Every new year brings trends in fashion, design, food and music. Entertaining is no different. 2018 saw everything from ultra-violet décor, loads of copper everything, wonderland-themed weddings, geometric shapes in table scapes, lucite accents (the clear chair!), comfort food and let’s not forget the Über trendy “Hygge” style of laid back and cozy Danish entertaining. Whew!
So what’s on the horizon for 2019? First up is certainly anything that is PANTONE color of the year: ”Living Coral”. We haven’t seen this beauty since the early nineties and it promises to be all over the hippest soirées, especially weddings. Graceful swans are in the spotlight too and may show up on cakes, invitations, showers and even kid parties. Other hotties will include “orb balloons” and we’re still seeing monochromatic color themes.
Looking for party-ware? Since “sustainable” is the name of the game, real plates, glass and silverware is new again. That’s right, no more paper if we’re all trying to reduce our carbon footprint. Pull out those lovelies hiding in your dining room and put them to use. And you thought you’d never end up using that wedding china! I’m thinking about high tea in my garden! Domestic diva, Martha Stewart is sharing how-tos for an eco-friendly fiesta.
I’m happy to report that vintage is still cool and the traditional Cocktail Party is back at the pinnacle of hip (was it ever really gone?) but make it current with do-it-yourself drink stations featuring ALL THE FRESH HERBS (Bourbon Bars and Tequila Tables) and “mock tails”.
But the entertainment. Thank heavens the photo booth is on the way out and being replaced by more golden oldies: Tarot Card Readers, ventriloquists and caricaturists. Fun! Coordinate your music with a DJ playing all the Motown or wow the hipsters with bluegrass (Broad Ripple’s oldest show, “A Touch of Grass” plays house parties (firstname.lastname@example.org). I see you, too, Polka Band! For the kiddos, add a play area to your event, with jumbo building blocks, bingo or Twister.
For actual kid parties, Liz Bates (Bates Black Tie- Event Planning | email@example.com) takes play to a new level in ’19. “ Although traditional parties for kids are always a hit, expect to see parents take more of a hands-on approach in the DIY area. This makes for a unique and fresh take on the modern day kids party which the entire family can enjoy.” In the warm months, the fam could pitch in to build a new dog house to welcome a new puppy (great birthday gift) or duh, plant a garden! The possibilities are endless.
With so many fun, but not over-the-top party ideas in this new year, entertaining can be fun, unique and affordable. Be extra. Be EXTRAordinary. Cheers!
Looking for a special Valentine bottle? Show your love some love with one of these great options that won’t break the bank. I’ve got three pretties to share: a white, a red and a sparkler. Just because its good doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Cheers!
The white is Hugel Gentil, 2014 is an Edelzwicker (blend) from Alsace, France. It’s heavy on the Gewurztraminer with smaller amounts of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat. A full-bodied and refreshing wine with a beautiful perfumey nose. In the glass are crisp fruit flavors with a lean, lemony finish. A great choice with fish and shellfish alike. This wine is an old favorite of mine that is consistent from year to year. Dry and $15.
2015 Charles Smith Wines “Velvet Devil” Merlot, $14, is from Washington. A dense red wine that begs for beef dishes or dark chocolate dessert. Expect a mouthful of dark cherries and blackberries, big cedar and sweet tobacco. Velvet Devil offers big flavor in a luxurious, velvety smooth finish. This one goes down fast and easy.
This unique sparkler is bone dry and dark red with pretty pink foam. Midici Ermete I Quercioli “Secco” is a Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and will set you back about $15. This works beautifully with cheesy pasta dishes like Ravioli and is also a successful choice with clams, mussels & oysters.
@Hugel @CharlesSmithWines @MidiciErmeteIQuercioli #ValentineWine #WinesUnder$20
I’m a member of the @HCMGA Hamilton County Master Gardeners Association. Tomorrow is the day if you want to score some awesome heirloom seeds and a wealth of knowledge. Check out this free event and the tantalizing line-up of guest speakers. @seedsavers #saveseeds #HCMGA
Growing up, Sunday meant carry-out from Hollyhock Hill, a popular family-style restaurant on the North side of Indianapolis. Fried chicken with all the fixin’s and a late afternoon meal with family. I’m not sure when we stopped doing that with regularity, but I imagine it had something to do with everyone’s schedules taking them in different directions. About a year ago, my family decided to resurrect Sunday dinners and it has been a wonderful thing. I thought I’d share this sort of intimate gathering with you, because I can’t think of entertaining that I enjoy more.
Sundays now rotate between the homes of various family members. We take turns hosting. Dinner is at 6:30 and if you can come, you bring something. If you can’t make it, not a big deal but I’m finding that everyone largely enjoys it and has prioritized gathering.
Sometimes we have a theme (This past weekend was Greek. Opa!) but often it’s just tasty, down-home fare. Since there are about 10 regular attendees, I’ve been working on a delicious version of meatloaf in a double-batch quantity. I’m going to share the recipe with you. If you are entertaining, great! Make it as is. If not, you can freeze one of them to use later or simply cut the recipe in half.
I’ve served it with both baked and mashed potatoes and a green salad. Leftovers make an excellent meatloaf sandwich. This version uses lean beef, lots of seasoning and doesn’t dry out. Let me know what you think and if it inspires you to gather with family and friends.
Elizabeth’s Maple-Glazed Meatloaf
2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 cups of dried, seasoned bread crumbs
1 white onion, diced
1 cup of milk
¼ c ketchup
2 T Worcestershire salt
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t black pepper
For the Glaze:
½ cup ketchup
2 T apple cider vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatloaf and mix very well to incorporate the bread crumbs and milk. This is a fairly “wet” mixture but won’t disappoint.
Divide the mixture between two (lightly greased) loaf pans and shape the tops to resemble smooth loaves of bread.
In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the glaze and whisk together to combine. Pour half of the glaze onto each of your meatloaves and use a basting brush to cover each with the mixture.
Place both loaves on the center rack of a 350-degree oven. Bake for 55 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Sometimes the very best parties are the simplest. Enjoy.
A few weeks ago I shared my love of Sherry. Right on the heels of Sherry seems like the perfect time to mention another fortified wine: Port. Red Port is a blend which uses many grape varieties and comes from the Duoro river valley in Portugal. A “vintage” designation is given to those wines from the best years. They are great during the holidays and cold weather, but actually appropriate throughout the year. Sub them for an after-dinner drink, or even a stand-in for dessert.
2011 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port is a crowd-pleaser. It can be described as a classic. A smooth but meaty option with heaps of black cherry. It is a delicious mouthful and great with chocolate and caramel. A little pricey at $49 for the smaller, 375mL bottle.
2008 Dow’s Port, Quinta Senhora da Ribera presents a deep, dark color with spiced berries on the nose. The finish is at once bright, long and lingering. An intense and concentrated wine. Lovely with dark chocolate. $75
2016 Kopke Vintage Porto is another black beauty. Kopke is the oldest port house in the world, founded by a German diplomat in 1638. The hand-stenciled bottles stand out on a bar and add a sentimental nod to tradition. Very dark in color with aromas of black fruit in the glass and one of my favorite flavor combos: cocoa, violet and black pepper on the tongue. An aggressive mouthful, Kopke layers balance, flavor and tannin beautifully. Big, long finish. About $60
The aforementioned will be a hit with dark chocolate, caramel and fruit desserts but work with dinner, too. Berry flavors can be a terrific match with savory fare like roasted meat, blue cheese and duck. Cheers!
@TaylorFladgate @DowsPort @KopkePorto #PortWine #Portugal
Winter has officially arrived, making it the perfect time to explore Sherry. It’s definitely appropriate year-round but is a fortified wine (read higher in alcohol) which gives the “warming” effect that’s perfect in cold weather. I’m not talking about the grodie stuff your mom used for cooking. Sherry is Spanish in origin and made from white grapes (usually the Palomino grape). The wines range from table styles such as Manzanilla and Fino to much heavier versions like Amontillado and Oloroso.
If you’re new to Sherry, start with a very old brand, Emilio Hidalgo. An excellent choice is their Bodega Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla. A nice, dry table wine, it is well-known as a standard by which others are judged: an excellent jumping-off point. It’s about $15. Tastes like apples, with a little bit of herb and salted almonds.
Ahhh, this one is an old friend from early in my restaurant days. I discovered it at a tasting I hosted in 2002 and it became a year-long obsession. One of the kitchen guys and I polished off a bottle per week between the two of us. Bodegas Dios Baco 20 Year Old Amontillado Sherry. This will set you back $80ish. Keep in mind that this is a sipper so a bottle goes a long way. It makes a lovely offering with nuts and hard cheeses or with dessert after a meal. Or whenever, actually. It has a light mahogany color and tastes like nuts and caramel. Serve it at room temperature.
El Maestro Sierra offers two Oloroso styles. My favorite is this big boy: Oloroso Extra Viejo 1|7 VORS (El Maestro Sierra). This is high in alcohol at 22% and is very intense with dried fruit (apricot & figs) and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts). Complex with cinnamon, dark chocolate and butterscotch. An enormously long, lovely finish. Extremely limited production. ½ bottles hover around $100
Pro Tip: An opened bottle of table-style Sherry will last nearly a week in the fridge. Amontillado and medium-sweet Sherries will last for 2-3 weeks and Cream Sherries can last up to three months.
#BodegaHidalgo #BodegaDiosBaco #ElMaestroSierra
Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon is my go-to. There's simply no reason to re-invent the wheel. A traditional French beef stew, featuring carrots, onions and mushrooms with loads of Pinot Noir. Hers is the best I've ever had and I thought I'd share it with you. It sounds fancy, and while it's certainly impressive, Bourguignon is also simple. Give it a try and add it to your repertoire. You're welcome.
Full disclosure: this recipe isn't difficult, but it is lengthy. I usually make it a day or two before I'm going to serve it. As it sits, it gets even better.
Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon
YIELD 6-8 bowls INGREDIENTS
Pro Tip: Use French Pinot Noir for most delicious results.
Pro Tip: For an impressive presentation, serve your stew in a hollowed bread boule that's been toasted for a few minutes in the oven.
One of my earliest holiday memories is learning to make eggnog with my Maternal Grandmother. She lived in Shelbyville, Indiana and drove up to spend Christmas with my family in our home in Indianapolis. It was 1979 and I was 5 years old. My Grandmother brought with her an old cookbook, which had been my mother’s: The Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook (Pictured above). We used the recipe in that book and made a delicious, frothy nog that wedged pleasantly in my mind. The recipe that follows is loosely based on that recipe that I made a million times. It has been updated with more, ahem, “grown-up” flavors.
a dozen eggs
12 T white sugar
1 pint whipping cream
1 t vanilla extract
4 cinnamon sticks
Freshly ground nutmeg
12 T Bourbon
When you are entertaining this holiday season, give this golden oldie a whirl. You’ll be shocked at how delicious it is and what a festive cocktail it makes at your holiday party. Of course, you can omit the bourbon for a “virgin” version.
Cheers to making memories with your loved ones!
December brings with it a host of special events. From neighborhood open houses and office parties to New Year’s Eve its best to have a little something in hand for your host. The I’m recommending are all bottles I’d be happy to receive. Starting at well under $20, there is an appropriate selection for any occasion.
A fun little Italian wine, Olianas 2017 Cannonau Di Sardegna DOC comes in at $13ish and isn’t one you’ll find everywhere. I always enjoy a wine that’s a bit obscure because it implies that the giver has put a bit more effort into selecting it. This one isn’t going to be the 15-case display inside your wine shop. It will impress with rich, bold flavors like chocolate, fragrant tobacco and hints of myrtle berries (menthol). A big mouthful of silky red wine.
For a fancy affair, seek out 2015 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. With 86% Cab juice and about 10% Merlot, this beauty smells like black currants & strong coffee. It’s got a solid tannic structure but the tannins themselves are subtle and feminine. In the mouth, you’ll get flavors of bramble fruit, ripe black cherries and cocoa with a gorgeous spicy finish that won’t quit. $55
My most recent wine crush (pardon the pun) is another California wine from St. Helena in Napa Valley. 2015 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc makes a statement. What it says is, “I’m a very structured and concentrated wine, with firm tannins.” Each sip grips you with dark berries, tarragon, chervil and scads of chocolate and leather. This lovely is a big mouthful that stands up nicely to heavier holiday fare. $65 Worth. Every. Penny.
#OlianasCannonau #FrankFamilyVineyards #EhlersEstate
I’ve been on a molasses kick lately. Which is great since cookie baking season is officially upon us. Ever hosted a cookie exchange? Here’s your guide to planning and hosting a fun get-together that streamlines your baking this holiday season. For those unfamiliar with this long-time holiday tradition, a cookie-exchange has each guest make several dozen of just one kind of cookie, then invitees can sample and swap equal amounts of cookies with other guests. #winwin
Be sure to offer a few weeks’ notice to guests since there is prep-work involved for them to attend. In your invitation, be sure to ask each person not only for an RSVP, but also have them let you know what they plan to bring so there aren’t duplicates: that’s no fun. The amount is up to you, but generally speaking, 5 dozen is a good number. Advise guests of the quantity they’ll need to bring and ask them to have printed copies of their recipe available.
Once the big day arrives, have platters and baskets set out for guests to display their cookies. Also provide “name cards” for each cookie being offered. List the name of the baker and the name of the cookie. It’s also a good idea to note any common allergens, like nuts on the name cards. Place copies of the recipe for each nearby the corresponding plate.
Plenty of plastic bags or aluminum foil are a must so that swapped cookies can be repacked for travel. When asked for cookie travel tips, my dear friend, Diana Anzorena, owner and cookie artist of Pretty Sweet Confections by Di says, “When I prepare my cookies…I wait until the icing it completely dry (about 24 hours). I wrap them individually in cellophane bags and twist tie them. Then I choose a box or tin where they will fit without a lot of room to move around”. This is great advice if you are giving cookies as a gift. Pretty Sweet Confections by Di is on Facebook under that name & her custom cookies are un-rivaled, gorgeous creations. Go to her page for inspiration!
Offer coffee, milk (obviously, right, since we’re talking about cookies?) and something festive like mulled cider or cocoa for your gathering. Definitely consider an additional small and SAVORY snack (think cheese or veggie plate) to cut through all that sugar.
Each guest goes home with the same number of cookies they came with but will have an assortment to gift or enjoy. Best of all, you’ve made time to spend a fun few hours together.
Here are my three favorite cookie recipes to jump-start your planning:
Grandmother’s Mexican Wedding Cakes
1 c softened butter
6 T sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 c sifted all-purpose flour
1 ½-2 c finely chopped pecans OR walnuts
1 c confectioner’s sugar
-Heat oven to 325 degrees
-Cream butter VERY well then add sugar and cream again.
-Stir in vanilla extract, then flour and finally nuts.
-Roll into 1 ½ inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (about 2 inches apart)
-Bake for 8-12 minutes until they are a delicate yellow color.
-While warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar and allow to cool before serving.
Grammy’s Sugar & Spice Cookies
¾ c shortening
1 c sugar
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 t cinnamon
¾ t ground cloves
¾ t ground ginger
1 c confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
-Heat oven to 375
- Cream shortening and sugar, then add remaining ingredients except confectioner’s sugar.
-Mix together and form into 2” balls.
-Place the balls 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet
(or one fitted with a silicone baking mat).
-Bake 10 minutes for a softer cookie and 12 if you prefer crunchy.
-Place confectioner’s sugar in a shallow and when cookies are still warm,
roll each side so that they are” dusted.”
Mia’s Favorite Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks of salted butter, softened
1 ¼ c firmly packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t salt
3 c quick cooking oats
-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
-Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
-Combine remaining ingredients in a second bowl, mix, then add to wet ingredients.
-Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
-Bake 8-10 minutes.
-Cool for one minute before removing to wire rack, then cool completely.