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Tasting Table: How to Throw a Fall Cocktail Party!

Happy Wednesday everyone! It might seem a little early in the day to be talking about cocktails, but then again, it’s never too early to start talking about cocktails! Ha. But I confess: I know NOTHING about making cocktails. If you put me behind a bar, I’d be clueless. I’ve made margaritas a few times (following a recipe), and once made a sparkling cranberry cocktail for the blog. And…that’s about it. I’ve never served cocktails at a party, I don’t have a bar, and rarely drink liquor. It’s not that I have anything against mixed drinks – I love them when they’re made well – it’s just that I’m more of a wine girl. So when Tasting Table asked me to write a story called “How to Throw the Perfect Fall Cocktail Party,” I knew I needed help.


I think most of you all know by now that I write a weekly “Everyday Entertaining” column for Tasting Table. I’ve always dreamed of having a column – and especially one about dinner parties and at-home entertaining! – so this has been a total blast for me. Though it’s fun writing about my own dinner party highs and lows, what I really love is getting to interview entertaining experts, like cookbook author and food stylist Susan Spungen (“How to Throw a Last Minute Dinner Party”), Portland DJ-turned-bar-owner Kyle Linden Webster (“How to Create the Perfect Dinner Party Playlist”), and my friend and stylist Jenn Elliott Blake (“How to Create a Perfect Fall Arrangement”).

Yesterday, I had the chance to interview my absolute HERO Ina Garten (a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa), about her new book Make It Ahead. I seriously had to do some deep breathing exercises to stay calm before the call, but she was absolutely lovely: so warm and funny. I learned so much from her just jotting down notes as we talked, and it took everything within me not to invite myself over to her house for dinner! I can’t wait to share the story with you guys in a few weeks…stay tuned.


But back to cocktails. To help me out with this story, I called upon my friend Maria del Mar Sacasa, a total rockstar of a food stylist and author of the beautiful book Winter Cocktails (Quirk Books). She and I met last year working in the Bon Appétit test kitchens, and hit it off immediately. The girl’s a fabulous cook, and just as adept at creating liquid concoctions. She loves throwing casual cocktail parties in the fall and winter, but instead of playing bartender all night, she makes festive punches, like Sweet Surrender, a Chamomile tea and bubbly combo, or Orchard Fête, an Applejack-spiked sparkling cider punch with rosemary and thyme – so guest can just serve themselves. (By the way, she said you don’t need a fancy punch bowl: a glass salad bowl will work just fine!)

Talking to her, I learned how to make the perfect ice ring (use a Bundt pan), the basics to include in a bar set-up, and her all-time-favorite favorite crowd-pleasing appetizer (puff pastry-wrapped pigs in a blanket). By the end of our conversation, I was convinced that even I could throw a fall cocktail party. Read the full story here, or better yet, pick up a copy of Maria’s awesome book! There are over 100 recipes, plus lots of practical tips for cocktail-party throwing. (And if you love this book, stay tuned for their Summer Cocktails book out next year…!)

(Photos by Tara Striano)


Monday Musings: Choosing Joy and Gratitude

Good morning friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was spent recovering from a not-so-fun infection and going through all of my receipts and expenses to finish up a belated 2013 tax return. Sounds fun, huh?! (Spoiler alert: it wasn't!) Last night, I was making my to-do list for today and the rest of the week and just started feeling massively overwhelmed. And discouraged. Not discouraged to the point of paralysis, like I ...more

Fall FEED Supper (+ some Friday Link Love!)

Happy Friday, friends! I've been feeling pretty under-the-weather the past few days, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet. But I do have a lot of fun tidbits to share, so here goes...!

-I was so honored to be able to host a FEED Supper this past week around the yellow table! (In case you didn't know, ...more

The World’s Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread

OK, I know this sounds like a really bold claim, but I really think it's true. And in addition to being gluten-free, it's also dairy- and sugar-free. Funny enough, if I had read the title of this post on somebody else's blog a few years ago, I would have just kept on scrolling. Because there's NO WAY, I would have told myself, that a pumpkin bread without gluten, dairy, or sugar could have any taste at all. But as I've experimented with ...more

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