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    How to Build a Bagel Bar

    The holiday season is officially upon us.  I had my entire house decorated Friday by about noon but I am nuts.  I was at the White House yesterday and the army of volunteers are still putting up their decorations (check … Continue reading

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    A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel

    I used to be able to travel back to Boston all the time for work.  It was great because I got to see family and friends and stay connected to my hometown in a way I can’t do now.  However, … Continue reading

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    Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

    For those of you who didn’t come up with your Thanksgiving menu months ago (better known as sane people) I decided to post some ideas from the A Capitol Contessa archive to inspire you.  I also included a couple of vegetarian main … Continue reading

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    Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

      If you read my post last week about my favorite items from Trader Joe’s, then you know I am a sucker for everything they make with pumpkin in it.  Last time I was there I saw these Pumpkin Cranberry … Continue reading

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    The Ballot Puncher

    If any election day calls for a stiff cocktail it is this one!  No matter your party affiliation or level of involvement I am sure we can all say we are glad this campaign season is almost over.  This drink … Continue reading

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    A Wine Soaked Dinner Party

    Inspiration for my dinner party themes come from everywhere, including a bottle.  I was trying to think of an ingredient that I could build a whole menu around when it occurred to me that I not only like to serve … Continue reading

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    ACC’s DC: ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar

    ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar – 300 Florida Avenue NW The ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar has been a long time coming.  For any of you who follow food news in DC, this place has been talked about for ages, and … Continue reading

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    Hummus Potatoes

    Poor hummus has become so popular that everyone has bastardized it to the point where you can barely recognize it!  Carrot hummus made with no chickpeas (delicious by the way), garlic-less hummus (NOT delicious), beets swirled into hummus (so pretty) … Continue reading

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    Vaduvan Butternut Squash Soup

    I looooove making big batches of healthy soups and then freezing them in individual containers to have at lunch all throughout the cold months.  However, the same flavors over and over again can get a little boring after a while, … Continue reading

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    Fried Chicken Perfected

    Fried chicken is my mom’s desert island meal.  And it’s mine.  And I am guessing most of yours.  However, good fried chicken can be really hard to find, and bad fried chicken is just sad.  When I was a little kid … Continue reading

How to Build a Bagel Bar

The holiday season is officially upon us.  I had my entire house decorated Friday by about noon but I am nuts.  I was at the White House yesterday and the army of volunteers are still putting up their decorations (check out my insta for a pic!) so if you haven’t gotten around to it, don’t feel bad.  For this crazy season I thought I would post things that are perfect for making ahead, ideas for simple but elegant entertaining and of course cocktails to get you through.  This bagel bar is a great combo of all three and daytime entertaining is ideal for the holidays.   Question: who doesn’t love a #sundayfunday brunch?  Answer:  the person who has to wake up early to cook!  I love hosting people for breakfast and brunch as seen here and here but sometimes it can be a real “scramble” getting everything ready in the morning.  Have a bagel bar means just a bunch of arranging and yes I guess some cooking making bacon but come on, we cannot skip the bacon!  Everything else can be prepped a head of time so all you need to do it pop the bubbles and enjoy the day.

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Step one:  Night before order the bagels – these beauties are the thing holding up the whole party so you don’t want subpar bagels and you certainly don’t want to show up at the bagel place to discover that they are out of the best flavors.  I like to order from Bullfrog Bagels on H Street here in DC.  If your bagel place doesn’t have online ordering just pick up the phone and place the order directly with them.  I would budget a bagel per person even though I find that most of my friends only really eat a half once they load up on the other goodies and toppings.  However, no one ever wants to be skimpy and any leftovers can be frozen.  Get a mix of plain, everything and sesame (the most popular flavors) and then grab whatever looks good – I love salt bagels in case anyone is inviting me to their bagel bar!  Now that the bagels are pre-ordered that means just popping out to grab them first thing in the AM or getting a helpful friend or spouse to do it for you.  If you want to save even more time go ahead and order cream cheeses with the bagels, if not stay tuned for how to spruce up plain old spreads.

Step two:  Night before bake some sweets – brunches are built on the two pillars of salty and sweet.  The bagels and their toppings have you set for savory so you need to provide some sort of dessert/sweet option.  If you order your bagels from a true bakery go ahead and grab some sweets there but I like to at least have my hands in something for this party.  This last time around I made Ina’s Ultimate Ginger Cookies but my cookies Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies would be perfect for brunch instead.

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Step three:  Night before prep the fixings – here you can really be creative.  What do you like on a bagel?  What would look pretty and colorful?  What is in season?  What is in my fridge that I want to get rid of?  Valid questions all.  For this bagel bar I went pretty traditional – I had lox, radishes, red onions and horror of all horrors, cucumbers.  One of the few things in the world I DO NOT EAT but here is where being a good hostess kicks in.  Its my understanding that some people actually like these thing and actually the green was a nice addition to the plate so what the hell.  Slice everything thinly and store in plastic bags in the fridge.  If tomatoes are in season they are also a nice addition as well as thinly sliced fennel.  For cream cheese I wanted to have a nice selection so I had plain as well as three flavors.  Flavoring cream cheese is incredibly easy – just blend finely chopped herbs or veggies in with the cream cheese.  The key is to have room temp cheese so that everything blends well.  I find that the paddle attachment in a stand mixer is the best way to do this but good old elbow grease and a spatula will work as well.  Just add in fixings until you get the flavor you like.  For this party I did scallion, honey and walnut and a veggie cheese made with carrots and celery.  Fill small bowls or ramekins with your custom or store bought cream cheeses and cover with saran wrap so they are ready to go.

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Step four:  Morning of make bacon and coffee – ok so yes you do have to do some work here but its truly minimal.  Patrick makes the coffee in our family so that’s one less thing I have to do but get it set up the night before and all you have to do is push a button.  The bacon you should do in the oven as I taught you here so you can do a huge batch at once.  Put as much as you can on baking sheets at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then drain on paper towels and done.

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Step five:  Morning of set up bar – dual meaning here.  You want to set up the bagel bar and the booze bar morning of.  Slice those bagels and arrange them prettily in a basket or on a tray.  Do not make your guests navigate the hazzards of slicing their own bagels – your friends will thank you.  Pull out the prepped fixings from the fridge and set them out as well to come to room temp (except the lox which should be set out right before).  Grab your toaster and set that out as well so people can toast if they want to (do you have toast tongs?  If not this is a great excuse to get some).  Also set up the bar so your guests can grab their own drinks.  I put out sparkling water as well as sparking wine (my house cava of course), some red and white wine, sodas and a variety of juices.  Glasses and an ice bucket and you are all set.

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This bagel bar is the perfect brunch for after a family event like a graduation or recital as you only need a few minutes of prep before your guests arrive and everything is served room temperature.  Pretty presentation and thoughtful homemade touches will make your guests feel special while you can catch some extra zzz before the party.

A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel

I used to be able to travel back to Boston all the time for work.  It was great because I got to see family and friends and stay connected to my hometown in a way I can’t do now.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t also have to do with frequent stops to the Paramount, an awesome diner like place on Beacon Hill.  Open since 1937 this place is always packed but worth the wait.  My standard lunch order was the roasted turkey Rachel with sweet potato fries.  If you have never had a Rachel, its basically a Ruben sandwich with turkey and coleslaw instead of sauerkraut.  The mix of the tangy Russian dressing with the hearty turkey and the rye bread make me super happy.  Since I no longer get to fly up to Boston for one every couple of weeks I started craving it big time.  That’s when the idea to deconstruct the Rachel came to me – turn a lunch classic into a dinner staple.  In place of the rye bread I simply breaded turkey cutlets with breadcrumbs mixed with caraway seeds (the nutty yummy flavor you get in rye bread comes from those seeds).  Then the Russian dressing and coleslaw come together as a bed for the turkey cutlet.  To elevate this a bit I made my own Russian dressing and used bagged broccoli slaw which is much more crunchy and flavorful then the cabbage kind.  A bite of the cutlet with the slaw together and BAM you have a Rachel sandwich!  This dish will definitely get me through until the next time I can go to the Paramount.  Serve it for a totally outside the box Thanksgiving with some hoppy beer and I am sure your friends and family will flip.  Have a great holiday!!

A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel(printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  the best sandwich at the Paramount
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 12 ounce bag of broccoli slaw
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound turkey cutlets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium size bowl combine the mayo, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, apple cider vinegar, and hot sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Stir in the broccoli slaw making sure it is all combined.  This can be done several hours in advance, store in the fridge and just take it out 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.  Set out three bowls for breading – one with the breadcrumbs and caraway seeds in it, one with the flour and one with the egg, beaten with a splash of water.

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Set out a plate or cookie sheet to place the breaded cutlets on.  First tip each cutlet in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip in the egg, making sure to coat the entire thing and then finish in the caraway breadcrumbs, pressing them on to make sure they stick.

Once all the cutlets are breaded heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Once they are hot add as many cutlets as comfortably fit in.

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Cook 3 minutes per side and remove, add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and cook the remaining cutlets.  Serve the cutlets on top of the slaw mixture.

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A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 12 ounce bag of broccoli slaw
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound turkey cutlets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium size bowl combine the mayo, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, apple cider vinegar, and hot sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the broccoli slaw making sure it is all combined.  This can be done several hours in advance, store in the fridge and just take it out 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.  Set out three bowls for breading – one with the breadcrumbs and caraway seeds in it, one with the flour and one with the egg, beaten with a splash of water.

Set out a plate or cookie sheet to place the breaded cutlets on.  First tip each cutlet in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip in the egg, making sure to coat the entire thing and then finish in the caraway breadcrumbs, pressing them on to make sure they stick.  Once all the cutlets are breaded heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Once they are hot add as many cutlets as comfortably fit in.  Cook 3 minutes per side and remove, add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and cook the remaining cutlets.  Serve the cutlets on top of the slaw mixture.

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

For those of you who didn’t come up with your Thanksgiving menu months ago (better known as sane people) I decided to post some ideas from the A Capitol Contessa archive to inspire you.  I also included a couple of vegetarian main dishes if folks in your family don’t do turkey.  This year we are having a small group, just 4 people, but for a special meal you should always go all out on the table.  I based my table around antique “turkey plates” that were my grandmother’s.  They don’t have turkeys on them, actually they show scenes of Boston, but since they were used every Thanksgiving, my mom, aunts and uncles started calling them the turkey plates and it stuck.  My own wedding china, Vera Wang for Wedgewood, goes really nice on top as a salad plate.  To add some texture I used these Pier 1 Rattan Chargers (on sale now!) and tortoiseshell napkin rings.  To add some sparkle I used my favorite gold flatware set from Target and my new Gem Toned glasses from Pottery Barn in Amber.  Thanksgiving is definitely were you want to use a tablecloth instead of place mats to catch errant gravy drips.  I used a neutral beige once (similar here) – now all I need is flowers, a pitcher of water and lots of wine and my table is all set.  If you are having an even smaller Thanksgiving for 1 or 2 people I am posting a great weeknight turkey dish on Thursday that would work well.  Next week we will be dark for the holiday but when ACC returns it will be all holidays all the time!

Drinks and Appetizers

The Fall A-Way Cocktail

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Mascarpone Blue Cheese Dip

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Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostini

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Vegetarian Mains

Roasted Cauliflower and Farro

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Pumpkin Lasagna

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Sides

Roasted Carrots with Vadouvan Yogurt Sauce

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Over the Top Mashed Potatoes

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Lemony Brussel Sprouts

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Holiday Salad

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Roasted Onions

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Desserts

Individual Apple Crisps

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Peanutty Oatmeal Cookies

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

 

If you read my post last week about my favorite items from Trader Joe’s, then you know I am a sucker for everything they make with pumpkin in it.  Last time I was there I saw these Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps (a seasonal cousin to their awesome Raisin Rosemary Crisps).  I grabbed a container of their mascarpone cheese knowing that the rich buttery flavor would make for a great base for a dip.  Once I got home I realized I just so happened to have a small piece of blue cheese that I got as a remnant at Righteous Cheese.  Whip them together with some cream and you have a super rich, unbelievably easy dip.  This is a great one to make if you happen to have a small piece of blue cheese left over – also any other pungent cheese would work, I was thinking Humboldt Fog would be even better.  Add as much or as little of the secondary cheese as you would like.  Since this isn’t a super flavorful dip you want to pair it with these crisps or something else like an everything bagel cracker, that has a lot of flavor.  This would be a great one to set out at Thanksgiving as you can make it several days ahead and will only take about 1 minute of your time to pull together.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip(printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a cheesy pairing for my pumpkin crisps
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

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Season with salt and pepper.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.  Pairs nicely with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

The Ballot Puncher

If any election day calls for a stiff cocktail it is this one!  No matter your party affiliation or level of involvement I am sure we can all say we are glad this campaign season is almost over.  This drink is the perfect anecdote to election night stress – espresso to keep you up for late night results, gin to keep you smiling and some bitter Campari to well…I think you get the bitter part!

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You are going to have to take a leap of faith with this drink – I realize it sounds disgusting.  It all came about when my friend Erikka was travelling and texted a drink menu pic with a negroni that had espresso in it.  Her boyfriend and I immediately decided to try it out and were totally impressed – I honestly have no idea why it works but the floral, bitter and sweet notes all come together for an awesome drink.  Just remember to GO VOTE before you start downing these!

The Ballot Puncher (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  GO VOTE!
Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces fresh espresso, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces Campari

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold.  Strain and serve up.

The Ballot Puncher

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 30 seconds
  • Print

Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces fresh espresso, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces Campari

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold.  Strain and serve up.

ACC’s Kitchen: Favorites from Trader Joes

Hello wall of cheese!  I hope most of you are lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s – I can hardly contain myself that one is actually opening in walking distance from my house!  For anyone who has survived a Trader Joe’s parking lot then you know how amazing that is.  The reason those parking garages are like the Hunger Games is that once you get hooked on Trader Joe’s you just want more.  I will admit that it is not the best store for everything – the produce can be iffy, same with the meat selection and you won’t be finding rolls of Bounty or boxes of Lucky Charms here.  However, for life’s important things – cheese, wine, croissants and fresh flowers – TJ’s is the best.  Shopping there can be a bit overwhelming, especially at peak times, so it’s easy to pass right by terrific items if you don’t know what to look for.  I have seen a couple articles on the best TJ items, all which left out some of my favorites and then my dad introduced me to their chocolate croissants which I had been missing for years!  Clearly it was time to share A Capitol Contessa’s Best of TJ’s to hopefully help you get out of there with all your limbs attached and a cart full of goodies.

Flowers

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Starting here since they are usually right by the door.  I love having fresh cut flowers in my house especially when it starts to get cold and nasty out but it’s an expensive habit.  TJ’s doesn’t have the biggest selection but the quality is good and the prices cannot be beat.  I like to grab a couple bunches of a single flower so it looks really bountiful – I will usually go with the alstroemeria (also known as Peruvian lilies), roses, tulips or hydrangeas.  If you like a little more variety they have mixed bouquets as well.  Grab some flowers and add them to your cart and they will bring a sense of clam as you enter the breach.

Produce

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As I mentioned, this is certainly not TJ’s strong point.  I have often found a giant pile of avocados just to discover that every single one is almost liquid inside.  Same for pre-washed lettuce – just don’t, the odds are about 99% that once you get home it will already be rotten.  However, there are a couple of notable high points where TJ’s gets it better than most grocery stores.  Jalapenos for instance, TJ’s sells them in plastic clamshell boxes so you get about a dozen or so and they are big, spicy and are always in good shape.  Perfect for making jalapeno chips.  Also terrific (random I know) are their bags of green scallions.

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I find that even in the best grocery stores often green onions are tiny, or totally limp, or half rotten.  The ones at Trader Joe’s are really good and keep for a while in the bag (pro tip – add a paper towel to the inside of that bag before you put it back in the fridge and they will last even longer).  You can sometimes get lucky with other fruits, veggies etc but these are the two that really stand out to me.  I am going to skip the meat section entirely because unless you are in a pinch and just need to grab chicken breasts there is really nothing to recommend there.

Refrigerated Dips and Pastas 

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I have never had a hummus from Trader Joe’s that I didn’t enjoy, and look at all the different varieties they have!  Great for taking into work as a snack (and yes they sell snack size too), their dips are also great for parties.  If you are hosting a ton of people grab their white bean spread or spicy hummus and just keep them in your fridge for back up.  Also delicious their fresh pastas that can be found right next to the hummus.  Don’t skip the Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli.

All the Cheese

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Now we are about to get serious.  If you go into Trader Joe’s for one thing and one thing only, make sure it’s a visit to their cheese wall.  For someone who makes a lot of cheese boards and has what some might qualify as a cheese problem, Trader Joe’s is the solution.  Extremely reasonably priced cheeses and a huge selection.  My favorites are the Dubliner Cheddar (which you will not find cheaper anywhere, ever), St. Andre, a brie like cheese, the Drunken Goat, Trader Joe’s brand Feta Cheese in Brine, their Goat Gouda, their fresh mozzarella…I could go on and on.  It’s a great place to grab cheeses that can get pretty pricey elsewhere like grueyre as they are sold in sealed packages so last for a long time until you have a french onion soup emergency.

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Also right next to the cheese is a deli meat display.  Please skip past all the sad looking pre-sliced turkey and go right for the prosciutto.  I like this brand in the picture better then their own Trader’s Joe brand but either way they are both very inexpensive and another great staple to have in your fridge (grilled cheese with prosciutto emergencies are a real thing too).

Nuts and Dried Fruit

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Make sure to hit the nut aisle before the holidays – the prices are out of this world.  I buy in bulk and then make my famous spiced nuts as gifts for people all season long.  I also make sure to have a bag of roasted and salted cashews on hand for any impromptu happy hour.  TJ’s also has a great selection of dried fruit like cranberries, apple chips and crystallized ginger.

Canned Goods

There is usually one aisle next to produce that has various canned goods, condiments and the like.  I am a snob when it comes to oils and vinegars so I usually skip past those.  The canned beans and coconut milk are good and cheap but not really any better then what you get at a regular store.  What are great are these Yellow and Red Roasted Peppers.  Not only do I like that they use two different color peppers (presentation is everything!) but they are nicely charred, and are a great deal.  Another terrific pantry staple to turn into crostini or pizza topping.

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This aisle or perhaps the end of it, is usually where all the seasonal stuff is.  When fall hits I head straight to Trader Joe’s and buy all the pumpkin everything.  That Pancake and Waffle mix is incredible and I will be posting a recipe next week for a dip to go with their Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps that would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

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Sweets

A lot of the stuff at Trader Joe’s is meant to support a healthy live style, organic, etc etc but they also have some really dangerous treats scattered around the store.  My friends Debbie and Toby introduced us to these Dunkers that are just awesome with coffee.  Usually they are in the frozen food aisle.

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Also in the frozen aisle are their incredible self rising croissants.  On a recent visit to my dad’s house he opened my eyes to these babies and as soon as I came back I had to get them.  They are sold frozen but you have to make sure to plan in advance as they rise over night.  Take them out of the packaging and place them on a baking sheet the night before and viola, the next AM they have tripled in size and are ready to bake off.  20 minutes later it’s like you have a French cafe right in your own kitchen.  They have plain mini ones, my favorite the chocolate ones and my dad’s favorite the almond ones.  They are the perfect thing to make when you have overnight guests.

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Unfortunately they didn’t have any of my favorite sweet treat last time I visited – the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels.  They usually carry them around Christmas, though this year they also did a pumpkin version for fall.  SO good – make sure to stock up this December to last you through the first nasty snow storm.

Wine and Beer

Now that you have all that cheese you are going to need wine to go with it.  Again low prices and a pretty diverse selection though you can run into some duds here.  The craft beer selection is always solid and usually features whatever is local (in DC is its a good spot to pick up Port City or DC Brau beer).  For wine I usually go with the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc or the Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles but there are also some nice Italian reds and French roses.  Avoid the 2 buck chuck and go for those with the “staff pick” signs and you should be good.

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I am always on the look out for new great Trader Joe’s products so make sure to leave your favorites in the comments section.  I looked like a total ass taking pictures in the store but I do it all for you dear readers!  Luckily I had a couple nice bottles of wine and a whole cart full of cheese to help get over my embarrassment…

A Wine Soaked Dinner Party

Inspiration for my dinner party themes come from everywhere, including a bottle.  I was trying to think of an ingredient that I could build a whole menu around when it occurred to me that I not only like to serve wine with every course but I also love cooking with wine.  Why not use dishes that all have wine in them, and not just as a bit player but as the main event.  I tried to really stretch myself and use all kinds of wine – white, red, dessert, sparkling.  Invite your friends to bring over their favorite bottles to match the wine soaked meal and you are sure to have a great time.

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For decor I kept it pretty simple with fall colors and lighting.  Make sure to have wine glasses that match your wine (i.e. flutes for champagne, white and red wine glasses) at the ready so people don’t have to mix in their glass.

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Also try to pick wines that mirror, or are the same as those you put in the dish – I happened to have a magnum of my house white so I could use it in the Beurre Blanc dip as well as serve it on the side.  For the stew grab an extra bottle of red that you are planning on serving because a whole bottle goes into it.  The entire meal can be made in advance and then just reheated which means you will have plenty of time to hang and drink wine with your friends without having to worry about stirring or flipping anything.  Let the wine soaking begin!

MENU

Appetizer – Whipped Beurre Blanc Dip

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If you have never had beurre blanc sauce on something you haven’t really lived.  Luckily the geniuses at Food and Wine magazine came up with this incredible dip that tastes a lot like the rich buttery sauce.  It’s not easy to find an appetizer that uses 2 whole cups of wine!  By cooking it down, this dip looses the booze taste and just retains the delicious winey flavor.  Add in lots of creme fraiche and you have a rich creamy dip perfect for dipping salty potato chips.  I served the white wine that went into the dip along side as well as our favorite local sparking from Greenhill Vineyards – sparkling wine or champagne if you have it pairs nicely with the richness of the dip and the saltiness of the chips.  Also how beautiful is that dip with the shallots, lemon zest and chives on top?  A real show stopper.

Main Course – Parker’s Beef Stew

An Ina classic, this beef stew takes an entire bottle of red wine to make.  She really puts the wine to work by using it as a marinade for the beef first and then as part of the stew.

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What you end up with is incredible slow cooked flavor that also has that tart edge of wine. Make sure to use a nice bottle that you would want to serve along side the dish.  I went with a Cabernet Savuignon, Ina suggests a Bordeaux but really any medium to heavy body wine with lots of flavor will do.  Best part is that it’s a one pot wonder with meat and veggies included so you can serve it on its own for the main event or with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

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Dessert – Poached Pears

Last but definitely not least we come to dessert made out of what else but dessert wine.  Another whole bottle goes in (if you are counting that is now almost 2,000 ml of wine in this meal!) and poaches the pears as well as becomes the sauce.  For those of you who think you don’t like dessert wine and have a dusty bottle hanging around somewhere that was gifted to you this is the perfect dish to use it in.

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The fresh ginger and tart pears counteract the sweetness of the wine.  Best part the pears can be made way in advance – just take the ice cream out 20 minutes before you want to serve it to let it soften.  More dessert wine would pair great with this as would port or another bottle of bubbly.  I hope you guys enjoy this menu with your friends – just make sure to have a DD or Uber handy following the meal!

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