Watermelon Gazpacho Gets Raves at My Lux Dinner Party

A Vision For an Elegant Evening

My girlfriend Nicole and I have been wanting to do a lavish dinner party for some time.  Our vision has always been an elegant setting and fancy foods served in courses on china instead of finger foods and buffet style entrees on paper plates.

Along with a promotion to Challenge #3 of the Project Food Blog competition, we were given the perfect opportunity to make our dream of a lux dinner party come true.

With my experience planning and hosting events, our shared vision for a great party at home, and Foodbuzz’s prompt to make it happen, we were all set to put on a night that our friends would be raving about.

Dressing up the Patio

The setting for an event is so important.  For this party, I wanted my guests to be as comfortable as they’ve always been at my home but also to know that this was a special occasion.  On my invitation, I asked them to get glamorous. To make sure my setting matched the guests, I dressed up the backyard too.

Well, Nicole dressed it up!  She took charge of the decorations and was off and running before I could say a word.  Remember, she had a vision for this!  Needless to say, Nicole — with some help from the kids — did an awesome job transforming our patio into a swank, restaurant-like setting.

Nicole Dressing Up the Dinner Table

The kicker was a novel use of our Christmas lights.  We strung them over and around our outdoor dining room for a stunning effect.  It was an excellent addition to the decor and gave our setting a “wow” factor.  And since we already had the lights, it was a cheap and easy addition!

A Menu They Won’t Soon Forget

As I planned my menu, I knew I wanted a theme but I was having menu-writers block.  Nothing seemed to make sense.  I knew I wanted to make my “world famous” smoked salmon but I wanted to pair it with something that my guests might have never had.

While pondering my menu, I absentmindedly started looking through a goodie bag from a recent event I had attended.  In the bag I found a brochure with recipes using watermelons.

“Watermelons?”, I thought.  Flipping through the pages, I found ideas for drinks, appetizers, and entrees.  The kicker: Grilled Watermelon.  YES!  I could immediately see my menu*.

I put together six courses:

  1. A cocktail course featuring a signature drink: the Watermelon Cosmopolitan.
  2. An appetizer which was tray passed (so fancy!) featuring what I called watermelon bruschetta: a thin plank of watermelon slathered with Boursin cheese, topped with a toasted pecan.
  3. A soup course featuring a traditional gazpacho…made with watermelon.
  4. A salad of watermelon and arugula, topped with blue cheese and Nicole’s signature Honey Lime Vinaigrette.
  5. The entree!  My own mesquite smoked salmon served with grilled watermelon on a bed of wild rice.
  6. And finally, dessert: chilled watermelon served with tart frozen yogurt, Schoolbook Cookies, and champagne.

With a menu, I quickly started shopping for my ingredients.  I was going to need A LOT of watermelon!

Sixty pounds of grade A watermeon, ready to be prepped.

Turning Juicy Fruit Into a Meal

Prepping the watermelon was so much fun.  Having some experience peeling watermelons, I dove in knife first, starting the arduous process of prepping my main ingredient.  It was like an episode from Iron Chef: Battle Watermelon!

To make sure my dishes would be the proper temperatures when I served them, I focused on the ones that needed to be chilled first.  Next, I focused on the ones that needed to be hot so they would be perfectly warmed for my guests.

With my patio brilliantly decorated — thanks to Nicole an the kids! — and my food prepped, I showered and dressed, swapping my contacts for glasses to get that debonair look.

Dressed to impress and ready to party!

While the Guests React, the Gazpacho Steals the Show

As my friends arrived — on time and looking stunning, I might add —  I corralled them in the living room.  No one knew about the patio transformation or the menu; I wanted both to be a surprise.

Once we got the word from Nicole to reveal the patio, I escorted our guests out back.  It was such a treat hearing their reactions!  There was a chorus of oohs, aahs, wows, and even an “Aw, you guys!”.

The patio, transformed!

Everyone made themselves comfortable as I mixed up the signature drink — the watermelon cosmo — and opened some bottles of wine. After cocktails, each course was served and cleared in a relaxed, unhurried progression.

While all of the dishes were tremendous, the gazpacho was the highlight.  Everyone marveled at the light, fruity flavor of the watermelon and how it was complemented by the other ingredients: orange juice, cucumber, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro.

To make this cold dish even more fancy, I chilled the soup bowls ahead of time, just like the restaurants do.

Watermelon Gazpacho.

The grilled watermelon was also a favorite.  The heat and smoke from the grill had intensified the flavor of the fruit, mainly by evaporating the water from it.  The result was a dense, succulent vegetable flavor, complemented by a fruity sweetness.  Everyone agreed they had never tasted watermelon like this before.

Honorable mentions included Nicole’s home made dressing and the cookies that came with dessert: Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolbook cookies!  Their spicy flavor and crunchy texture were a prefect compliment to the tart, soft yogurt.

Watermelon with Tart Frozen Yogurt and Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies.

What a Wonderful Evening!

As the dishes were cleared, my friends and I continued to enjoy conversation accompanied by glasses of wine and champagne.  Originally, I planned for us to dine for just a few hours;  Instead we ended up partying well into the night.

It was an elegant, luxurious event indeed!

*Here’s the complete menu in PDF.  Look for recipes soon!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

26 Responses to “Watermelon Gazpacho Gets Raves at My Lux Dinner Party”

  1. The dinner was fabulous!!! Thanks for letting me be a part of it!! You’ve definitely got my vote!!

  2. Hi Michael – we are so fortunate to have had good weather for our parties! Love your patio! And that salad looks great too. Good luck!

  3. @Lori – Yes! I love that we can grill, eat out, and — hopefully — enjoy the sun most days in Sunny Southern California! Thanks 🙂

  4. VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  5. Great theme and great execution…You got my vote!

  6. Great job and great menu, voted 🙂

  7. Interesting theme and backyard elegance. Good entry. I’m voting.

  8. I love the menu, you get my vote!



  9. Such a gorgeous atmosphere for a dinner party! Your menu and food looks delicious too, especially that watermelon gazpacho. Yum. Good luck!

  10. I love the table setting – beautiful! I also love the watermelon theme – it all sounds so delicious.
    I’m sending a little red heart your way. Good Luck!

  11. Michaellllllll! All this watermelon! So refreshing! And Nicole was a huge help. It looks gorgeous out there!

  12. Dude, it looks like I really missed out!!! Man, I wish my gf and I had come to this for our anniversary dinner instead of the vegan restaurant in Santa Monica we decided to “try” to honor World Vegetarian Day =(

    Sigh, next time!! Good work, mang. The pictures turned out well =)


  13. Looks like you threw a fabulous dinner party! Hope we both make it to the next round! 🙂 You have my vote!

  14. Wow, what an absolutely fantastic post, Michael. I love the way you took us from the beginning to the end and your photos of the food are perfect. You know, I have that watermelon brochure also, so I’m going to have to check it out. Your gazpacho sounds particularly intriguing. Thanks.

  15. But you didn’t invite me. Couldn’t you work out a plane ticket or something?

  16. I love the watermelon theme, I want to try grilling it now! I’m afraid to see your kitchen’s “after” photo after prepping all that watermelon. Good luck this week, voting for you!

    Lick My Spoon

  17. What a beautiful setting! May as well use those Christmas lights more than once a year! WHy not? Also I’ll have to try that watermelon gazpacho. Sounds refreshing.

  18. This sounds like an amazing night and dinner! i love how the menu revolved around watermelon (one of my favorite things!)

  19. The unique dishes from such a simple fruit and Nicole’s backyard transformation made for an awesome luxury dinner–fabulous, dahhhling! Once I saw the watermelon bruschetta, I knew it was on. Gazpacho was my absolute fave–recipe, gimme. Totally didn’t expect to stay till what, 2? The company, conversation, and drinks were just too good. Got my vote for sure!

  20. Sounds like an amazing party! Loved the letter cookies, and the table was beautiful. Lucky guests! 🙂

  21. watermelon gazpacho is such a good idea. I may have to buy a watermelon today.

  22. Your mother and I are coming for the Dinner!!!!!
    Everything looks very good!!!
    Your mother’s coworker.

  23. Mike it’s so good to see you doing it up bigtime. I can’t wait to try this out and also when i finish my house you’re sure to visit and do it up Jenkins style.

  24. I know how to cook, I know how to decorate, but how does Nicole find such beautiful clothes to accomadate the food and decorations? That’s what I want to know!! Everything looks great!! Even Nicole!!

  25. Love to go through your site. Really inspired me for The melon i have left. You can also keep the gazpacho chilled by adding some ice cubes or frozen cubes of melon?.. Or even balls. Any way… It’s fun to see how you have a different way with your products than we/I have here in the Netherlands. Thanks for the new input!