Thanksgiving Dry Run

index-1Thanksgiving is just 5 days away! While you are planning and prepping the meal, it’s a good idea to take some time this weekend to do a dry run of your table settings.

If you are setting a table, lay at least one full place setting at the table, with your tablecloth down. That way you will be able to make sure that you have all the pieces that you need and that the colors all work together. If you are serving buffet style, figure out what you will use to make your different tiers, make sure you favorite holiday tablecloths and napkins are clean and pressed. And take out all of your serving platesplatters and serving bowls and put them on the table with a post-it on each marking what will be in each dish. That way you will be able to tweak your final display without the pressure of the hungry hordes, eager to dig in! And you will be able to make sure that you have enough beautiful bowls for everything at the ready as the food comes off of the stove.

If you realize that you are missing any dishes, plates or are in need of some wine for your festivities, remember that we will be open for Pours and Tours this weekend as well!

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Thanksgiving Buffet Tips

Desserts-and-Annieglass-10Serving Thanksgiving buffet-style can be the easiest and most efficient way to set things up if you are feeding a big crowd for the holidays. Here are some suggestions for setting up a successful buffet.

If you have enough space, don’t place your buffet table against the wall. If you can have people serving themselves from 2 sides, things will go much more quickly and smoothly.

Put your plates on the buffet, but have your napkins and silverware at each place setting on the table. That way people will have less to juggle.

If you won’t have serving plates filled with food to pass, you will have plenty of room on your table for a centerpiece and also scatter some votives along the length for atmosphere and light.

Vary the heights of your serving dishes as much as possible. It allows for a better flow, lets people see all you have on offer before they fill their plate with mashed potatoes, and it just looks more interesting. You do this by using different height cake plates or stands, or place boxes or small stacks of books at different heights and then covering them with a tablecloth before putting the food out.

Make sure to put out small plates or saucers along the buffet for people to put the serving utensils on. This way you will have fewer drips on the table and it will be less likely that the spoon will sink to the bottom of your gravy boat or bowl of mashed potatoes.

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Thanksgiving Table Tips

1383942_10151629262186205_132865162_nA festive and decorative holiday table doesn’t have to cost a fortune or a trip to a fancy florist to create. Incorporating natural elements and things that you have in your home makes for a very personal, economical and fabulous table.

Tall floral centerpieces are pretty, but for Thanksgiving they can take up room that could perhaps be better used for stuffing or Brussels sprouts! I like to keep the table decorations low for holiday meals, so that everyone can see each other without having to peer around the peonies.

Squares of colored paper under the dinner plates make for a colorful and affordable placemat that no one will feel badly about spilling the gravy on. You can also layer a matching or contrasting square between the dinner and salad plates for added texture and a jolt of color.

Table runners can be created from fabric remnants or scarves. Try twisting several pleated silks, velvets or velours together for textural interest. Then lay them down the center of the table in a serpentine shape and tuck in some tea lights or votives throughout. Make sure that any candles you use are unscented though, you don’t want any perfume to overwhelm all the delicious smells of the meal.

Fall vegetables and foliage are amazing on a holiday table. Gather some interesting gourds, different colored pumpkins and arrange them with pine cones, chestnuts, acorns and fruit for an interesting — and mostly edible — tablescape. Eucalyptus, pine, bamboo and rosemary add texture and natural food-friendly fragrances.

What are some of your favorite holiday table decorating tips or traditions?

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The Beaujolais Nouveau Has Arrived! Harvest Wines For Thanksgiving

wine-coolerToday is is famous in the wine world for being the day that Beaujolais Nouveau wines arrive in stores. Released on the third Thursday each November, to worldwide fanfare, the wines are a traditional French way to celebrate the end of a successful harvest season and offer a peek into what this years vintage will become. The freshly picked grapes are quickly pressed and made into a light, fruity wine while the rest of the wine ages. Because of this technique, it has less tannins than most red wines and is best served slightly chilled — about 20 minutes in our wine cooler should do the trick. This easy to drink, fruity wine is meant to be drunk right away as well, making this French tradition a perfect pairing with the American tradition of Thanksgiving.  The success of Nouveau has also meant that other countries and regions are now creating their own vins nouveaux, including vino primero from Spain, nouveau Syrah from France, vino novello from Italy, and Gamay nouveau from Canada. And don’t forget to look local, a number of U.S. vineyards are getting into the nouveau game with their harvest wines.

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Beer Braised Chicken Thighs

IMG_1188With Thanksgiving coming up quickly, it becomes all to easy to focus on what we will be serving NEXT week instead of what we are having for dinner this week. This beer braised is a great stew to serve this week — or any time! It is both hearty and healthful. Chicken thighs are a great ingredient to cook with because they have so much flavor and are so inexpensive—the best of both worlds. And since it cooks in one pot, there’s minimal clean-up. We braise the thighs in beer in this recipe, but you can also use apple cider or chicken broth. Serve with a grain, noodles, rice, or bread to sop up the sauce!

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 carrots roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 parsnips, roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beer
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped kale
1/4 cup cream

Heat the oven to 350°. Heat the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole, Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the pan, skin side down. Cook over moderately high heat for 12-15 minutes, turning once, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. When they are done, remove them from the pot and keep on a plate while the vegetables cook.

Add the carrots, parsnips, garlic and onion to the pan and cook over low heat for about  5 minutes. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Add the beer and stir, making sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, less than 5 minutes. Add the broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin side up. Transfer the casserole to the oven and braise the chicken for about 50 minutes, until cooked through.

Last step: take the chicken out of the pan again and set aside. Simmer the sauce over moderate heat about 10 minutes until it is reduced to about 4 cups. Stir in the cream and kale and stir until blended. Return the chicken to the casserole, skin side up, and serve.

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