As the holidays move in and time becomes harder and harder to schedule with friends due to family functions, we decided to throw a Holiday Harvest Dinner Party. With a seasonal menu and local wines, we snacked and mingled and it really started feeling like the holidays.
I love making invites, usually from scrapbook supplies. But that gets so time consuming and expensive. I really wanted the Martha Stewart scrapbook app for my iPad but didn't want to pay for it. Then, as I was looking for apps to use in my teaching, I came across PicCollage. Love it - and it's free! Great for putting together Polyvore-type outfit boards AND for making cute invites!
The buffet is always home to the appetizers. I use a lot of the same décor across seasons, especially my shabby chic “Seuss” tree and the candelabra. I simply switch out the accessories decorating the tree and the candle colors in the candelabra. While the Klimt print stays, I usually swap out the items on either side of it. I have wreaths and paintings that I rotate throughout the seasons.
Here are the appetizers, starting with the closest: 1) Crostini topped with goat cheese, fig jam, and cracked black pepper. Simple and delicious. It’s sharp and tart and peppery and sweet, all at the same time. 2) Veggie crudités with Hidden Valley Ranch Dip. You use a packet of dry ranch seasoning and a dollop of sour cream. It doesn’t get any easier, and the flavor is better than pre-made ranch dips, in my opinion. 3) Mushroom Crescents: these are always a favorite. It’s sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onions, thyme, sour cream, and cream cheese baked in pie crust pastries. Time consuming and messy but totally worth it. 4) Dates stuffed with a blend of parmesan and cream cheese and wrapped with prosciutto.
Here’s the drink menu. We served a selection of Michigan wines, a growler of beer from Mackinaw Brewing in Traverse City, Shock Top, and a couple of cocktails. The first is a raspberry cocktail using Chambord, raspberry vodka, and pineapple juice. We made it for a previous party and it was such a huge hit that we made it again for this one. Unfortunately, raspberry schnapps is hard to find, and unless you’re willing to pay the big bucks for Chambord, you might have to substitute. I used cherry schnapps this time instead and could hardly tell the difference. I also made a “Cake & Champagne” cocktail using vanilla cake vodka, Disaronno (the cheap stuff just doesn’t do it), and club soda. I tried it with Champagne and didn’t care for it. The club soda gave the bubbly effect I wanted without overpowering the vanilla cake flavors.
I’ve always envied this vintage washtub my mom has. She brings it out for parties, fills it with ice, and stocks it with drinks. So, when we were antiquing earlier this fall in Amish country in Holmes County, Ohio, I snatched up a double-washtub for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate how much ice it takes to fill one washtub, let alone two, hence why only one side of it is filled. Ah well, lesson learned. I need FIVE bags of ice next time, not one. Whoops…
The Dining Room
I’m bummed my camera is such crap at taking dimly lit photos. Our downstairs living room has a wood-burning stove, rustic hardwood floors, and dark pine paneling. Not exactly my taste, but it was perfect for this occasion. I cleared all of the furniture out of the room and set up three banquet tables, each with different linens and centerpieces in the color scheme of red, green, brown, orange, and yellow. The room was entirely lit by candles.
It was cozy as we dined on cassoulet, curried fruit, and salad. The salad is made with dark greens, cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, goat cheese, and an olive oil and apple balsamic vinaigrette. Cassoulet is a classic French dish with an assortment of meats and white beans. It takes forever to prepare because you have to roast duck, goose, pork, lamb, or whatever other meats you’re including. It’s very hearty and comforting and yummy. Curried fruit is a holiday family tradition. It’s canned fruit baked with brown sugar, butter, and curry powder. Simple!
Here’s one of the centerpieces. This is another all-season centerpiece. I swap out the candles. I change the filler in the base. Sometimes it’s corks, other times it’s pebbles or stones, potpourri, or garlands. I’ll wrap the hurricanes in different printed papers or tie ribbons around them depending on the season.
To finish off the night, we played a game of Time's Up! Ever played? It's super fun and totally hilarious. Here's the description from Board Game Geek: "Time's Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, almost any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2 no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, no words are allowed at all."
Holiday party season is now in full swing...let's keep the festivities coming!