Dinner after Dark: Sexy, Sumptuous Supper Soirees

Dinner after Dark: Sexy, Sumptuous Supper Soirees

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by Colin Cowie
Dinner After Dark is much more than a collection of great recipes: It’s a recipe for a great party, featuring stylish cocktails, stunning interiors, creative tabletops (hint: almost no cut flowers), and even advice on music, place cards, and the art of being a gracious host and guest. This is mostly cookbook, but also part decorating, part bartending,


Dinner After Dark is much more than a collection of great recipes: It’s a recipe for a great party, featuring stylish cocktails, stunning interiors, creative tabletops (hint: almost no cut flowers), and even advice on music, place cards, and the art of being a gracious host and guest. This is mostly cookbook, but also part decorating, part bartending, part etiquette, and part plain old bon-vivant-ism.

The recipes are drawn from Colin Cowie’s sophisticated international palate, focusing on the exotic. The Peri-Peri dinner offers Saketinis to start, then moves on to Curried Mussels in Coconut-Milk Broth, red-hot Peri-Peri Chicken with green olives and preserved lemons, and a luscious Orange Custard Tart. The Cuba Libre cocktail party features Escabeche of Swordfish, Picadillo in a Lettuce Cup with Fresh Tomato Salsa, Plantain Chips, and Arroz con Camarones, all washed down with Mojitos and Cuba Libres. And the intriguing Bombay Soirée includes an appetizer of Stir-Fried Shrimp with Lemon and Scallions and an entrée of Chicken Curry and Peas, served with three different cooling raitas, Mango Chutney, Pappadams, and Aromatic Basmati Rice.

What’s remarkable about the hundred recipes is that the dishes rely on spices rather than fats, on delicious pairings instead of interminable ingredient lists. Even more remarkable is that nearly every recipe can be prepared in less than an hour, and almost none requires last-minute cooking, allowing you to be a guest at your own party.

Each party will be a fabulous one, with fun, helpful features such as: 911, entertaining emergencies and how to solve them; 411, information calls, like what a tagine is or how to trim an artichoke; OTT (Over the Top), on how to make the evening truly spectacular; and A Lighter Touch, on adapting recipes for less fat, or simply to be less heavy. All of this is presented in Colin’s inimitably stylish, irrepressibly fun voice that’s both entertaining and informed.

Each party takes place in a uniquely beautiful location, from spectacular New York City apartments to an oh-so-very L.A. Modernist house to the beach in East Hampton. The guests are smiling and glamorous and having a good time, the decors and tabletops and food are extraordinarily appealing—you want to be there. Not only will Dinner After Dark transport you, it’ll allow you to bring the party to your own home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stylish entertaining is easy, assures lifestyle guru and party-planner Cowie: all it takes is "exciting drinks, tasty food, interesting conversation, a good mix of music, a relaxed host, and the proper timing." It sounds like a tall order, but Cowie (who has organized weddings for Kelsey Grammer, Lisa Kudrow and Jerry Seinfeld and boasts oodles of famous friends) offers a sumptuous but straightforward guide to throwing the most successful party in town. Each chapter presents a dinner party complete with recipes for cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts, plus tips on decorating (Cowie loves candles) and making guests feel welcome. Cowie's Bombay Soirie features Stir-Fried Shrimp with Lemon and Scallions, several raitas and other accompaniments, plus beer shandies for thirst-quenching; his Fashion Week, NYC dinner party showcases Salt-Crusted Wild Striped Bass with Braised Fennel and Garlic Aioli, with Campari drinks for the quaffing. The recipes are delicious, and uncomplicated enough to allow the host to enjoy her own party; the problem here is that this guide leans toward the smug and smarmy. The photographs highlight gorgeous women noshing on Cowie's creations, while the text purrs over the successful designers, producers and actors who also sat around the table. Cowie also strains the adjectives "chic," "stylish" and "fabulous" through sheer overuse. "[T]ime spent with friends and family around the dinner table...is the most precious of all," he writes, but his high-concept party plans can feel trendy and staged rather than cozy and authentic. First serial in InStyle. 300 color photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his latest book, lifestyle guru Cowie (Weddings) offers a glimpse into the dining lives of the rich. He presents 20 or so special suppers that he has orchestrated, from "Fashion Week, NYC" to "Sex on the Beach" to "Caviar: What an Ending," with menus (including the "Cocktail de Nuit"), decorating suggestions, and other tips for entertaining. Although Cowie says he emphasizes simplicity, his tone is often, perhaps unknowingly, pretentious (his guests, for example, always "dine" rather than "eat"), and his soir es tend to feature elaborate centerpieces and touches like "the Indian hand-stitched tablecloth picked up on holiday in the Greek Isles." Dozens of color photographs show off his suppers, as well as "the beautiful people" who are his guests. Cowie's Everyday Elegance cable series is highly popular, and he's also a contributor to InStyle magazine, so expect demand.

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Crown Publishing Group
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8.79(w) x 11.25(h) x 0.76(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Supper for Six

This was an elegant celebration to mark a special occasion, yet it was pulled together rather quickly. What were we celebrating? Well, there are a ton of good excuses: birthday, going away, coming home, book publication, successful completion of a project. In this case, it was the launch of a collection of china I had designed.

I think for most people the thought of planning a dinner party for six at short notice is daunting. In fact, they might prefer to skip the whole ordeal. Here’s a way to pull it off, mark the occasion with an exclamation point, and still enjoy your own party.

When I first moved into my New York apartment and had the walls painted with liquid copper leaf, I got the notion to create a collection of china inspired by the color scheme, and soon I had the opportunity to do so, for Lenox: a five-piece place-setting I titled Insignia.

All the plates are different; they can stand alone or work in pairs, in trios, or all together. As the dinner progresses, each one tells a story, yet it also works in concert with all the components. The idea was to provide total versatility: With one set of china, we’d offer multiple options for people who like to entertain regularly. As soon as the collection was completed, Lenox shipped me a full set along with my new gold flatware. I was so excited opening the boxes that I immediately picked up the phone and started to invite a few friends for dinner that evening.

For the table arrangement, the goal was simple elegance. I avoided the standard solution—fresh-cut flowers—which would also have cost extra time and money. For the centerpiece, I brought a 1930s terra-cotta sculpture of a panther by André Vincent Becquerel down from the mantelpiece, framed it at either end with a pair of gilded porcelain obelisks, and flanked it with a wall of fire in the form of gold-leaf votive cups. I gathered these objects from around the house. The end result, albeit unintentional, was a somewhat formal presentation, with perhaps an Ancient Egyptian or Napoleonic theme. The obelisks lend the sculpture a ceremonious air; the votive candles give it dramatically flattering under-illumination. Instead of using placemats, runners, or a tablecloth, I anchored the place settings with big black chargers—part of my Insignia collection—that can also be used as dinner plates or serving plates (again, versatility being the key). The glasses and flatware were also my design from a previous collection and worked wonderfully.

Since it was winter, we lit a fire and made the best of the warm, cozy atmosphere. It pays off to inject a touch of life into the room with some greenery—especially in the colder months. In this instance, I made a dramatic statement with some oversize monstera leaves, which are relatively inexpensive and last a long time. I really love the way they catch the light to warm the room.
On the table, I used amber water glasses, which I designed to reflect the silhouette of the wineglasses. Typically, I’ll buy an antique set or choose a classic shape, updated. Then I’ll acquire several more pieces to reflect that first shape, but with color or size variations. This way, with just two or three sets of glasses, you can easily create chic and elegant and soignée table settings.

The Menu: Supper for Six

Appetizer Flower of Endive Salad

Main Course Pot-Roasted Loin of Veal with Artichokes and Mushrooms

Dessert Confit of Vanilla-Infused Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream

To Drink Cocktail de Nuit: Vodka Martini Wine: A Chateauneuf-du-Pape such as Chateau Beaucastel or some other fine Rhone-style blend provides the medium richness, earthiness, and firm finish to pair with the veal, artichokes, and mushrooms.

Timing The salad can be assembled in advance, then dressed immediately prior to serving. While we were enjoying the salad course, the pot-roasted veal—prepped and put in the oven before the guests arrived—was just finishing in the oven.

The pineapple can be prepared a day in advance, stored in the fridge, and warmed prior to serving.

Vodka Martini

Our celebration started with a martini, the definitive cocktail—shaken, of course, not stirred. I like my martinis shaken hard at least 20 times so that the vodka gets very cold and you have little slivers of ice floating in the drink. This takes the sting out of it, making it go down more smoothly. The glasses should be chilled in advance by filling them with ice and cold water, which you pour out just before straining the vodka mixture into them; as an easier alternative, you can simply leave the glasses in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The vodka is stored in the freezer. Everything about this drink is frosty, ice-cold, and sleek. As for garnishes, the classic martini takes a cocktail olive, either pitted and plain or pimiento-stuffed, depending on your preference. (The pimiento-stuffed have a bit sharper flavor.) There are also many types of gourmet olives; you can find them stuffed with chilies, almonds, garlic, and anchovies. Or you might choose cocktail onions or pickled tomatillos for your garnish. In any case, you must rinse the olives, onions, or any other pickled garnish well; otherwise, their pickling brine will float unattractively on the surface of the martinis.

12 ounces top-quality vodka (or gin)
11?2–2 ounces dry vermouth
(or less if you prefer it “very dry”)
Olives or lemon peel, for garnish

1. Chill 6 martini glasses (see page 181).
2. Fill a shaker full of ice. Add the vodka (or gin) and vermouth. Shake well and strain into the glasses. Serve with olives or a twist.

Flower of Endive Salad

This first course is a foolproof salad I’ve served many times and it has never let me down. I love it because it has an aura of sensuality: In a dramatic moment at the table, you and your guests snip open up the endive flower to reveal the springy salad within. The recipe asks you to take a little extra time to arrange the presentation, but the payoff is tremendous. I’m always thoroughly in favor of any dish that looks as good as it tastes.

For the salad

1?2 leek, washed thoroughly and cut lengthwise into 1?4-inch ribbons Salt
1 bunch of watercress, trimmed, washed, and dried
2 heads of baby frisée lettuce, trimmed, washed, and dried
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (or goat cheese)
1?4 cup toasted pine nuts (see Note), chopped
4 large endives, washed (30 leaves)
1?2 bunch of chives, finely chopped, for garnish

For the vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1?4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1?2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper,
plus more to taste
3?4 cup grapeseed oil
1?4 cup walnut oil

1. Blanch the leek in a pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Plunge it into ice-cold water to stop the cooking.

Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the watercress, baby frisée, cheese, and all but 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts.

3. To assemble each serving, select 6 endive leaves and place them upright in a tea cup, forming an open “flower” arrangement. Fill the inside of the flower with the salad mixture. Close the leaves together in the original shape of the endive and secure with a blanched leek ribbon. Trim the base of each flower so it can stand on its own. Repeat the process for each of the remaining five portions. Set the salads aside (laying the flowers on their sides in a shallow dish) until you are ready to dress and serve them. They can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Cover with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap until ready to serve.

4. To make the vinaigrette, combine the mustards, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oils. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Set aside at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, or refrigerate if preparing well in advance.

5. To serve, place a single endive flower upright in the middle of each plate. Inject a small amount of the vinaigrette into each of the flowers with a squeeze bottle and drizzle some vinaigrette around the plate. Alternatively, you can serve the dressing in a gravy boat, pass it around, and let everyone dress his or her own salad. Garnish with the reserved tablespoon of chopped pine nuts and the chopped chives.
Note If you are working on your own, a loose rubber band can act as a second set of hands to help secure the bundles.

Note: To toast pine nuts, simply place them in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, shaking and turning them once or twice, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, place them in a toaster oven, set to medium, and toast just until fragrant.

Pan-Roasted Loin of Veal with Artichokes and Mushrooms

The main course is a classic one-pot meal: a boneless veal roast that features easy one-step preparation and doesn’t require two or three hours of cooking. The veal loin is tender, elegant, and juicy, and is done in around an hour. In butcher’s parlance, the cut of meat is a boned rack of veal. The same cut, with the bones left attached then separated in a cross section, yields six veal chops. There’s no need to reduce the sauce in this dish. It’s roasted covered, so as the meat cooks it steams and creates a delicious, savory juice. The pot vegetables—artichokes and mushrooms—form the side dish.
Roasted whole, on the bone, this cut is called rack of veal. Another good option is rack of lamb, which cooks in about 20 minutes instead of 40 to 45, depending on the size and the desired degree of doneness. (An internal temperature of 130° to 140°F. equals medium-rare for lamb.) Pork is another tasty option; it is a smaller cut as well, and it roasts in about 15 minutes after browning on the outside (internal temperature should be 145° to 150°F.).

6 large artichokes, outer leaves removed, tips cut and chokes removed Juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons plus 1?2 cup vegetable oil
1 4-pound veal loin, deboned and tied (have your butcher do this)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
24 pearl onions
1?2 pound each of portobello and shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely sliced
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 bunch (12 to 18 leaves) of fresh sage, 1 tablespoon chopped, balance reserved whole
2 cups Veal Stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Cut off the top two thirds of the artichokes and then cut them into quarters. Using a paring knife, trim off the hard, stringy outer parts. Trim the stems to a length of 1 inch. Separate the leaves and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the choke. Place the trimmed artichoke quarters and the lemon juice in a 1- to 2-quart mixing bowl full of water. Set aside.

3. Place 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Season the veal all over with 1 tablespoon each of the salt and pepper. Place in the pot and cook, turning, until brown all over, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the veal and set aside. Remove the excess fat from the pot. Drain the water from the bowl of artichokes, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and toss well.

4. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pot, then add the artichokes, onions, and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, chopped sage, and stock. Return the veal to the pot, cover, and place it in the oven to roast for 1 hour, or until tender. (It takes about 10 minutes per pound for medium-rare; the internal temperature should be 125°F. for medium-rare to 140°F. for medium.)

5. Remove the artichokes, mushrooms, and veal from the pot and arrange on a large serving dish or platter. Allow the roast to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Skim the excess fat from the pot with a wide spoon or soup ladle, and serve the cooking juices along with the meat and vegetables.

6. While the roast is resting, prepare the crispy fried-sage garnish. Heat the 1?2 cup of vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, place the reserved whole sage in the skillet in a single layer and fry briefly until crispy, about 10 seconds. (Make sure you fry it in light oil that is very hot. If not, the sage will just soak up the oil and get soggy. To test whether the oil is ready for frying, drop a small torn-off piece of sage leaf into it; if the leaf sizzles, the oil is ready.) Drain the fried sage on a paper towel. Arrange the sage on top of the roast, sprinkle chopped parsley around the platter, and serve.

Note: The versatile fried-sage garnish can also be used with a grilled or pan-seared steak.
Confit of Vanilla-Infused Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream

Confit of Vanilla-Infused Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream

It’s quite a fancy-sounding dish and fairly spectacular to serve, but it’s really quite simple to prepare. I often collaborate with Martin Herold, a friend and gifted chef from Alsace who now lives in the United States. It’s infrequent that you encounter vanilla and pineapple in the same equation; it was Martin’s idea to combine this tropical fruit (pineapple) with this tropical pod (the vanilla bean) so uniquely. The finished recipe provides a delightful element of contrast between the warmth of the pineapple and the coolness of the vanilla ice cream.

The best pineapples in my opinion are the Del Monte Golds. Their interiors should be a warm yellowish-gold color. Any pineapple that is whitish on the interior is going to be too sour.

1 ripe pineapple, tough outer skin cut off with a sharp knife
4 vanilla beans, cut in half along the horizontal axis and then cut in half along the vertical (16 pieces total)
4 cups brown sugar
2 cups dark rum
1 pint vanilla ice cream

1. Use a wooden skewer or large toothpick to poke holes from the exterior toward the center of the pineapple. Insert the slivers of vanilla beans into the holes.

2. Place the pineapple in a deep roasting pan and add 8 cups of water or enough to completely cover the fruit. Add the sugar and rum, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour. The recipe can be prepared to this point in advance; in that case, the pineapple should be placed in a container or bowl, covered with its juice, and then refrigerated until ready to be served, either warmed up or at room temperature.

3. To serve, remove the pot from the stove and allow the pine-apple to cool in its own syrup. Slice and serve while still slightly warm, drizzled with syrup and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

Meet the Author

Colin Cowie’s name is invariably preceded by “lifestyle guru.” Colin got his public start as a party and wedding designer and producer to the stars, throwing weddings for the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Lisa Kudrow, Hugh Hefner, Sela Ward, and Jerry Seinfeld and parties for Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, A&M Records, and the Council of Fashion Designers. His television show, Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie, is the number one–rated show on both AMC and WE (Women’s Entertainment); he’s been a contributing editor to InStyle since the magazine’s inception; and he is a designer of tableware. Colin is the author of four previous books, including Effortless Elegance and Weddings. Born in Zambia and raised in South Africa, he now lives in New York and Los Angeles; Colin Cowie Lifestyle, his event and interior design company, is based in Los Angeles and New York. Visit his website at www.colincowie.com.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 3, 1962
Place of Birth:
Kitwe, Zambia

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Dinner after Dark 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you desperately need the assistance of a plastic person skulking the halls of soir es and telling of his major success at the Seinfeld function then buy this book. If you would rather spend your money wisely, donate it to a children's hospital or charity. I do not believe that these people worry about using the correct fork during the salad course, instead they worry about more important engagements, like life, and living it fully. We all need to follow this example. Tell Colin to stick with his tinsel town folk and leave this bore on the shelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Smashing, but then everything he does is smashing.