I don't want this dinner to be "formal" - I want everyone to relax, enjoy good food, wine and company before plunging back into the work week. But, due to my great appreciation of the special effort these friends made for me - I would like to have something new or special to serve.
I getcha . . . you want to make a special splash.
Someone upthread mentioned doing the specialty items as appetizers. I tend to agree with this. If it's a long party rather than just a sit down for dinner, specialty WOW! apps can go a long way. Take your time, nosh and enjoy. I love parties like this!
Stuffed mushrooms . . . baked in the oven with a crab-meat/cream cheese stuffing is delish for a warm app and partners well with a bruschetta. You could also do the asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto for an app.
On the grill for dinner? Outdoor Girl's potatoes are close to mine and they are awesome and different.
Shrimp-stuffed tomatoes on the grill would be a nice and different side with the meal.
For the main meal I would keep it simple with a steak (ribeyes are the best!
), a salad, a potato and a veggie.
Make your splash with the apps.
Don't forget the fresh horseradish!