Dinner Parties & Entertaining

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If you are hosting the Thanksgiving festivities this year, perhaps you’re feeling the need for a little twist on tradition. (Let’s face it: the same old menu gets boring after a few decades.) Chef Mark has featured Southwestern flavors for our version, imparting the tastes and aromas he savored as a young lad. (P.S. If you have a smaller gathering than, say, Jennifer’s twenty-five-ish guests, this is an ideal alternative to cooking a full turkey.)

A dash of chipotle, a touch of Hatch chile, and a whole lot of flavor accent Chef Mark’s twist on Thanksgiving dinner.


Southwestern Stuffed Turkey Breast
Suggested pairing: Pinot Noir
(see Pairing Notes below for further details)


Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Suggested wine pairing: Off-Dry Riesling



Apple and Cinnamon Empanadas
Suggested wine pairing: Moscato d’Asti


Since you might decide to use the entire menu above, or incorporate one or two of the recipes into your traditional menu, our wine pairing expert Lenn Thompson has offered several options for you below.  For more notes about Lenn’s other wine explorations, visit his LENNDEVOURS blog.

Southwestern Stuffed Turkey Breast

Pairing: Pinot Noir

Reasoning: Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with Thanksgiving dinner and it still works here. The red berry flavors and slightly tart acidity mimic the cranberry sauce that is so popular with turkey, while the light body won’t overpower the delicate turkey. Because of the chiles and spices, a plush, fruity style of Pinot Noir works best, so look to California or Oregon rather than Burgundy.

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Varietal: Off-Dry Riesling

Reasoning: Riesling is another tried and true Thanksgiving accompaniment. The balanced acidity of well-made off-dry riesling will balance the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, while the wine’s sweetness tames the flames of the fiery chiles. Top U.S. rieslings come from the Finger Lakes region of New York and the Pacific Northwest.


Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc

Reasoning: If you are using the recommended autumn squash in this dish, the off-dry Riesling from above will pair nicely. However, for the summer squash version, the citrus fruit flavors will go well with the combination of summer squash, corn, beans, cilantro and tomatoes. A ripe, fruity Californian will work (as long as you avoid those that have been aged in oak) but an herbaceous bottle from New Zealand would work as well. Note: Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite foils for vegetable dishes.

Apple and Cinnamon Empanadas

Varietal: Moscato d’Asti

Reasoning: At the end of a long, filling Thanksgiving meal, steer clear of high alcohol, heavy dessert wines. Instead, pick up an always-affordable, slightly fizzy Moscato d’Asti. The light effervescence will balance the fried crust while significant fruit and floral flavors enhance the delicious filling. And, most Moscato is around 5% alcohol, so you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your day.


For those curious about the meaning of mise en place, it is a French culinary term for “set in place.” If you have ever watched a cooking show, or been inside a restaurant kitchen, you will notice that next to the cooking area, things are set up just so. Ingredients, sauces and critical elements are ready to be used, whether pre-cooked, pre-chopped, or ready as a garnish. This kind of organized setup enables a cook to focus on the actual act of cooking itself without distraction. Our intention with this section is to use the same approach at home, enabling you to host your own special occasions with flair.

This menu was originally published in 2006.


Mulling Things Over

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The soothing fragrance of cinnamon and its mulling companions is the perfect match for red wine — and holidays.

Cocktails, Anyone?

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The origin of the term “cocktail” itself is rife with rumor and speculation, so we’ll leave that to the drink historians.

Hors d’Oeuvres: Little Bites of Heaven

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Hors d’oeuvres can encompass a wide variety of foods, and range from casual finger foods to elegant nibbles.

Harvest Celebration Dinner Party

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At last, the season of entertaining and gathering indoors is upon us. I like to think of it as the modern version of gathering round the hearth; a shared table gives us common ground, and humans, after all, like to be nurtured.

Easter Dinner Menu

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The flavors and colors arriving to market right now offer a refreshing change to our dulled winter palates.

New Year’s Eve Cocktail Party

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We’ve put together a menu perfect for a casually elegant night in. Now get that celebration started!

The Good Host: Grace Under Fire

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There is a certain art to being a good host — one cultivated after what is likely trial-by-fire.

Father’s Day Dinner Menu

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OK, now that Mom has been pampered, it’s time to spoil Dad a little bit.

Summer Smörgåsbord

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Looking for something different this Memorial Day? How about a summer smörgåsbord? This buffet-style menu is perfect for a casual gathering.

Romantic Dinner for Two

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Why dine out when you can revel in the privacy and intimacy of a home-cooked dinner for two?