“A tavola non s’invecchia!" “No one grows old at the dinner table!”

This delightful Italian proverb says it all: when friends gather around your dinner table for good food, conversation and laughter, time stands still.

Please note, YOUR dinner table. Don’t get me wrong, no one loves a great restaurant meal more than I do. But there is something transformative about having people into your home to break bread together.

Sadly, dinner parties seem to have gone out of style. Yes, we are all busy. And perhaps the proliferation of TV cooking shows has made every viewer an “expert” on food. And that makes lots of people nervous about having friends over.” What if my cacciatore isn’t as good as Giada’s?”

Here’s an idea. Invite the gang over. I promise they will be thrilled to join you. And they will love everything you put on the table.

I’m planning to have some friends over for dinner this weekend, because, well, it’s spring!  That long icy winter?  Gone. Rejoice!

My plan is to put together a dinner celebrating spring in Door County.  Must be delicious and minimal fuss. (Truth be told, I always fuss over parties, but you don’t have to.)

Let’s see…spring in Door County? Ramps! These wild onions grow all over the County in late April-early May. Pretty much the first green thing to pop up. They have an addictive garlicky-oniony-spicy flavor that packs a punch.

You will have to do a little hunting to find them in the woods.

Look for pointy green leaves and purple stems. When the purple stem is above ground, they are ready to dig up. Dig deep; if you just pull them, you will not get the whole ramp. Rinse the ramps well and remove all of the dirt. Snap off the root part.

You can use ramps lots of ways. Make pesto, grill them, roast in the oven, add to pasta sauce. For my  Panzanella salad, I slice them very thinly lengthwise (leaves and all) and sauté, then add them to spring mix of radishes, peas and arugula plus lots of French bread cubes sautéed in olive oil (the bread is what makes it a Panzanella). Tossed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and some shaved parmesan cheese.

Roasted Door County WhitefishFor the entrée, it had to be Door County whitefish. Most of the time, whitefish is broiled or pan fried, so I decided to try something different.

Roasted Whitefish with Basil, Olives and Cherry Tomatoes is a simple and satisfying dish that showcases the delicate fish while delivering lots of flavor. I love the way it literally makes its own sauce with the herbs, garlic, vegetables and olive oil roasted right in the pan and spooned over the fish when serving.

Alongside the whitefish, an all-time, foolproof favorite, Katie’s Lemon Noodles. Baked spaghetti loaded with sour cream, butter and parmesan cheese, what’s not to like? Not exactly health food, but please, this is a party!

Spring is the perfect time to bring out my mother’s beloved pink and green “Desert Rose” china. White on white linens, a dozen pink roses, candles, of course, and a few accessories round out the tablescape. Especially love the pair of pink Poodle “Foo Dogs” guarding the proceedings.

When our guests arrive, we will serve them a Door County cocktail of our own creation: muddled orange peel and sugar, tart cherry juice, rum and a dash of club soda. Presented in a champagne flute with orange twist garnish. Mighty tasty!

We’ll ask our friends to bring a bottle of their favorite Door County wine to accompany dinner. Guarantees a great variety of local wine, and some lively conversation. Cue the laughing portion of the evening.

 To finish the meal, a light, tart and sweet taste of spring, Lemon Souffle Pudding Cake. Topped with powdered sugar and fresh blackberries.

LemonSouffle_DoorCountyDinnerParty

So what are you waiting for? Gather your friends around the table and celebrate spring. And may you stay forever young!