Can a holiday party be both elegant and casual? Joanna Biondi, owner of Café Primavera, relies on a simple concept for these kinds of get-togethers: "dinner by the bite."
    It's a more substantial than your average cocktails-and-appetizers party. Biondi deconstructs the courses of a formal sit-down dinner into well-rounded tapas-style dishes and presents them with plenty of flair: a soup course becomes a demitasse cup of homey tomato soup with a tiny grilled-cheese sandwich, the salad course is an Asian-style chicken salad served in mini-takeout boxes, the entrée is a bite-sized portion of pork tenderloin on crostini.
    Spaces asked Biondi to put together this festive "dinner by the bite" menu, highlighting some of her favorite nibbles. She also provided the recipe for one of the centerpieces of the menu: herb-crusted lamb lollipops.

The menu

  • Herb-crusted lamb "lollipops" with mango-mint Chutney
  • Potato pancakes, smoked salmon and lemon crème fraiche
  • Creamy tomato-basil soup sippers in demitasse cups and served with bite-sized grilled cheese sandwiches
  • "Grown up" macaroni and cheese with foccacia bread crumbs and Hobbs bacon
  • Shanghai ginger grilled chicken cabbage salad in tiny takeout boxes with chopsticks
  • Chicken satay with spicy Thai peanut sauce
  • Roasted pork tenderloin on cranberry-walnut crostini with fresh pear-cranberry chutney
  • Gourmet cheeses, dried fruits, candied nuts, artisan crackers and breads

The recipes


Lamb Lollipops

Serves two-three as a "dinner by the bite" menu item

1 lamb rack, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mango-mint pesto (recipe follows)
Mint leaves and rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss. Marinate the lamb for up to two days. Remove from marinade and pan sear over high heat in a little olive oil until nicely browned. Finish by roasting in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.

To serve: Slice and serve with mango-mint pesto on the side. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and rosemary sprigs.

Mango-mint pesto

3 cups fresh mint leaves (cleaned)
½ cup Major Grey's mango chutney
1½ serrano chile, de-veined and seeded
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse just enough for the mint to break down. Taste, adjust seasons. Important: Do not over process.