It’s Monday morning again! What did you do over the weekend?!
As I mentioned in my last post, I hosted a little soiree with a few of my best friends last weekend. In honor of the current season, and despite the sudden heat wave, it was a fall wine-tasting party!
Fall and wine happen to be two of my favorite things and moreover, I’m all for finding any excuse to have a party. So I filled my little home with pumpkin scented candles, scattered the tables with brightly colored leaves, and headed where else but to the kitchen.
I always use entertaining as an excuse to knock out a chunk of recipes from my ever-growing “need to try” list, and it definitely accomplishes that, whether for better or for worse.
I say better because it really is fun to pick out a group of recipes that coincide well and really seem like they’ll be just fabulous, based on my assessment of the ingredients.
I say worse because, well, with trial usually comes error. And when you’re racing around the kitchen, trying to do 27 things at once, and your clock is looking more and more like a bomb that’s about to detonate, you run the risk of a LOT of error. These racks of cookies may LOOK pretty but I can assure you, they fell flat in the taste department.
Alas, there were several varieties of pumpkin-infused treats baked that day that did not end up making the cut, resulting in a very harried chef and a last minute trip to the grocery store. And that is why wine was invented. 😉
But you know what? No one was the wiser and the night was fabulous. If there’s one thing that cooking has taught me over the years, it’s never to expect things to go according to plan. Because even the best laid plans are not fool-proof and when you find that a giant wrench has lodged itself right into the middle of everything, it’s an invaluable thing to be able to keep a smile on your face. After all, the point of entertaining is to spend quality time with people you care about, isn’t it? Impressing them with your savvy kitchen skills is just a bonus… 😉
Here’s a little summation of the final food turn out.
- Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza with a Rosemary-Infused Balsamic Reduction
- Creamy Butternut Squash Penne Pasta
- Beet & Butternut Squash Salad with Caramelized Almonds & an Artisanal Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Pumpkin Pie with a Gingersnap Crust
- Oh, and wine, lots of fabulous wine!
I’ll be sharing some of these recipes with you in the weeks to come but for now, I want to share with you these super fun and easy party favors, which were inspired by the current morning addiction in our house: pumpkin spice coffee.
Lance and I can’t get enough of this amazing coffee combo and this is coming from a former pumpkin-detester (Lance, not me)! The secret ingredient is my pumpkin spice syrup (recipe below). Starbucks, watch your back! In the time it usually takes you to drive down the street to get your cup of joe, you can make 3 weeks worth of this miracle syrup for less than the cost of your daily Starbucks!
So in honor of the season, I pulled together a few of the usual coffee suspects and ended up with an adorable mug full of pumpkin goodness for each of my fabulous guests. It was such an easy thing to create but I loved sending my friends off with a little something from my kitchen to theirs. 🙂
I found the cheerful, yellow mugs, the mini creamers, and the little leaf buckets at Target, the little bags of coffee grounds from World Market, and the jars I used for the syrup were from Bed Bath & Beyond. The two other ideas I had for party favors (jars of apple butter or caramel apples) both would have been more budget friendly options, if you’re looking for ideas along those lines, but I got rather attached to idea of this little bundle and I was pretty happy with the end product.
But enough about the pumpkins, let’s get to the pino’s! For the wine tasting, I created a chart that listed and described 8 of the most common types of red and white wines. I gave each of my guests a little card with 4 numbers on it, on which they would write down their best guess at which wines they had tasted.
I advised everyone to cover their cards, as there was a prize that would be awarded to the winner of this contest. Morgan took the competition quite seriously, letting everyone know that she was writing in tiny print so that no one could peek, which we were all having a good laugh at, especially by glass 4. I understand now why people spit the wine out in official wine tastings but where’s the fun in that?!
Morgan wasn’t overly thrilled with the turnout after having taken such drastic measures to ensure her win but you know, I think she still had a pretty fun time playing.
At the end, we had two winners: Jonathan and Lauren! But because there was only one prize, a tie breaker was in order. We decided to go with rock, paper, scissors – classic and effective. Lauren was declared the victor! She went home with a fun, new, leopard-print wine cork and cocktail napkins that read “My head says to go to the gym but my heart says drink more wine.” <-We could all relate.
So, the verdict on this party theme? Hmm. A crisp fall evening, 4 of my best friends sitting around my kitchen table, fancy food, and fabulous wine? I’d say it was a winner! I’m predicting another wine tasting in the very near future…Who’s in?! 😉
Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Adapted from Savvy Eats
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
In a small saucepan on medium high heat, add the water and sugar. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
Whisk in the rest of the ingredients and continue stirring occasionally, without allowing it to boil, for 5 more minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer (like a coffee filter) or a cheese cloth. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.
How are you enjoying fall this year? Do you have any pumpkin-infused favorites?