Serving food to 2,500 hungry people is lots of fun–especially if you do it on a perfect September Saturday in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. That’s what we did at last weekend’s Taste of Sonoma at the historic MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg. The sell-out crowd came to spend the day sipping Sonoma County’s best wines, watching chef demonstrations and sampling tasty treats.
Healdsburg is Lia’s home turf, so of course NOURISH Evolution Partnership Director Mary Beth Burner and I gussied up to join the fun (that’s us with Lia in the lower right-hand photo).
“I love this sablefish!” said one new fan. “I’m sick of salmon, it’s nice to have something new.”
“This is food I live for,” raved another.
Hungry festival-goers gobbled it up, and lots of peeps came back for seconds–with friends in tow. Many lined up to watch Lia demo the pasta salad, pesto and our Sauteed Sablefish Ginger-Soy Glaze. She also demonstrated a cumin-crusted grilled scallop recipe at the Alaska Seafood station.
The most fun for us was meeting NOURISH Evolution fans in person and making lots of new friends. If we didn’t see you there, you can enjoy your own Taste of Sonoma with the recipes on our site (they’re exactly what we served on Saturday). And we hope to see you at next year’s event. It’s a delightful way to spend your Labor Day weekend!
To me, summer is synonymous with picnic. Sure, there are barbecues. There’s abundance in the garden too. But summer—warm weather of any sort as a matter of fact—makes me crave a picnic more than just about anything.
For Christopher and me, that used to mean an elaborate spread paired to both the wines and ambiance of a certain place (ah, the rigors of living in wine country). Just as often now, though, it means we raid the fridge and head to the Plaza where we can nibble while our daughter roams. It can even mean throwing down a blanket in the garden, as I do with Noemi when she’s cranky; it’s amazing how ‘declaring’ a picnic can lift a mood.
In terms of gear, picnics can run the spectrum. I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite options, whatever your style may be, for our first ever Summer Picnic Gear Guide:
Fold-up Blanket — We keep one of these stashed in the truck at all times for impromptu picnics. All that’s needed is wine, cheese, bread and friends and you’ve got yourself an afternoon to remember.
Recliner – Our friends had one of these at a concert in the Plaza recently and I’ve been coveting them ever since. They’re super-sturdy, adjust to six different positions and fold flat to carry.
Mini Grill Grilling — These adorable little grills are small enough to keep in your trunk (along with your Impromptu blanket) with a bag of charcoal. Have sausage, will picnic.
Minimalistic — Another impromptu winner. Glasses, plates, flatware and a cooler built into a nifty-looking sling-on.
Simple and whimsical — There’s something about this sprightly tote that screams BEACH to me. It’s got a lightweight aluminum frame with an insulated, waterproof interior and canvas exterior.
Everything-you-need on your back — If you’re more apt to bring a picnic on a hike in the mountains than a jaunt to the beach, then this is the backpack for you. It’s made of 600 denier polycanvas and has plates, utensils, napkins, a cutting board and even a fleece blanket. Just pack it up, pop it on and go.
A roller to go — Another has-everything-you-need combo, only on wheels. It’s even got salt and pepper shakers.
For whatever reason, I often feel like I have to do everything myself when guests gather—plan, cook, serve, clean (alright, I admit, Christopher does that). But the truth is, involving others in the meal makes them feel more welcome, more at home. Here are five strategies for putting people to work during the holidays in a way that will bring cheer to all.
Let guests get in on the planning. Throw out a theme (our New Year’s meal this year will be entirely white) or a challenge (Iron Chef anyone?) and let guests develop a dish to bring.
Put idle hands to work. There are two well-proven truths about cooking for company–1) everyone congregates in the kitchen and 2) many hands make light work. Take a cue and put those hands to work on labor-intensive dishes like rolling or stuffing pasta.
Give assignments. Some of my most successful dinner parties have included a “to-do” list for each of the guests. It frees me up from the “what’s next?” bombardment and let’s people contribute to dinner prep at their own pace.
Create a make-your-own menu. Some meals just lend themselves to interaction. Homemade pizzas, where guests shape or top their own, and dishes that require individual assembly like tacos or lettuce wraps are great choices.
Let others pitch in on clean up. Don’t underestimate the bonding power of doing dishes together . . .
This week, as you plan your New Year’s gathering, consider putting people to work.