Holiday hot pots return the chef to the party

Courtesy of Christine Moore
Prepared ahead of time, a hot-pot dinner allows everyone to cook and visit together rather than confining a sacrificial chef in the kitchen.

“All is bright.” It’s a phrase deeply linked to the holiday season – and for good reason. Despite the early hour of sunsets this time of year, the holiday season is one of brightness.

I see it in the sparkling lights twinkling from windows, hear it coming from the holiday songs on repeat in our home and feel it in the animated excitement of anticipating children.

'Pampered' tart combines savory and sweet

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s Baba Ghanoush Tart combines smoky, sweet, salty and nutty flavors.

’Tis the season for dinner parties and indulgences, when turduckens or, worse, piecakens end up on some entertaining menus. A piecaken is three different pies baked into a cake. But why not have just one so rich and flavorful that you won’t yearn for an extra pie or three?

As a food writer and host of the YouTube cooking show “Feast in the Middle East,” I usually feel extra pressure to step up to the plate (no pun intended) and really deliver on a unique dish that will wow all of my guests. One experimental afternoon I had all of the ingredients to make the eggplant dip baba ghanoush as well as a sack of almond meal – and my Baba Ghanoush Tart was born.

Beer first and last : Pairings highlight Thanksgiving meal

Derek Wolfgram/ Special to the Town Crier
Cleophus Quealy Beer Co.’s Cranberry Weisse pours a celebratory purplish-pink color and brings a lemony tartness to the glass.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your beer pairings for the family feast.

Like any beer/food pairing, there are two main approaches you can take – flavor profiles of your brews either can be complementary or contrasting with the food. For Thanksgiving, that either means something light, crisp and refreshing to cut through the richness of the meal, or something big and strong that can hold its own with the intensity of the dishes. Following are two examples of each pairing strategy.

Wine, popcorn and a movie cozy up to Thanksgiving Eve

Movie-night popcorn and a glass of Rosé are all you need for a cozy Thanksgiving eve couch campout with the family. Christine Moore’s traditional flick: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

Autumn light shone on the smooth leaves of the magnolia trees that grow throughout my neighborhood and stopped me in my tracks the other morning. I had been walking with a long list on my mind when I slowed down in appreciation of the stained-glass effect the light created. I found myself considering how simple gratitude can be.

Autumn is a dazzling season for sunlight, a kaleidoscope of shadows visible more than any other time of year. Gratitude can be this way, too – shining through and changing the shape of even the densest troubles in life.

RWC's Freewheel Brewing pours British-style cask ales and more

Courtesy of Devin Roberts
Freewheel Brewing Co.’s head brewer Alisha Blue trained in Germany and worked in the United Kingdom before brewing in the Bay Area.

Founded in 2012 as the only brewery making traditional cask-conditioned British-style ales on the Peninsula or in the South Bay, Freewheel Brewing Co. has expanded its offerings beyond real ale while remaining true to its vision.

“Freewheel is a true community brewery and pub,” sales and marketing director Devin Roberts said of the operation, located at 3736 Florence St. in Redwood City. “We are unique in that we specialize in traditional real ale, but are more than that. We are part of the community, and are patterned after the traditional idea of a pub being an important part of people’s lives – the kind of place where you can meet with friends and family in a comfortable and welcoming environment.”

Farm-to-glass cocktails respond to the season

Courtesy OF L.& K. Karmirantzos
Pickle juice creates a pungent cocktail kick reminiscent of the more traditional Bloody Mary.

I recently gathered with friends for a farm-to-table feast. We made dishes that highlight the harvest season as we celebrated friendship and the bounty of Northern California.

The farm-to-table concept encourages diners to focus as much on the source of the food as the food itself. In recent years, the idea has gained much traction in everything from wedding themes to fundraising events touting farm-to-fork freshness. Applying the general principle to a dinner party with friends is easy to do, too. We divvied up the menu and served everything family-style around a long table set in a friend’s particularly magical Los Altos back garden.

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