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