Two of my closest friends, Josh and Katherine, have birthdays falling on the same week in May.  So when Katherine, a Los Angeles-dweller, informed me that she would be in San Francisco for the occasion, I knew that there was no better time to fete my favorites with a dinner in their honor.

Typically, when I plan a dinner party I send out my proposed menu and immediately receive enthusiastic accolades from guests, inquiring only what they can bring - never offering input or criticism.  This could not be farther from what happened when I sent the menu to Katherine.  But I would expect no less.  Katherine is a champagne bubble of a girl about town, who knows exactly what she wants and exactly how to procure it.  And for this particular dinner, she wanted a multi-course Mediterranean spread fit for Antony and Cleopatra.  A smattering of Katherine’s beguiling suggestions included handmade lemon granita and espresso gelato representative of the fated lovers (Cleo/lemon, Antony/coffee); an azure palate cleanser (indicative of the Nile); and shreds of antiquated volumes of Socrates and Aristotle serving as table décor…


Reining it in a bit – no one wants to leave a dinner party with blue lips courtesy of food-colored sorbet – I turned Katherine’s esoteric vision into the following menu:  Shaved Endive, Feta, and Watermelon Salad with a Balsamic Reduction; Spruce’s White Corn Soup with Laffa Popovers; Lamb Sliders with Harissa Aioli and Mint Yogurt served with Tabbouleh; and Flourless Chocolate Cake with Espresso Gelato and Aegean Sea Salt.

I could not be happier that my personal oracle pushed me outside of my archetypal French-American fare, because the dinner turned out to be one of my best.  The highlight of the evening was the lamb burger, which is notable given that I’d never tasted lamb, let alone in burger form.  The marriage of cumin and cinnamon in the meat combined with spicy aioli and refreshing mint make this burger intoxicatingly delicious.   So delicious, in fact, that I made them again two weeks later for a dinner party in Lake Tahoe.  I have a feeling that these burgers and Katherine’s beloved Mediterranean cuisine will become regulars in my dinner party rotation.  xx tt  

Lamb Burger Recipe - makes 10 burgers


· 3 pounds ground lamb

· 1 yellow onion

· 1 cup Greek Yogurt

· 2 eggs

· ½ cup bread crumbs or Panko

· ½ cup fresh mint leaves

· 1 tablespoon cumin

· 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

· 1 teaspoon garlic powder

· 2 teaspoons all-spice

· 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

· 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

· 2 teaspoons kosher salt

· 1 teaspoon ground pepper

· Toppings: arugula and feta cheese

· 10 hamburger buns (believe it or not, I really like Safeway brand buns)


· Place ground lamb in a large bowl

· Peel onion and grate it over the lamb using a box grater

· Mince mint leaves and add to bowl

· Place all other ingredients into bowl

· Using your hands, mix until all ingredients are completely combined

· Grill the burgers on your barbecue or using a grill pan indoors

· Spread harissa aioli (recipe below) on bottom bun

· Spread mint yogurt (recipe below) on top bun

· Place arugula, meat, and feta cheese in burger

Harissa Aioli Recipe


· 1 cup mayonnaise 

· 2 tablespoons harissa (or chili garlic sauce, which you can find at any grocery store in the Asian food section)

· 1 tablespoon lemon juice


· Combine all ingredients into a sauce using a fork or whisk

Mint Yogurt Sauce Recipe - adapted from Barefoot Contessa


· 6 scallions (green onions)

· ½ cup mint leaves

· 1 bunch of fresh dill (enough to make two tablespoons after it’s minced)

· 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

· 1 tablespoon olive oil

· 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

· 1 teaspoon kosher salt

· ½ teaspoon black pepper

· 7-ounces Greek Yogurt


· Chop scallions (entire scallion except the very bottom and top, which should be cut off and discarded)

· Chop mint

· Chop dill

· Place scallions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and lemon juice in food processor (or Vitamix) and puree until it’s a coarse paste

· Add yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined


t+tSTYLE: channel your inner-Queen of the Nile with the serpent-inspired Swarovski crystal double-skull cuff from Alexander McQueen, a god in his own right.

t+tTIP: satisfy your hankering for Greek cuisine with this terrifically tart mint yogurt soda from Abali!


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