McCormick Gourmet Dinner Party Chain

About 3 weeks ago, I found out about a contest McCormick Gourmet was sponsoring through their Facebook page.  Called a Dinner Party Chain, participants choose a theme of their own making and then create a menu out of pre-selected recipes provided by McCormick Gourmet. I decided to enter and I WON!!!! I was the first winner of this weekly contest which will be held for a total of 12 weeks with a chance to compete for the Grand Prize (a trip to NYC and entrance to the Food Network Food & Wine Show). I actually entered twice; too much fun to come up with a theme and choose dishes fitting that theme!  I’m posting my winning theme first:  A Santa Barbara Sunset Soiree Brings Local Flavors and Colors Together.

grilled fruit salsa . arugula & peach salad . roasted cumin crusted steak . chocolate crackled cookies
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  Here was my inspiration:
Santa Barbara  . Farmer’s Market on State Street . Cooking with Mona 
I lived in Santa Barbara for 8 years and only moved away because I got married and had to move to San Diego where my husband had a house.  I don’t think I would have ever left Santa Barbara otherwise.  It literally was a slice of paradise – the most gorgeous place I’ve ever had the fortune to live in.  Mona was my sometimes but always chic roommate who was a fellow musician, shopper and foodies.  In our “later” years, we were in each other’s weddings and godmothers to each other’s children.  I wish we still lived in the same city – she would have loved to participate in this dinner party.
Everything about Santa Barbara is beautiful – the beaches, the scenery, the architecture, the ocean views, the mountains, the flora and fauna, the sunsets and the food.  Restaurant fare was somewhat inconsistent what with moderately expensive restaurants catering to tourists but when my friend Mona and I got down to it and bought fresh locally grown produce and other goodies, we’d have ourselves a feast!  We had many dinner parties.  On lazy days, we’d walk up my street, Coast Village Road in Montecito to Trattoria Mollie and pick up a few freshly baked loaves of crusty Italian bread (still warm!), slice some fresh peaches and break off chunks of our favorite cheeses and have ourselves a fabulous meal.
You can’t wait to try these recipes either, right?  Neither can I.
Grilled Fruit Salsa with Lime, Tequila and Smoked Paprika – tropical fruits, tequila & lime with a smokey flavor.  I do believe I will splurge on a bottle of Patron for this!  I get a little loopy just thinking about it!  McCormick suggests serving this with tortilla chips or taro chips.  I would even think that this would go well with organic sweet potato chips which our local grocer is now carrying.  If you can’t find that, I think any of the Terra chips would work nicely with this salsa.
I absolutely adore the peppery taste of an arugula salad.   I first came to appreciate arugula when I lived in Santa Barbara.  Before that, I was probably strictly an iceberg salad kind of girl.  The Arugula and Peach Salad brings together spicy arugula, sweet juicy peaches and a few other surprises with dill weed, toasted sesame seeds and organic basil leaves – ALL from the McCormick Gourmet collection.
A popular beef cut in California is tri-tip.  When I first moved to Texas, I really wanted a taste of home and so set out to buy some tri-tip.  We even bought a charcoal grill just so that I could grill that tri-tip to perfection.  Imagine how DH and I felt when we our local market butcher looked at me blankly when I asked where the tri-tip was.  “Skirt steak?”.  Uh, no.  Tri-tip.  “You wanner make fajiters?”  No again!  I want to grill tri-tip!
Fortunately, our current location is home to many California transplants and tri-tip is routinely sitting in the meat case.  YAY!
The recipe for Roasted Cumin-Crusted Grilled Steaks with Tomato Relish calls for sirloin or NY Strip steaks.  I love either cut but really am partial to tri-tip.  So it will be Roasted Cumin-Crusted Grilled i-tip with Tomato Relish for our family.
How do you close out such a cacophony of flavors?  With something very simple.  Chocolate Crackled Cookies with a glass of milk.  The perfect ending to this magical soiree under a Santa Barbara night sky (because, you know, it’s night-time now that we’ve arrived at dessert).
I will definitely be back with an update including the exotic menu I came up with for a tropical seaside repast.  As I mentioned  I will have a chance to win the Grand Prize in September which includes a 2-person trip to NYC for the Food Network Wine & Food Festival!
There is a lot to do before I can compete for that Grand Prize.  Like I’ll have to cook all the recipes from my winning entry.  I have a lot of planning going on inside my head from thinking about the Santa Barbara look I want for my table, the wines and a couple of other side dishes.
  • Now, I’m not a stingy type of person so if YOU would like to enter the contest and have a chance of winning 1 of the weekly prizes and a chance at the Grand Prize, go to McCormick Gourmet on Facebook here:  McCormick Gourmet Dinner Party Chain Contest.

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