We just gave a dinner party for friends, who have become serious foodies. They’ve cooked the last three meals at their place, with each dinner being an even more elaborate feast. It’s not a competitive thing, but Suzen and I felt we owed them a knockout meal as thanks. So over the next few days, I’ll blog the recipes from what has been a very, very good meal that you can duplicate the next time you want an elegant dinner party.

For starters, we needed a beverage. I love to prepare great cocktails from scratch, and for 2 or 4 people that is feasible. When you hit a total of 9 guests, it’s too much. One of the secrets for a great dinner party is for you, the host, to be able to enjoy it, too. It’s a party, remember?

So, individual cocktails were out. I said the word “punch” to Suzen and caught a sharp reaction. “I thought you were doing Champagne cocktails,” she pleaded.

“I am,” I said. “In one batch.” Look, I don’t know why “punch” has become a little derogatory. Just a bowl dumped full of things, people will say. No, true, it is a bowl, to give you the volume you want. But you need to be just as careful when making the punch as for the most sophisticated cocktail.

Actually, doubly careful. I will admit that there are a lot of bad punch recipes out there, just as there are so many atrocious cocktail recipes.

But I have found a wonderful resource for punch. It’s a book call, of all things, Punch by Colleen Mullaney. Here is a Champagne punch that I have made some adjustments to [and noted below]. It’s called Afternoon Delight but it worked just fine as the starter for a dinner that began with rich appetizers — sliced duck and horseradish on crustini — and moved forward through risotto with smoked salmon and breaded pork cutlets topped with tomatoes and arugula. You’ll get the rest of the dinner, course by course, during the coming week.

First off, here’s that superior punch.

Afternoon Delight Champagne Punch

Yield: serves 8


24 ice cubes with rose petals
2 cups pink grapefruit juice
2 cups pear nectar
2 bottles (740 ml) chilled, dry Champagne


At least 3 hours ahead, make the ice cubes.

Combine the grapefruit juice and par nectar in the punch bowl and mix well. Just before serving, slowly pour in the Champagne. Add the ice cubes and serve immediately.

Brian Amendments:

It’s spring and berry season and our roses have not bloomed. So I substituted frozen blackberry ice cubes. Place one blackberry in each slot of an ice tray, fill, and freeze.

I only made 12, and not 24 ice cubes, because I added a second twist. I put rounded dollops of Champagne sorbet on top of the punch along with the ice cubes. Yes, it was a little over the top but visually it was stunning. Have you noticed how people always pause above the punch bowl before they dip in. “Do I want to try this?” they are asking themselves. I think the ice cubes and sorbet made our guests think twice and in the end enjoy even more.

I used Proseco instead of Champagne. The sweetness of the Proseco is a favorite of mine and I think a better match as an opening beverage if you are having a range of appetizers.

Source: Punch by Colleen Mullaney