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Help finalizing a holiday party menu

I know real puff pastry is not vegan, but the Pepperidge farm brand definitely contains no animal by products. In addition to reviewing the ingredients list, I found recipes using it on a few vegan blogs. The ingredients list makes it not my first choice, but I've eaten it and its fine, particularly for dishes were it is not meant to be the star.

When I'm not serving vegans, Trader Joe's is my preferred brand - cheaper than dufour's, not as scary of an ingredients list as Pepperidge Farms. :)

Dec 22, 2013
arugulove in Home Cooking

Help finalizing a holiday party menu

That salmon recipe looks like exactly what I need to round things out. What do you think about serving it chilled?

Dec 22, 2013
arugulove in Home Cooking

Help finalizing a holiday party menu

We are having a holiday party. Heavy appetizers and drinks. All finger food. Probably about 25-30 people. Full range of dietary issues, including varying degrees of kosher, vegetarians, a celiac vegetarian, and a couple of vegans. Most people have adventurous palates, though there is one very picky eater coming.

I have a nicely equipped kitchen but it is small, and I hate doing prep mid-party. If I take something out of the oven, I don't want to do much more than transfer to a plate and hit off with salt. I will only fuss around with garnishes if I can do it all before guests arrive.

Here's what I've got so far. I feel like it is missing something.

Hot Apps
bacon wrapped dates

warm fennel and Parmesan dip (Martha Stewart recipe), served with bread

Smashed mini potatoes, served with a bowl of garlic pimenton aioli for dipping

Kabocha squash and chestnut soup shooters. This might be a disaster and violates my rule against mid-party work, but I bought a gabillion shot glasses at Ikea because they were stupid cheap so I am going to give it a shot. I'm going to keep the soup warm in a crockpot and pour using a thin spouted kettle.

Room/Cold Apps
Farmhouse cheddar and stilton terrine (bon appetit recipe) which I'll serve with crackers, fruit, nuts, etc.

Marinated roasted vegetables that will hold up well at room temp. carrots and cauliflower, definitely. my grocery store carries multiple colors of both. maybe some other vegetable but I haven't figured out what. some kind of hummus or bean dip with them. Maybe a second dip.

Beet/apple/onion tart cut into bite size squares. Will use pepperidge farm puff pastry so it will be vegan friendly.

Roast beef crostini with onion jam.

olives, nuts, pretzels, etc.

Assortment of Christmas cookies. At least one will be vegan and celiac friendly

I feel like it is too light on meat, and I'm pretty sure the picky eater is only going to eat the potatoes, and maybe the crostini without the jam. The vegans can eat the potatoes, the veggies and bean dip, fruit, and the beet tart. The celiac vegetarian can eat the potatoes and soup, the fennel dip with vegetables, the veggies and bean dip, and the terrine with fruit.

Would you add anything else? I have thought about something using home cured gravlax, but I am concerned that it will get gross at room temp real fast. It also doesn't solve my problem of having something for the picky eater.


Dec 22, 2013
arugulove in Home Cooking

Recommendations Needed for Amazing Wineries Producing Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley & Unique Napa Valley Wineries

For Russian River pinots, go to Freeman. You'll need an appointment but you don't want to miss it. The wine cave there is amazing. It's close to Lynmar, which is also an excellent choice.

Lunch in Sonoma . . . Healdsburg/Kenwood area

I'm not familiar with the Kenwood area. In Healdsburg, Bovolo is wonderful for something light.

If you are willing to drive a little further north to Geyserville, Diavolo is amazing.

Help needed planning a wine tasting trip -- Santa Barbara/Solvang/Pasa Robles

Thank you for this recommendation! A couple years ago, someone had given me a bottle of Thacher and I loved it. I had forgotten about the wine until just now. Definitely adding this place to my list.

Jul 26, 2012
arugulove in California

Wineries with picnic areas

Truett Hurst is my favorite place to picnic. The wine is so-so, but there's a few good ones there, and the grounds are just beautiful.

Mazzocco, Bella, Amista, and Medlock Ames would all be nice places for a picnic too.

2 Days in Sonoma for Novice Wine Drinkers

I'm also a huge fan of Healsburg. I think its much nicer than southern Sonoma. Prettier, cheaper, and less crowded.

Two good places for beginners -- DaVero and Amista. DaVero isn't quite as scenic, but they have a good variety and they are very nice and down to earth there. They mix olive oil tastings in with the wine tasting, and talk a lot about pairing. I had a great time there. Amista is on Dry Creek Road, and the scenery is great. Very friendly and approachable people there. My only complaint about them is that they push their wine club hard there, but other than that, I really like them.

Up the street from Amista is Truett Hurst. They can be a little crowded, but the grounds are gorgeous and they have a nice variety of wines at reasonable prices. Those three wineries could easily be done in a day, followed by a late lunch in downtown Healdsburg. Bovolo is amazing for sandwiches and salads. I also like Healdsburg Bar & Grill for a burger and fries. If you are up for one or two more, the La Crema tasting room in downtown Healdsburg is a good one and you can try a variety of pinots there. (not on the tasting menu, but usually available to taste are a few whites - a viognier, and a couple others. All quite nice.)

Comal - Berkeley

I went last night and my experience was mixed.

I loved the space. The cocktails were amazing. We each had two, plus a mezcal shot. All were wonderful, and i really liked the chicharrone salt that came with them.

The food - hit and miss. The two of us split four dishes. I liked the chips and salsa - I thought the three salsas were excellent, though there weren't enough chips. The compressed watermelon and pimento de padron salad was excellent, but for $12, I expected more than two peppers, 4 cubes of watermelon and some cucumber chunks. The rabbit quesadilla was meh. Tortilla was a little too thick, and I didn't find the dish had a lot of flavor. The braised prawns were very good, but I didn't like how they served them with the heads on. I felt like they did that to make the dish look more impressive than it was - because otherwise it's just 4 medium prawns in a bowl of tomato sauce. Everything tasted fine, but nothing knocked my socks off.

The service - horrible. We had a 30 minute wait which wasn't a big deal. The bar was full except for one seat. So I sat down and my husband stood next to me. They would not let us order chips and salsa unless both of us were sitting down. Eventually a second seat freed up and we were allowed to have chips.

Then when our table was ready, they moved us to another bar. We were not actually given a table. We then waited a long time for someone to take our order. We put in our order for the mezcal shots and food. My mezcal shot came after we had finished the first of the three dishes. Halfway through the second of the three dishes, they told my husband that they were out of the mezcal that he had ordered. It was not until we were almost done eating the third course that his shot arrived.

I liked the drinks enough that I want to go back and I think the food has promise, but I'll give it a few months for them to work out the kinks before going back.

Help needed planning a wine tasting trip -- Santa Barbara/Solvang/Pasa Robles

great report, thank you!!!

Jul 21, 2012
arugulove in California

Help needed planning a wine tasting trip -- Santa Barbara/Solvang/Pasa Robles

You had me at Toffee Crunch Cake.

Admittedly, my only knowledge of Solvang comes from Sideways and my husband's childhood trip there 30 years ago.

I've looked up Root 246 and it looks amazing.

Happy to have found so many dog friendly hotels. I think we'll be able to leave her in the room at night for a good dinner, and then we just have to worry about finding lunch outside - shouldn't be too hard with all the patios in the summer. We've taken her to Sonoma before and she gets so exhausted from everyone petting and playing with her in all the wineries that she's comatose by 6 pm.

Jul 21, 2012
arugulove in California

Help needed planning a wine tasting trip -- Santa Barbara/Solvang/Pasa Robles

I've lived in the SF bay area for 4 years and have not been anywhere in the Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo stretch. The husband and I are planning on driving down in August for three nights. We'll likely stay in Solvang. I'm willing to look past some of the hokey-ness of it since it seems fairly central, cheap, and dog friendly (our little happy 14 pound chihuahua corgi mix is coming along).

Our thought is to hit the San Luis Obispo/Pasa Robles area on the way down and back, and then spend the middle two days in the stretch between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos/Santa Ynez etc.

Any suggestions for wineries and/or restaurants?

We've done Napa and Sonoma a million times, and we're fairly particular about what we like. We like small, off the beaten path type wineries, particularly those that don't need to woo you with a dizzying array of 12 different chardonnays, 8 other white blends, 6 pinots, 18 different reserve cabs, and 3 mediocre "ports." I like simple, focused wineries that know how to stand on just a couple of good grape varietals, like Elyse in Napa or Freeman and Bella in Sonoma. I don't mind more commercial, well known places if they are good and focused - eg I adore Ridge, but not, say, Mondavi.

I appreciate your help!

Jul 21, 2012
arugulove in California

Healdsburg WHITE (Winery) and Olive Oil Suggestions

Also heading to Healdsburg on Sunday. I've been but I'm taking an out of town guest. Other places that are open are Amista (not far from Ridge), and they usually have a chardonnay and sometimes a rose to taste. They are very friendly there.

Also good in downtown Healdsburg - LaCrema (lots of chardonnay) and Stephen & Walker (just one white, an excellent sauvignon blanc).

If you are headed to Preston on Monday, I also recommend Bella.