Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fall Sangria

This past weekend we had our annual Fall Fest. I'm pretty sure fall is my favorite season, and this party is definitely one of my favorite nights of the year.

Not only do I love decorating the house with all things rustic and pumpkin, cooking up a storm of seasonal foods, lighting candles to make the house feel cozy, and putting on a new sweater and tall brown boots for the evening. What I really love is that it gets all our friends together after a few months of post-summer semi-hibernation. It's been a while since we've all gotten together as a group. And even longer since we all got together as adults only. We all love spending time with each others' children of course, but sometimes you just need to sip on a cocktail and nibble on a crostini chatting with your friends - or maybe even dancing in the living room to 90s hip hop? - without a toddler tugging at your pant leg.

While the event is not a "cocktail party" per se since the only real cocktail I serve is sangria, I do all the food cocktail party style. It encourages mingling rather than sitting and eating, makes the night feel a little different and special, and bonus - I get to make lots of fun little hors' d'ouvres.

There are a few must-haves, like the Jalapeno Corn Dip that everyone seems to love, and then there are new recipes I try every year. It's a learning experience figuring out what things go really fast and what things people don't seem to care for, so I keep a list of the menu each year with notes on each item, so next year I can look back and make adjustments based on what worked well and what didn't.

Among the favorites this year were the French Onion Soup Crostini, cheese fondue, these Spinach Artichoke Bites, and my sister's Blueberry & Peach Brie Bites. Matt also made homemade pretzels filled with home-smoked brisket and his spicy pickled garden peppers, which seemed to go over pretty well too.

The Butternut Squash Bruschetta (based on this recipe by Food Network's GZ) held much promise, but were a bit of a letdown. The filling tasted great when it was warm, but it got cold quickly and lost its luster. Maybe it's just me, but cold squash isn't very appetizing. I'd probably only make this again for a small dinner party of 6-8 people, where it would get eaten quickly while still warm.

I also made mini salad cups filled with mesclun greens, cranberries and candied walnuts because I felt the table needed something green amongst the sea of cheeses and breads. The salads looked nice, but only a few people ate them. People seemed to prefer grabbing finger foods as they walked by the table vs. eating something with a fork while balancing a drink in the other hand.

My sisters and a few close friends also brought some desserts and bar snacks, as well as garlic pull-apart bread, deviled eggs decorated as pumpkins, and fall-themed Jell-O shots. I don't like people to feel like they have to bring something to a party, but I'm not afraid to accept a dish from my family and bestest of friends - it's a big help.

Drinks included a plethora of pumpkin beers, of course, as well as a few new Baratta homebrews. Matt brewed a Black IPA with a ton of hops grown at our friend Forrest's house, as well as a Farmhouse Hard Cider. I'm not usually a fan of ciders, but the farmhouse yeast he used kept it tart and drinkable versus overly sweet. I actually loved it and ended up drinking a few glasses. 

My contribution to the libations was a Fall Sangria. Like the ciders, I'm not a big fan of most "fall sangrias". Most of the recipes I find call for very sweet ingredients like caramel vodka, ginger ale or Sprite, juice, and then sugar, honey and other sweeteners on top of all that. To me that spells a big fat ick. Last year I made a Caramel Apple Pie Punch that went mostly untouched because of the sweetness level, so this year I wanted to tone it way back and just serve a drink that offered the subtle flavors of fall without tasting like a dessert.

If you're looking for a less sweet but still festive cocktail or sangria this fall, I have the solution for you.

Fall Sangria

2 apples, sliced thin (I used Red Delicious)
2 pears, sliced thin
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp. honey
1 cup bourbon or whiskey
3 cups apple cider
2 bottles dry white wine (I used pinot grigio), chilled

Place apples and pears in a large bowl or pitcher, and squeeze the lemon juice over top of the fruit. Add honey, whiskey and apple cider. Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours (overnight is best). When ready to serve, add white wine and stir to combine.


Fall, I'm so glad you're here.

(Special thanks to my brother-in-law Corey Howell for taking all the photos of the evening!)

1 comment:

  1. Love this!!! :) Such a fun night!