Out of all the four seasons, fall is definitely my favourite. Not only do I enjoy wearing my cozy sweaters in the cooler temperatures, drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and watching the leaves turn a rainbow of colours, I love it because of all the delicious, seasonal foods that come along with it. Fall harvests bring us countless varieties of apples, squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips…the list goes on…all from which we can make hearty and comforting foods. And what better way to enjoy these delicious seasonal foods than with a celebratory fall dinner party?!
When you think about it, fall is the perfect season to entertain at home. It’s not too hot, meaning that you can have your stove and oven going all day and you won’t be dying of heat in the kitchen, and it’s not too cold, meaning that outdoor entertaining is still possible. Whenever weather permits, I like to serve fun fall-inspired cocktails outside early in the evening so that my guests can enjoy the crisp fall air before it gets too cold. Once the temperature drops or the sun sets, they really enjoy coming inside and warming up by the fireplace, and maybe with another cocktail before dinner.
Speaking of cocktails, I chose to serve one of my favourite fall cocktails for this dinner party, Whiskey & Spice Apple Cider. This cocktail will warm you from the inside out and totally get you into that fall mood. I also like to have a little snack to go along with the cocktail, just so your guests don’t get too tipsy before dinner. One really great idea that I recycle over and over again for parties is a cheeseboard. Because, really, who doesn’t like cheese?! I serve a traditional soft goat cheese, an aged cheddar, hearty gouda, and powerful blue cheese along with whole-grain or seed crackers, and olives, nuts, dates and red grapes to give it a fall twist. Plus, cheese is extremely portable, allowing your guests to move outdoors to enjoy the fall colours and back indoors again as they mingle.
When your guests decide to move back inside, I like to bring the outdoor feeling with them, and my main avenue for doing so is through my table setting. The table setting really sets the mood for the party, and for fall I like to keep it relatively rustic and casual. I used a tan linen table runner down the center of my table as my base (this one happened to have pumpkins embroidered on both ends- so fall!) and I continue to build from there. I used some tree branches that still had healthy, plump, green leaves down the middle and added in some bright red and lime green Honeycrisp apples to make it pop (these happened to look the best at the farmer’s market that day). I dotted a few tea lights throughout the leaves and apples to really set the mood. I then anchored the table with a short emerald green vase filled with coffee beans and a tea candle. Of course you can fill the vase with flowers, grasses, or anything that looks pretty to you!
As for servingware, I always think simple is best. Plain large white plates for the main course, with smaller appetizer white plates placed on top is all you need. I added in my everyday cutlery, silver forks and knives, to keep it simple but I went for some statement wine glasses. These wine glasses have been one of my greatest purchases to date. I am in love with the gold rims and the fact that they are stemless makes it even better- it’s so in style right now! I also added a personal touch to each table setting by writing my guests names on some extra leaves using a gold marker. It’s the little touches that make your guests feel warm and fuzzy inside!
Now, let’s get to the star of the dinner party, the main dish(es)! While there is a meat component to this fall dinner party, I also designed this fall dinner party menu keeping vegetarians in mind. For the appetizer, I chose to serve a simple Arugula Salad topped with sliced grapes, Parmesan cheese shavings and Maple Spice Candied Pecans. The salad dressing is very simple and is made from olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. With those tasty candied pecans, you definitely want to keep the dressing simple. This recipe can be enjoyed by both your omnivore and herbivore friends. For vegans, simply omit the Parmesan cheese and add more grapes and pecans!
I also chose to serve a white wine with this salad, particularly a Gewurztraminer as it has a slightly sweeter flavour. This one is from one of my favourite wineries in Summerland, British Columbia- Dirty Laundry.
Now for the main dish- I have two variations- both of which will make you drool. The first is for the meat-eaters with my recipe for Red-Wine Braised Beef. While this dish looks complicated, it is actually extremely easy, relatively affordable, and looks incredibly elegant when plated (an entertaining trifecta for hosts!). For the Red Wine Braised Beef, simply brown the meat and vegetables, add the red wine, beef stock and seasonings to the pot and bake in the oven for 4 hours. The slow baking process will tenderize this cheap, tough cut of meat (blade roast) so much that you can cut the meat with a butter knife. You can even do this the night before and simply reheat the meat before serving. How easy is that?!
For vegetarians, I have a great substitute: Braised Mushrooms with White Wine and Garlic. I clearly have a braising theme going on here, but braised mushrooms are delicious and very satisfying! In this recipe, I use fresh oyster, trumpet and cremini mushrooms and saute them in a mixture of olive oil and garlic until browned. I then add the white wine and butter, and cook them on the stovetop for 5 minutes, or until the wine has reduced down a bit and then serve immediately. I mean, I eat meat and I know that Red Wine Braised Beef is delicious, but I would totally go for this, and vegans would too (minus the butter)!
I chose to serve a red wine along with both these recipes since I was looking for a more robust and bold flavour- it is fall after all! I chose a Cabernet-Merlot mix for its spice and currant notes and for a slightly dry finish. I really enjoy this Cabernet Merlot from Sandhill Estate Vineyard in Oliver, British Columbia. This is definitely going to be my go-to wine for the season <3
Finally, for the grand finale, I present my Apple Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze. This is actually my mom’s recipe, but it is so good and so perfect for fall that I had to make it myself. The batter is very simple to make and the cake always comes out incredibly moist due to the sliced apples inside and on top the cake. Again, you can make this a day in advance BUT if you make it the morning or afternoon of the dinner party, your home will smell absolutely amazing. I like to serve this with coffee (hence why it’s a coffee cake) or tea. No dessert wine here!
After this big, comforting, delicious meal, I guarantee that your guests will be completely satisfied and will be in a cheerful fall mood. And of course, while these are just my tips for throwing a fall dinner party, just know that when you mix good people and good food together, you are guaranteed to have a successful dinner party- no matter what the season.
Have a happy fall everyone!