been known to play fashion editor at large for Genlux magazine, is an accomplished photographer, currently busy immortalizing her clever poetry in neon for an art exhibition, and writing a play for her friend Katy. Is there is nothing this woman is not capable of? She does all this while splitting time between her homes in Paris, London, and LA. I should be insanely jealous, but she is far too amusing not to adore her.

I once suggested she would make the perfect partner for my ex (she already knows Nick socially). She is tall, drop dead gorgeous, always dressed to the nines, age appropriate, and they have so many interests in common. Alas, she was worried they might fight over the bathroom mirror and face powder.

Goats Cheese & Herb Dip, Crudite, Cloak, Dagger, & Butterfly

While I’m sure the London gala will have a menu much more OTT, here is what I served last week to give you some ideas for your own “ladies that lunch” birthday luncheon. I tried to keep it low in calories, yet high in flavor. I also chose a menu I could do in advance so that, I too, could enjoy the party. Some of the recipes can be found on my website The Roving Stove.

Birthday Lunch Menu

Goats Cheese & Herb Dip with Crispy Shallots with Crudite (above)

Chilled Gazpacho

Arugala Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomato & Shaved Parmesan
Chicken Pesto Salad
Santa Maria Tri-Tip
Grilled Mixed Vegetables
Warm Artisan Cheese Rolls
Chilled Poached Salmon with Tzaziki Sauce
Honey-Lime Infused Fruit Salad

Edible Flowers atop Lemon-Lavender Angel Food Cupcakes
Mini Rose Scented Pink Grapefruit Angel Food Cupcakes

COMPETITION: Amanda is generously sharing a birthday gift with you! Click on “comments” below to share your ladies that lunch menu ideas…

Happy birthday Amanda!!! Miss you.

The competition closes May 30th. Our top four favorite menus will be posted in a pole on the blog, and YOU will choose the lucky winner of Amanda’s beautiful book of poetry , Cloak & Dagger Butterfly (pictured on the coffee table with the dip and crudite above)!
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  • May 13, 2010
    4:29 pm

    Firstly, WOW those cupcakes look just awesome!Are they real Panseys?Menu:Starter – Peat Smoked Salmon with Irish Brown Soda Bread and Lemon WedgesMains -Platter of Buffalo Mozarella, Selection of Salami, Mortadella and Prosciutto, Green Beans, Sundried Tomatoes, Sweet and Sour Egg Plant and Mixed Leaves with FocacciaDessert: Rice Pudding with Citrus Syrup and Lemon & Bergamot Ice CreamTrust me the platter would be big 🙂

  • May 13, 2010
    5:28 pm

    Wow! those cupcakes look SO pretty! what a gorgeous alternative to a birthday cake!

  • May 14, 2010
    12:25 am

    I have never been a luncheon type person (except when I did catering like 18 yrs ago for awhile). All I can think of is cold soups and water cress sandwhiches (yum) but that's kinda for older people you think? Don't know where to begin with this…..:)Carly Guerrero

  • May 14, 2010
    3:06 am

    A lot will have to do with how many people you are feeding (the higher the number, I like to keep the portions small, but do more recipes for variety). Start with thinking about who your guests might be, and how they like to eat… are they vegetarian, any special diets or figure watchers? Will you do buffet or seated dining? Then plan a nibbly something (some guests will arrive earlier than others), a first course, main course, and dessert with all the rest in mind.

  • May 14, 2010
    3:06 am

    JT that menu is divine! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, can I be on the guest list please?

  • May 14, 2010
    3:07 am

    Perfect, going the route of smaller portions but more variety. Glad to know you verified my gut feeling. I know sometimes I can't eat meat and other times I love itCarly Guerrero

  • May 14, 2010
    4:00 am

    Hi Jewels,My dish that seems to be a favorite for Hen party luncheons has always been:Coronation Chicken with diplomat's RicePavlova with berries and creamServed with Pims

  • May 14, 2010
    7:12 am

    My menu is a fairly easy one with pretty much everything prepared ahead of time and some items the day before. I like the idea of a buffet where people mingle, chat, nibble, fill a plate and possibly refill a plate. A lovely table set up with a light yellow tablecloth and darker yellow linen napkins with a piece of raffia tied around them and a small flower.As guests arrive, they would be served their choice of flavoured water or an English Garden Sipper- half iced tea, half raspberry juice, ice, topped with a sprig of mint.They would wander into the livingroom to find a small buffet of nibbles on the side table which would have an assortment of flat breads, various crackers, vegetable crudite, along with baba ganouche and hummus.Once everyone had arrived, the diningroom table would have two turreens containing cold soups, one a chilled cucumber/yogurt with sprigs of dill and the second a cantaloupe soup of pureed cantaloupe, orange juice, lime, cinnamon and topped with sprigs of mint. Along with this,various crackers and multi grain buns.The main buffet would consist of platters of red tomatoes stuffed with a seafood salad and another platter of orange/yellow peppers stuffed with a chicken salad. There would be a large platter holding devilled eggs/black/green olives/marinated red peppers/artichoke hearts/marinated mushrooms/gherkins/a small bowl of tapenade with some special flatbread and some sliced fruit such as strawberries/cantaloupe/ pineapple. I would also make a small bowl of potatoe salad, but mine is served warm with the potatoes chopped up with celery/onion/ slivers of carrots and tossed with a good Italian dressing. This dish can be made just before the guests arrive and place foil over the top of the bowl to keep the contents a bit warm. This allows the dressing to soak into the potatoes and tastes wonderful.I would also have a nice green salad with a good assortment of the nicest greens available. Beside the salad would be small bowls of dressing such as a low cal ranch and a balsamic viniagrette. Of course, there has to be a cheese platter! A lovely plate with wedges of brie/old cheddar/havarti/fruilano and feta surrounded by an assortment of nutmeats – hazelnuts/walnuts/almonds.This luncheon is for ladies who want to get together and spend the afternoon chatting, nibbling and enjoying each other's company.Once it appears everyone has finished eating, clear the clutter and fix up the buffet table with a basket of assorted individual packets of herbal and regular teas. Pretty cups are essential as is a small container of honey, sugar cubes and a small pitcher of milk. Have a pot of coffee on for the diehard caffeine ladies! Along with this platters of lemon cupcakes topped with a raspberry glaze and topped with a raspberry, chocolate cupcakes drizzled with a thin hazelnut/chocolate frosting with candied violets on top. It would be nice to have a platter or two of good chocolates and truffles to finalize a fun buffet. I would love to see this served outside if the weather cooperated, but in a large enough livingroom or sun porch would work as well. Have lots of flowers around if at all possible. If you think ahead, you could plant small pots of pansies to bring indoors to decorate the occasion. But, nothing too highly scented that will compete with the food.This would serve a large crowd, but the more the merrier. It's so rare these days to get a group of friends together. Don't wait for a birthday or special occasion, every day is special and you need to take advantage of every moment and make them count.Hope this appeals to you and Amanda! It would be my dream buffet as I live in a small apartment, but that being said, when I have people over, there usually isn't much left as the "boys" like to take home any of the sweets left over. LOL Gotta love those boys, they make life interesting and there's no fighting over the face powder only over the brownies and cinnamon buns. That works for me!

  • May 14, 2010
    4:46 pm

    Can't wait to see what you come up with Carly… I love it when I reawaken the sleeping chef within!Hilary… I keep forgetting about Coronation chicken (and I LOVE it), the pavlova sounds scrumptious, and Pimms is a master stroke. Now when and where do you want me?Wow! Ruthee.. you don't mess around! Sounds like you are feeding the happiest army of women on the planet! Hope you have staff hired to do all the clear away and resetting of buffets so you have time to enjoy this party yourself.

  • May 14, 2010
    10:36 pm
  • May 14, 2010
    10:37 pm

    What is the trick to the cute candy tops? A little off the subject, but lavender candies are so yummy. Also, what is your take on mushroom sauce? I love it with all meats and veggies. Any recipe suggestions?Carly Guerrero

  • May 14, 2010
    10:41 pm

    Carly, they are edible flowers on the cupcakes. I just buy them in my grocery store like that, but you can get candied ones from some restaurant supply places. I don't really make mushroom sauce… I just saute mushrooms in a little olive oil, fresh garlic, a splash of Worcester sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste… much healthier than a cream sauce, and just as tasty.

  • May 14, 2010
    10:42 pm

    Love them,have to try cause kids always ask me to make them :)MariFer Cruz Ortega

  • May 15, 2010
    12:42 pm
  • May 16, 2010
    9:02 am

    Hi Julie Anne,I gave this one a bit of thought and have come up with the following list I would serve my lady friends. I did make some of these back in December for a small group of 7, which went down pretty well. Here is my list of culinary delights:-Smoked Salmon Pate/Eggplant & Red Pepper dip both served with a selection of vegetable crudites and Crispy Bagel Chips-Stuffed figs: one lot with cream cheese & cinnamon (trust me), the other stuffed with dates & prosciutto (parma ham)-pear & blue cheese fritters-fresh tuna, mint & cucumber rice paper rolls-nori with five spice chicken served with ginger mayonnaise-mini three bean burgers with green mayo & grilled red/yellow peppers- marinated lamb kebabs-nut crusted fish bites-Vegetable Couscous-Greek Salad-Salmon & Avacado Saladand to finish the whole thing off……..-little almond cakes with rosewater icing -My special Fruit Platter decorated with Fresh Flowers mmmmmm….makes me hungry already!Aussie Mum

  • May 17, 2010
    8:21 pm

    Summer is nearly here, so I'm thinking of a sunny backyard affair. When I'm entertaining I enjoy things that can be mostly prepared in advance. Every one of my friends know that once I begin sipping on champagne, my motivation begins to slip. 🙂 Here's my menu…Starters – Dates stuffed with goat cheese, rolled in bacon and grilled until crisp, drizzled with honey as well as warm atichoke dip served with apple slices.Main – Grilled chicken, veggie & pineapple kabobs. I love these because not only are they assembled in advance, you can easily make several without meat for vegetarians. I like to serve a side of pene pasta with pesto. Dessert – Chocolate dipped strawberries.

  • May 18, 2010
    2:53 am

    I'm sorry… I thought I could fit my comment in during my lunch break at work, but an urgent call came in and I had to log off too soon. The post above is mine. Dessert should include coconut cupcakes along w/ the chocolate dipped strawberries. Kim Cuccia

  • May 18, 2010
    2:57 am

    Oh Kim… I'm so glad you came back and posted this… I was so worried I wouldn't know who designed such a mouth-watering menu! I love the coconut cupcakes with the chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert… my father's family are all complete chocoholics, but I like something different along with it for contrast.

  • May 25, 2010
    3:19 am

    Mesclun Salad with Berries, Candied Pecans and Heirloom Balsamic VinaigrettePoached Salmon with Dill Beurre Blanc Sauce, Steamed New Potatoes and French Green Beans with Caramelized ShallotsChocolate Souffles with Creme FraicheThe souffles are sinful and quite delish! They are very easy to make and always get complements!

  • May 27, 2010
    6:06 pm

    My luncheon menu consists of earthy and nutty–yet fresh–flavors, which are appropriate year-round. Though these dishes are somewhat light, consuming the multi-course menu will prove to be satisfying. A variety of cheese and some nuts provide sustaining protein in this (accidentally) vegetarian menu.I prefer serving simple dishes with limited ingredients so that the flavors are not too complex nor overpowering (plus, that means less time in the kitchen!). And I definitely want to limit foods that don't mix well with ladies trying to hold conversations: strong garlic, long noodles, and spinach that can get stuck in our pearly whites!Amuse bouche: Fontina melted on mini-toasts and drizzled with honeyStarter: Rocket (arugula) salad with beets and goat cheese, tossed with lemon-olive oil dressingMain: Wild mushroom ravioli with browned butter, fresh sage, and grated Parmigiano-ReggianoDessert: Fuji apple slices served with individual ramekins of pumpkin dip (beat together 6oz reduced-fat cream cheese, 1/2C packed brown sugar, 1/2C canned pumpkin, 2tsp maple syrup, 1/2tsp ground cinnamon)Beverage: Almond champagne (include a splash of chocolate port during the dessert course to make an "Almond Joy" cocktail!)

  • May 27, 2010
    6:46 pm

    What a perfectly exquisite menu Suzanne. It also happens to be our only vegetarian one, and is something I know I would love to eat even if I still am an omnivore, so it straddles that gap well. Good luck to everyone!

  • May 27, 2010
    7:48 pm

    I was thinking about this last night and realized that even though this is a menu that I'm writing, I won't actually have to make it, serve it or clean up after it! What a relief! That started to free up my imagination. :)A Feast with Queen Scherazade (All the literary romance without any of the literal feminine oppression!)STARTERSGrape Leaves Stuffed with Basmati Rice, Currants and Pine NutsSmoky Roasted Eggplant Dip with Ground SesameCrisp Pita Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Parsley and LemonMAINSSummer Vegetable TagineCouscous with Almonds, Dried Apricots and SultanasButterflied Quail Grilled with Pomegranate MolassesSpiced Chicken Pie in PhylloWarm Naan And ParathasDESSERTSTangy Greek Yogurt with Wild Honey and BerriesTurkish DelightPistachio BaklavaRice Pudding Scented with Cardamom and RosewaterDRINKS (non-alcoholic since the Queen is Muslim)ChaiSweet Turkish CoffeeMoroccan Mint TeaThank you for your consideration. I had a good time staging my party in my imagination, complete with soft pillows, tables low to the floor, rose petals everywhere and everyone eating with their fingers from gold plates.

  • May 27, 2010
    7:57 pm

    Wow! Now that IS exotic, and a taste of the trip I just missed to boot. Love it! The competition is heating up, and becoming very difficult to narrow down to four!

  • May 28, 2010
    2:25 am

    Hello – I am new but intrigued by your blog, and I can't wait to try some recipes. I like simple and clean, a luncheon for 12, so there is time to visit with everyone. This one is for summer, on the patio:Finger foods: Grilled Polenta/bacon coins topped with whipped goat cheese and herb mixture and Tartlets filled with artichoke dip (yes, the usual cream cheese, etc kind) These are baked until bubbly-brown DRINK: Champagne 'Italian Soda' – champagne with a little raspberry syrupPlate 1: Shrimp, whitefish and scallop ceviche (Lime, lemon, onion, diced tomato, parsely, cilantro) served with oven-crisped corn tortillas DRINK: Bloody MaryPlate 2: Lightly poached salmon topped with parsley-cilantro chimichurri sauce (salmon is room temp) DRINK: White Sangria (not too sweet)Plate 3: Mini BBQ plate – short rib, cabbage slaw, roasted gold potato tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette and a slice of crunchy, garlicky toastDRINK: Really cold Apricot Beer!Dessert: Individual Lemon Tart topped with naked Fresh berriesDRINK: Iced Coffee, with hazelnut liquorThanks all the great blogs and recipes

  • May 30, 2010
    6:57 am

    Hi Patty… welcome to the blog, and thank you for jumping right in with a great menu. I want that Mini BBQ plate right now!

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