Champagne Dreams

Champagne cork

Don’t you love that POP rush of air when the cork finally releases from the bottle?

I’m giving a champagne tasting party for New Year’s Eve, and I’m so excited about it!

champagne ice

Each guest will bring a bottle of champagne, and I’ll set up a blind tasting using about half of each bottle – the other half will be reserved for the person who brought it. Each taster will score each champagne 1-5 with their names next to their score, and then I’ll average the scores and find out which champagne is the winner! Very democratic.

Almost a little too democratic, which is why we have tasters put their names next to their scores, so they can go back and find out which one(s) they scored highest. That way everyone will know which one they liked best, and which one was most popular overall. Very useful for future champers buying.

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Stacy’s Fig Spread

© Mateev

© Mateev

My friend Stacy Fisher Hamby is a great, healthy cook and I love getting recipes and dish ideas from her. She posted this recipe for Fig and Pear Tapenade with Whipped Honey Goat Cheese on Jackson Whole Grocer’s website and I made it for a party a few months ago! YUM.

She keeps the fig and pear separate from the whipped goat cheese and I’m sure it looks absolutely gorgeous and fancy like that. I just mixed all the ingredients together because  I didn’t want my guests to have to balance the topping mixture on top, and  I didn’t want to spend the time doing it ahead of time!

Either way, it comes out really well and is an easy make-ahead party food.

Fig and Pear Tapenade with Whipped Honey Goat Cheese

I love this appetizer because it is so incredibly easy to make, and even easier to serve. This recipe thrives throughout late summer when figs are in season, and also in fall when pears are best.

  • 1 pear, chopped into small cubes
  • 15 dried or fresh figs, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t lemon juice

Mix all ingredients well in a bowl.

  • 1 small goat cheese tube (4 oz)
  • 2 T honey

Whip goat cheese and honey (by hand) until smooth. To achieve a creamier and sweeter cheese mixture, add more honey as desired.

  • 1 fresh baguette, sliced thinly
    *May also be toasted after slicing

Self-service for your guests. Spread cheese/honey mixture onto a slice of bread and top with a tablespoon of fig/pear mixture. Enjoy!

Yield: 4 servings

Holiday Table

This table is so simple, but it still SCREAMS holiday, and wintertime, and celebration! I love it.


Even if you don’t have all the red accent plates and placemats – I mean, seriously, you know I’d just throw down some nice matte red wrapping paper and call it a day – the napkin treatment is easy and really makes the holiday statement for you. You can get these little bells at any place with Christmas tree gear, and then all you need is some kitchen twine and a sprig off the Christmas tree or from outside.

So easy, and so festive.


If you don’t have kitchen twine, just use some ribbon instead. It’ll be even more colorful.


Throw some votives around the table, stick a few more sprigs of greenery in vases, and you’re all set!

I might use this design idea for a dinner party I’m giving my family between Christmas and New Year’s…


All photos from Restored Style, via The Sweetest Occasion. Restored Style bought most of the tableware at Pier One, so if you’re into this look exactly, check it out.

The Girl in the Garden – First Review


When she first got her book deal about a year ago, I wrote about my friend Kamala Nair and her fantastic novel, The Girl in the Garden. It was so fun to come up with a dinner party themed on the book.

Here is the synopsis from Publisher’s Marketplace: “Kamala Nair’s THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN, the redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.”:

The book just got its first review, and it’s great! (As it should be, obviously.)

An excerpt from the review:

I loved the whole setting in India.  Because Rakhee was born and raised in Minnesota, everything seen through her eyes seems exotic and unusual.  The seeming unfairness of some of the cultural aspects was a bit disturbing, but not unrealistic.  I really enjoyed Rakhee’s relationships with her cousins (especially Krishna, who was close to her age), and the way the characters were portrayed made it easy to tell them all apart (something that’s often troublesome when there’s more than one of a specific type of character, such as aunts, uncles, or cousins).

As we get closer to the publication date – June 15, 2011 – I’ll be writing more about how book clubs can entertain with and use the theme of The Girl in the Garden.

No Cookie Swap Cookie Making



My mom just told me the cookie swap is the evening that I arrive back home. Which means that I’ll be traveling the day of, rather than making cookie after beautiful cookie! I was so excited about this opportunity to make cookies and then have people to give them all away to. For me, having too many cookies leftover in the house is always the one problem with cookie making.

I really want to make the ginger and cream cheese cookies – what for, though? Christmas morning? I’ll find some occasion when people will be around to eat them.

Ginger Cookie and Cream Cheese Filling Sandwiches

Aren’t soft ginger cookies heavenly?
Photo from Baked Perfection
Photo from Baked Perfection

Now imagine them sandwiching a pillowy layer of cream cheese filling. SO good. I had this at a Halloween party this year and decided I must figure out the recipe.

Martha has a recipe for much the same thing except with pumpkin cookies, but I think ginger sounds better.

This looks like a perfect recipe for those soft big ginger sandwich cookies: Baked Perfection’s Big Soft Ginger Cookies (photo above)

I can’t wait to try making these over Christmas break!

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