Festive Fun & Simple Ideas for Holiday Entertaining

 Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Festive Holiday Pumpkin-Cranberry Cake

Tis’ the season for holiday entertaining, and there’s nothing like being prepared! Holiday entertaining can be stressful, but don’t let the idea of it interfere with your holiday joy! This week I’ve included a few fun & simple holiday dishes that can be prepared in advance, taking all the stress out of last minute entertaining and holiday gatherings. They are all super great appetizers and desserts to take to the party as well!

It’s all about the prep, and by doing things in advance and keeping a few simple things on hand for the holidays, entertaining can be fun…and simple!

Now, let’s get to that cake! This beautifully delicious Festive Pumpkin Cranberry Cake can easily be made in advance and kept in the freezer up to one month. Then, when it’s time to serve just dust with a little powdered sugar and a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Fun & Simple holiday entertaining at its best! Pumpkin is my favorite holiday ingredient and combined with fresh cranberries, a dynamic duo.  Add the soothing aroma of warm spices, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and you have a holiday cake that soothes the soul, not to mention makes the kitchen smell amazing while its baking! Here’s the recipe:

Start with these ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.  Mix dry ingredients well, with paddle attachment of electric stand mixer or whisk together in a large bowl, then add:

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Stir until combined on low speed of electric or stand mixer, then mix no longer than one minute on medium speed.  Remove from mixer and gently fold in cranberries. Pour batter into pumpkin baking pan until ¾ full. Smooth with spatula and allow to rest for 10 minutes before placing in the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly on wire rack, 3-5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.  Using a smooth bladed knife, carefully loosen the edges and place the wire rack on top of the baking pan.  Invert and carefully lift the baking pan up and away from the cake.  Serve warm or room temperature.

The cake freezes beautifully for up to a month.  Cool completely and store in sealed freezer bags.  When ready to serve, the cake can be heated directly from the freezer to the microwave.  It will taste as if it came fresh from the oven! Then just dust with a little powdered sugar, giving it a fresh fallen snow affect!

I like to serve each slice with a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream! Super simple…In a cold bowl, add

 Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whip with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or regular mixer) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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If you like nuts, ½ cup of toasted chopped walnuts is an excellent addition to the cake and can be added with the cranberries. You will want to toss them in a little flour also before adding to the batter.

That’s it! Fun & Simple, Gigi Style. I hope you enjoy these hassle free dishes during your holiday seasoning! If you still need a little something for the Foodie on your holiday gift list, there’s still time to have a signed copy of Fun & Simple Gourmet shipped in time for Christmas! You can also download on your devices (iPhone & iPad) at iTunes! In the meantime, enjoy this most wonderful time of year! Wishing you and your family a most fabulous holiday, and remember…

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RELATED PRODUCTS

Leave it to Amazon to have everything you need for holiday entertaining preparation! My favorite organic pumpkin and this great little pumpkin loaf pan, perfect for this Festive Cake. This Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer is a great starter and on sale now at over 40% off. Tell Santa to add it to your Christmas List! I’ve had mine over 20 years and can’t live without it

5 Perfect Pumpkin Dishes for Thanksgiving!

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Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving…right? Of course it’s one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about two of the my most important things in life…Gratitude and Food! I like celebrating and preparing for Thanksgiving all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, not to mention the many health benefits of pumpkin!

Vitamin A rich and only 49 calories per cup, pumpkin has little or no fat content, and is high in antioxidants, like beta carotene which protects your cells against free radicals. Pumpkin also has fiber, Vitamins C, B2 and E, Iron, Copper and Potassium. I love pumpkin in lots of dishes over the holidays, but I eat pumpkin all year long.

I've selected five of my favorite pumpkin delights for you to share with your friends and family this holiday season and all year long...enjoy!

Simply click for the recipes.

   Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

 Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

   Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

   Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

What’s better than preparing a holiday feast with those closest to you and sharing a day of food, love and gratitude! I can’t think of a single thing! I hope you enjoy preparing these fun & simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments and send me your photos! I would love to hear from you! You will find many of my favorite holiday dishes in my new cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet! And…it makes a super great holiday gift!

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving! In the meantime,

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A Delicious Late Summer Surprise

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Where did summer go? I don’t know about you, but didn’t this one seem especially fast? The highlight for me was my birthday weekend when Jeff surprised me with a wonderful birthday dinner celebration in a spectacular wine cellar. I knew he was up to something, but would never let on and spoil his surprise, of course.  We spent the night before at the wonderfully chic Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah, Georgia enjoying the day in the city and the rooftop terrace at the hotel.

Then, when I arrived at the venue for dinner, I was be greeted by 20 of our closest friends…surprise right! But that wasn’t even close to being the real surprise. As I was seated at the table and read the beautifully crafted menu for the evening, I noticed something super special, the menu was comprised entirely of dishes from my new book! In honor of the launch this month, Jeff had arranged with the chef to prepare the evening’s event with an appetizer, a choice of 3 entrée’s and dessert all from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Needless to say, I was more than surprised, speechless in fact (which is not easy for me…ha!) and so touched that Jeff arranged such a special evening with our dearest friends.  Chef Nick at the South Carolina Yacht Club was so gracious and prepared the dishes perfectly, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food, incredible wines and beautiful evening in this magical setting.

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I thought it would be fun to share the menu Jeff and Chef Nick selected as well as the recipes, all from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Now available here on the website, Amazon and select independent book stores and kitchen shops. (Click on the photos for these recipes!)    

It’s hard to believe we are already into our normal back to school routines, shorter days and fall flavors. I love cooking in the fall and now ready for the temperatures to become a little cooler, it sure still feels like summer! Enjoy your last days of summer weather and in the meantime…

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With Chef Nick in the Wine Cellar at the beautiful South Carolina Yacht Club. Chef and his staff were amazing with every detail for our very special evening. I was so honored to have Chef Nick prepare my dishes from Fun & Simple Gourmet. Everything was superb! Many thanks Chef!

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Just Peachy Recipes for National Eat A Peach Week!

 Peach Amaretto Crisp

Peach Amaretto Crisp

In honor of National Eat A Peach Day this week, I thought I would share some of my favorite sweet and savory peach dishes this week. I have had a wonderful summer in the kitchen creating new fun and simple recipes with all of the wonderful fresh summer fruits and vegetables, especially peaches.  They have been so incredibly delicious this year, and I have had so much fun with my favorite stone fruit. From peach waffles to a rich and hearty Bolognese, fresh salads, appetizers and desserts, so many delicious options for enjoying fresh summer peaches while they last.  I am thrilled to share a few of my favorites with you to enjoy with your family. Don’t forget to share and send me your photos!

I hope you are having a super fun National Eat a Peach Week! Time to pack in lots of summer fun during these last few weeks left before fall is upon us. What are your late summer plans? We have been enjoying the cool Colorado Rockies this month, especially the fabulous local farmers markets and fresh and delicious Palisades peaches while escaping the August heat and humidity on the southeast coast. Summer sure is going by quickly! Hope you enjoy these fun and simple peach recipes while savoring these last days of summer...In the meantime,

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 Super fun birthday lunch at Sweet Basil, Vail

Super fun birthday lunch at Sweet Basil, Vail

You will find lots of my favorite recipes in my new lifestyle cookbook. Pre-order yours today!

Celebrating Lobster Season with 5 Fabulous Fun & Simple Lobster Dishes

 Warm Water Lobster Tails

Warm Water Lobster Tails

August marks the beginning of warm water lobster season in the waters of south Florida and the Caribbean. I am a bit partial to warm water lobster, which are known for their lighter flavor and tender meat, as compared to cold water lobster.  Also found in the waters of the Mediterranean and Asia, warm water, or “spiny lobster” have a long tail and head similar to that of their cold water distant cousins, but they do not have claws, rather long spiny antennae.  I say distant because although both varieties are crustaceans, they are actually from different species and families.

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The only edible meat of the spiny lobster is in its tail, tender, juicy and very sweet. That being said, there is something very special about the claw meat of a cold water lobster, but my heart belongs to the mild and tender meat of the warm water lobster tail.  Though cold water lobsters are harvested year round off the northern coastline of the United States and Nova Scotia, summer is considered lobster season. Warm water lobster season is August 1 – March 31, giving time in the spring for mating season and reproduction.

We have wintered in Nassau, Bahamas for over 20 years and consume a lot of lobster while we are there! It is fresh, abundant and is so simple to be prepared and in so many ways! I serve lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in appetizers and salads, and our continuous flow of house guests are always excited about which dishes they will experience during their visit.  Here are some of my favorites!

Simply click on the photos for the recipes!

There is just something decadent about Lobster, but it is truly so simple to prepare. I hope you will try some of my favorites and don't forget to share! Please send me photos of your favorites! I can't believe we are already in August. Enjoy these last weeks of your summer and...

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 My new lifestyle cookbook,    Fun & Simple Gourmet ,   is launching September 1st! Filled with my favorite fun and simple recipes for your healthy gourmet lifestyle! Don't forget to   Pre-Order   your copy today!

My new lifestyle cookbook, Fun & Simple Gourmet, is launching September 1st! Filled with my favorite fun and simple recipes for your healthy gourmet lifestyle! Don't forget to Pre-Order your copy today!

5 Great Recipes for a Delicious 4th of July!

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"The second day of July, 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." -John Adams, July 1, 1776

Independence Day has always been my favorite summer holiday, maybe because it always includes two of my favorite things, fireworks and red velvet cupcakes! On Independence Day we celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from the British Empire with parades, fireworks and yes, food! You will love all of my fun and simple recipes to help plan your 4th of July holiday menu, but first, a little history. The Declaration of Independence was finally approved and signed July 4, 1776, officially declaring the United States of America independent from Great Britain. Ironically, John Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, as well as Thomas Jefferson who also passed on this very same day. The two were also coincidentally the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become United States Presidents.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? At our house, it's all about the food...of course! I like to change up the menu each year, but one tradition that is always on the menu, my red velvet cupcakes, and John Philip Sousa marches! (click on photo for recipe)

 These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

These rich and super moist cupcakes are the perfect 4th of July Grand Finale!

Here are a few more fun and simple dishes on our holiday menu this year! Simply click on the photos for the recipes...enjoy! Don't forget to send me your food pics from your holiday table!

I know I said 5 great recipes for your delicious 4th...I couldn't help but share a couple more! We are celebrating right here at home this year...Hilton Head is such a great place for the 4th! Where are you spending your holiday? Send me your 4th of July photos, including your holiday table!       I would love to share...and feel free to share these recipes and menu ideas!

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The best part about celebrating holidays is that the festivities always revolve around family, friends and food! My favorite part of the 4th of July is the cupcakes, though the fireworks are a close second! From our little island to wherever you are...

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Gone Nuts...for Peanuts!

 One of the biggest food trends this year has been non-dairy milk alternatives, mostly plant based nut milks. Replacing dairy is a great way to enhance your healthy lifestyle! This week's blog includes several fantastic and delicious recipes using peanut milk, both plain and chocolate, from protein packed breakfast muffins, to light and healthy pasta, warm soothing fish curry and decadent desserts, like these gorgeous Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cupcakes!

One of the biggest food trends this year has been non-dairy milk alternatives, mostly plant based nut milks. Replacing dairy is a great way to enhance your healthy lifestyle! This week's blog includes several fantastic and delicious recipes using peanut milk, both plain and chocolate, from protein packed breakfast muffins, to light and healthy pasta, warm soothing fish curry and decadent desserts, like these gorgeous Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cupcakes!

In addition to being high in protein, other incredible health benefits associated with peanuts include biotin, an enzyme healthy B vitamin, heart healthy monounsaturated fats which lower stroke and heart attack risk, antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and reduce cancer risk and consuming peanuts may even protect you from gallstones!

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You've seen them all, almond milk, cashew, walnut, even hazelnut milk, but this is the first Peanut Milk, introduced by Elmhurst 1925. (@elmhurst1925) Peanut milk is dairy-free, non-GMO, vegan, lactose free and Kosher. With today's trends in food, turning to a more plant based protein diet, as a replacement for dairy products, nut milks have become a viable and popular alternative. In addition to their already produced almond, hazelnut, cashew, walnut and grain milks (oatmeal & brown rice), Elmhurst (@elmhurst1925) has developed the first peanut milk (regular and chocolate!) and it is delicious! 

They use a patented process called cold milking, producing a nut milk that is super creamy, flavorful and maintains the nutritional integrity of whole, raw Georgia peanuts (@gapeanuts) free of stabilizers, emulsifiers, gums or other chemicals typically used in nut milking and 6 grams of protein in every 8 ounces! (8 grams in the Chocolate variety)

I was honored to be asked, in conjunction with @Foodiechats and the Georgia Peanut Commission (@gapeanuts) to test the product in my kitchen where I had so much fun creating new dishes and improvising with some of my old ones. Check out these amazing recipes using peanut milk! From smoothies and protein packed muffins to start your day, to light and delicious pasta, warm and soothing fish curry and decadent peanut milk desserts! Simple to prepare and oh so tasty! (Simply click on the photos for the recipes!)

With all of these beautiful and delicious options, you can see why I went Nuts for Peanuts and had so much fun cooking with Elmhurst 1925 Milked Peanuts! Not to mention the many health benefits of peanuts!  Can't wait for you to try the recipes and please, send me your photos after you've prepared one of mine, or created one of your own! Hope you are enjoying the start of your summer...

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My Favorite Day of the Year - Valentine's Day!

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My favorite part of Valentine’s Day…hundreds of renditions of "My Funny Valentine" (Rodgers & Hart 1937 from the musical Babes in Arms) playing throughout the day...  From Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald to Big Muff, every genre of music imaginable!   

Call me a hopeless romantic but my absolute favorite day of the year is Valentines Day. Champagne, chocolate, roses, and hundreds of renditions of my very favorite song playing all day…what could be better than that!

About drinking champagne…the glass actually does matter! I love the Coupe, classic, nostalgic, elegant and romantic, but not good for bubbles if you are a big fan of keeping your bubbly, bubbly. The Flute is perfect for young Champagne and great for keeping the bubbles. The Tulip is my second fav…perfect for mature Champagne (aged to the point where it will not gain further complexity by continuing to store) and believe it or not a regular Wine Glass is ideal for high end more complex Champagne varieties.

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Needless to say, we make it a day of culinary traditions, starting with Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Valentine’s Brunch featuring Chocolate Waffles and Champagne. Gentlemen, don't forget the roses and the little blue box!

My Lobster Cocktail starter is the perfect beginning to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. So simple and can be prepared a day ahead of time and just put together at the last minute. Add a glass of your favorite champagne, what a way to kick off the evening!

Then, may I recommend a lovely Chateaubriand for Two! Slow roasted tenderloin with a rich and flavorful mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables, so tender, it will melt in your mouth! This dish is so simple to prepare, but don’t tell your Valentine, he (or she) will think you slaved all day!

I usually do Chocolate Soufflé for Valentine’s dessert, but this year, I am changing it up with my Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with a Pink Champagne Glaze. The cupcakes can be made the day before, so all you have to do for dessert, is enjoy!!!

So, that’s it! My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. Of course it’s all about the food, delicious but simple to prepare and lots of champagne and chocolate, all while enjoying Your Funny Valentine

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 Me and My Funny Valentine!

Me and My Funny Valentine!

Holiday Entertaining Tips ~ Fun & Simple Style!

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1.  Casual Elegance is always my motif.  It’s easy, comfortable but still lovely and beautiful.  I want my guests to feel relaxed and content but also special.  I like an eclectic combination of casual and formal, all on the same table, makes it fun and festive without being over stuffy.

2.  Select a theme or color.  Choosing a theme and/or color helps make everything else come together with ease.  Of course, the holidays make it super easy because the main theme is already set. Then it’s down to selecting a color combination. Make it simple and use table top accessories you already have, just make them a little festive. Red, green, silver, gold, all fantastic holiday colors, and there is nothing wrong with simple white napkins, rolled and tied with a pretty gold holiday ribbon.  

3.  Welcome Guests with a Special Greeting. Set the tone with a simple glass of champagne with a rosemary stalk or my festive Holiday Bellini, blood orange, Prosecco and Grand Marnier, that will get your guests in a celebration mood!

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4.  Celebrate the Season.  Focus on flowers or greenery for the table that exude the holidays. Fresh herbs like rosemary stalks and fresh cranberries are a great way to decorate the table. I like using all white candles in hurricanes with fresh cranberries and rosemary around the candles. 

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5.  Fun Place Cards.  Wine corks make great place card holders.  Using a serrated knife, simply cut a ¼ inch slit into the top of the cork and slide the place card into the slit. I sometimes even use the wine corks as the place card by writing the names on the cork with a Sharpie!  Champagne corks are fun place card holders, especially for holiday entertaining!  Another fun and festive place card is a simple candy cane.  Punch a hole in your place card, and tie around a candy cane with holiday ribbon. 

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6.  Fun Water Service. How simple is just adding festive fruit or herbs to your water pitcher or water glasses, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, to make it extra special.  For the holidays I like serving water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks or orange slices with cranberries and sage leaves, even lemon slices with rosemary sprigs, all add flavor and festive décor.

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7.  Little Gifts.  I like to send a little gift home with everyone, even if it is just a simple chocolate holiday candy, a little bag of your Christmas cookies, even a candy cane with a pretty ribbon tied around it or a mini-bottle of their favorite cordial or liqueur.  A little something makes a lovely lasting impression. 

8.  Lastly and Most Importantly! Do as much as you can in advance! This simple task makes holiday entertaining so much easier! Entertaining is supposed to be fun for everyone, especially the host! You can do things like setting the table a few days in advance and a little prep every day really adds up to saving time and stress! Also, it is really not necessary to have several side dishes or desserts. One of my favorite lines, that I use a lot is, "more isn't always better, it's just more!"

 Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pear-Pomegranate Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Verts Roasted Shallots & Fennel

Pick your favorite salad, potato or starch, and one vegetable that compliment your main dish, and stick with those. And don’t be afraid to let your guests help! It’s fun to cook together, and if they offer to bring something, let them! An appetizer, bottle of wine, even a side dish or dessert, it just makes the main event even easier on you! These are my sides this holiday to be served with my Porc Aux Figues for Christmas Dinner! 

Stay tuned for more holiday menu ideas and recipes! Feel free to reach out with any questions or recipe requests and in the meantime...

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Enjoy this holiday season and have fun entertaining your family and friends! Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a most wonderful year ahead!  Cheers!

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 Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!

Merry Christmas from 21 Club NYC!

A Few of My Favorite Things - A Magical Day in New York at Christmas

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite thing during the Holiday Season...to be in New York City, there isn't a more magical place and time on earth!  Here's my idea of the perfect day in New York at Christmas with all of my favorite things... 

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1.  Start the day with coffee at St. Ambrose, the best coffee on the upper east side! Then grab one to go, and head towards the Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 2nd most visited art museum in the world. After perusing the exhibit of Modern and Contemporary Art...

2.  Stroll down Madison Avenue and make a stop at Zitomer's (76th) for a little funky gift and card shopping. You just never know what you might find there! A must stop is the Original Ralph Lauren Flagship Store in the Gertrude Rhineland Waldo Mansion, circa 1898 at 72nd & Madison. Modeled after the Chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, the rich history of this beautiful building along with Ralph Lauren's timeless and incredible design flair, make this truly the most amazing retail establishment in the world. It used to house all of the RL lines from mens wear to home collection. I spent the most magical day here during the blizzard of 2003. The snow was coming sideways down Madison Avenue early that December morning as friends of mine and I sat in the Home Collection Showroom, on a purple velvet sectional sofa, with crystal chandeliers above, fragrant holiday candles flickering everywhere, a fire blazing in the fireplace and, to make it more perfect, "It's a Wonderful Life" playing on the television above the fireplace mantel. You could see the horizontal pattern of the blowing snow through the windows to either side of the television screen. Did I say magical? Not to mention the staff offering us champagne as we began to feel the warmth of the fire.  We felt we had just moved into the most amazing Winter Wonderland, I didn't ever want leave! A moment in time I will never forget.

 My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

 Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

3.  Ice skating (or watching) in Central Park on the way to lunch. Walking through the park to Central Park South to make our way to Columbus Circle for my favorite lunch in the city, Nougatine at Jean-Georges. I can't tell you how many lunches we have enjoyed at Nougatine, but each one has been fantastic, and each comes with a story of its own. One in particular was taking our god-daughter and a friend for holiday lunch and meeting Steven Tyler, who could not have been more engaging. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and as we left the restaurant, asked us, "who was that guy again?" Obviously, they were too young to truly appreciate our lunch mate or the conversation, but Aunt Gigi loved every second.

 Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

4.   Just enough time to drop by Harry Cipriani for a Champagne Cocktail on the way to afternoon tea at The Pierre. The scene at Cipriani is always good for a crowded bump on the shoulder, spilling a little of that deliciously sweet drink, but if your lucky enough, it only hits the floor and not you or your partner!  Then just a block to The Pierre for traditional holiday afternoon tea. A little caffeine pick me up, or just more champagne, either way, a delightful way to spend the late afternoon.

 Afternoon tea at The Pierre

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

5.  Strolling down Fifth Avenue towards Rockefeller Center taking in the beautiful lights, decorations, and artfully crafted Christmas windows along the famous 5th Avenue shopping mecca. It wouldn't be Christmas in New York if you didn't just poke your head into Tiffany's and watch all the pretty little tiffany blue bags walk out the door for some lucky someone! Then, it's time for cocktails and wine while we view the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at Morrell's Wine Bar. The best place for a glass of wine with all of your new best friends and spectacular view across the plaza to the tree!

 1 Rockefeller Plaza

1 Rockefeller Plaza

6.  Dinner at the Sea Grill Rockefeller Center, where the beautiful dining room's windows are literally overlooking the Rockefeller Center ice rink, and while you are enjoying a perfectly prepared and very fresh fish dish, it almost appears as though if the skaters can't make their turn, they might just wind up at your table! Well, not really, but it is a magnificent and up close and personal view including a glimpse of the tree above.

 Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

7.  An after dinner drink or cappuccino at The Polo Lounge or Nat King Cole Bar (St. Regis), just across the street from one another on 55th and 5th. Since they are so close, why not have one at both! The perfect end to the perfect holiday day in Manhattan.

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Just a few of my favorite things! Can you tell I have mastered the art of eating and drinking my way across the upper east side? Well, it took years of practice, but each place, each story, each moment, and especially everyone that I have shared these moments with, holds a special place always in my heart.  May your holidays be filled with all of your Favorite Things!

PS...Tomorrow, a few more favorite things, Burgers and Bloody's at 21 Club and a theater matinee, can't do all my favorite things in just one day! We highly recommend "Hamilton" it was amazing! And, we got really great seats at a reasonable price on StubHub!

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

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 Jeff and me in Central Park 

Jeff and me in Central Park 

Tasteful Holiday Sides

 I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

So, let's make this Thanksgiving thing simple and fun! For me, it's all about the sides and the beauty is that most can be prepared in advance, and then just heated through when its time to serve. Really, once you get the bird in the oven, there is time to get everything else together AND spend time with your family, friends and guests and really ENJOY the day! I love being in the kitchen, and holidays having other people in the kitchen with me, enjoying a beverage, snacking, telling stories, laughing and just having fun! I like having a few appetizer snack plates available as the guests arrive.  Not too much food, in anticipation of a holiday feast, but a few light snacks. I also like to keep the "feast" simple. There is no need for so many dishes on a holiday table, keep it simple, fresh and remember, it's really about the company and the celebration!

My favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal is the sides. I like to go with a theme, and then select sides that compliment each other. This year, there is such an abundance of fresh figs, I put together a rustic Thanksgiving menu for us utilizing these sweet little gems, along with my standard staples, like my Ciabatta Cornbread Stuffing (Jeff's favorite) and Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

I know I said that the sides were my favorite part of Thanksgiving, but I am a big fan of a bite of something sweet to make a festive meal complete! This year for us, my Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, Georgia Pecan Tart and a moist and delicious Fig Cake with ginger, walnuts and a lemon scented glaze. Please reach out for more recipes, I'd love to hear from you!

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Now, let's talk about wine pairings. We always begin with champagne, it's just a wonderful way to start a celebration. When it comes to pairing wine with a holiday meal, especially with turkey, I like a nice medium bodied Merlot. With its easy tannins and soft finish, Merlot doesn't overpower food, making a fabulous pairing with a holiday meal that usually has many diverse flavors. One of our favorites is this lovely Duckhorn Merlot, comprised of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged in 100% French Oak barrels.   

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We have so much to be thankful for! Cheers to good health, much happiness and a simply delicious holiday celebration! 

Can you believe Christmas is literally 5 weeks away! Stay tuned for delicious food and wine pairings to get you through the holiday season! Until then...

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Primo Pairings!

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based   Spaghetti Calamari .

When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based Spaghetti Calamari.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my   Chateaubriand  , the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my Chateaubriand, the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious   Chocolate Cupcakes   are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious Chocolate Cupcakes are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

I hope you try one of my pairings with your favorite glass!  Let me know how it goes and which wines you selected with each dish, I would love to hear from you!

In the meantime...

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It's National Pumpkin Day!

I've been celebrating Pumpkin Day all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I've selected a few of my favorite pumpkin delights to share with you...enjoy!

Simply click on the highlighted dish names for the recipes.

   Pumpkin Risotto   with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

 Creamy   Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita   with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

   Pumpkin Ravioli   with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

   Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake  , my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

I hope you enjoy preparing these simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments! I would love to hear from you! Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Halloween!

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Romantic Fall Getaways

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Okay, so you’ve been with the kids all summer, taken your family vacation, and enjoyed every moment.  Now, it’s time for a little romantic getaway just for the two of you! Of course, when I’m looking for a getaway, I always look for a great place to recharge, but it’s really about the food for me, which makes for the perfect all round getaway experience.  Wining, dining and romancing is what this getaway is all about! Here are a few of my favorite Romantic Getaway spots that offer a comfy, cozy environment and fabulous cuisine.

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Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley @AubergeSoleil

Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley @CalistogaRanch

Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont @TwinFarms

Blackberry Inn, Walland Tennessee @blackberryfrm

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California @Post Ranch Inn 

Little Palm Island, Florida Keys @LittlePalmFL

Inn at Little Washington, Virginia @InnatLittleWash

 

This week’s feature, one of our favorite romantic spots, and my recommendation for your fall romantic getaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. Check out their website Postranchinn.com. We have visited Post Ranch and Sierra Mar many times and it has to be one of my favorite dining experiences. The food and wine are fabulous and the view simply spectacular. With the quaint and wonderful town of Carmel just minutes away, and of course, beautiful Pebble Beach, there is so much to do and see close by, or you can just stay on the cliff of Big Sur and enjoy each other! My recommendation for a fall getaway. 

The vistas at this most magnificent spot are spectacular. Enjoy your romantic getaway, whether traveling near, far, or just having a special staycation at home!

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Located on the Monterey Peninsula, 140 miles south of SF, 94 SanJose 25 Monterey 20 Carmel, down State Route 1 through curves and cliffs and the most incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged CA coastline with the Santa Lucia Mountains bordering the east and the Pacific bordering the west. Activities include hiking, bird watching, wale watching and beaches.  High in the cliffs, site the most beautiful hideaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. 

Summer Travel Series - Colorado Summers

 This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

 Downtown Aspen

Downtown Aspen

 The Little Nell Aspen

The Little Nell Aspen

This week's feature, Aspen.  Though known for being a great ski town, Aspen is also filled with a rich history of early settlers and miners heading west.  Check out Jeff's historic walking tour of Aspen, you will find this little western town's history fascinating!

One of the first things you'll notice in Colorado in the summer is the incredible flowers everywhere you look, in all shapes, sizes and colors of the rainbow.  They just make me smile!

 Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

 Downtown Aspen Shopping

Downtown Aspen Shopping

A few of my favorite restaurants are right here in Aspen.  For lunch it has to be Ajax Tavern @thelittlenell right at the base of Ajax Mountain, and The Wild Fig, just across from the famed Wheeler Opera House.  My favorite dinner spots Casa Tua for Italian @casatuaaspen for a super great menu, Ellina @ellinaaspen and a clubby Steakhouse, Steak 316.  Don't forget to check out what's happening at Belly Up Bar @bellyupaspen, for an intimate look at fantastic entertainment.

When breakfast comes into play, I can’t resist the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes at Element 47 @littlenellaspen on the pool terrace.  They are delicate, light and spongy with a sweet raspberry sauce.  Here is my version of this favorite breakfast dish, I think mine are pretty close!

 Lemon Souffle' Pancakes -  Click here for recipe!

Lemon Souffle' Pancakes - Click here for recipe!

Shopping in Aspen is nearly as much fun as hiking the beautiful Maroon Bells! From elegant designer boutiques to home decor and cowboy boots, not to mention stunning art galleries featuring exquisite collections, there is something to appeal to everyone!

  Kemosabe  Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

Kemosabe Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

I shot this beautiful landscape on the way back from Aspen.  Colorado truly is God's Country! Hope your summer travels bring you to the Rockies sometime soon! Send me your travels and photos from your favorite summer trip! I would love to post them on the blog!

Live well, love well, eat well...travel safely!

 

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Summer Travel Series - Travel Tips

 It's Summer!  Have Suitcase...Will Travel!!!

It's Summer!  Have Suitcase...Will Travel!!!

Summer is here...  Some say finally...I say already?  But ready or not, it is upon us, summer!  It is time to start thinking about summer travel planning.  I hope our summer travel series leads you to a great summer trip, destination, restaurant or even just a new fun recipe.  I want to hear from you!  Please send me your summer travel questions and your feedback!  If you choose one of our recommendations, send me your photos, I'd lov