Foodie: A thoughtful holiday season

Foodie: A thoughtful holiday season
Courtesy photo When decorating your home for entertaining, celebrate nature and the outdoors with colors and scents that evoke autumn.

By Elizabeth Myllenbeck

After what we have all been through over the almost two years since the pandemic started, recalibration is bound to happen. Recalibration in how we consider life in general and how we celebrate it as well.

It’s also time to lighten up and celebrate what is really important – our friends, family and our own health and wellness. That said, let’s have a wonderful holiday season and create a beautiful bubble of joy in how and what we celebrate this season.

Thoughtful gift giving and carefully planned parties are all on trend this year. It’s all about “hygge,” a Danish concept that equates to coziness and the delightful, simple things that make a wonderful life.

The pandemic is slowly easing, but there are realities that we have to consider. First and foremost, remember those who are vulnerable, and include them in your festivities in the safest way that you can without risking anyone’s health. Supply chain issues are already a big problem: Get your shopping done right away if you need to. If not, then consider an oldtimey style holiday season with warmth, great food and amazing drinks. What is more important than those lovely relationships we need to rekindle, treasure and cherish?

Celebrate life. This season is all about doing things together and renewing closeness. Bring on the home baked goods and have your guests decorate them at your party. Have a gingerbread house-building contest and see who wins. You can bake it all and whip up some amazing frostings and candies or you can find kits and, with some store-bought cream cheese frosting and extra candy decorations, create a super fun activity for people of all ages.

Decorations are all about nature and celebrating the outdoors. Homemade decorations and gifts are more meaningful from the loved ones who gave them to you. Soft golds and silvers with greenery with lovely twinkle lights are always in. Candle scents of the outdoors, including anything from pine to tobacco to amber, are perfect. Anything that makes your home more personal and warms the heart is all part of hygge.

Also on-trend is to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Consider roasting marshmallows fireside, and making s’mores, walking in a leafy park or wandering about Old Town and enjoying history while stopping in at the local shops and eateries. Last year, we learned to dress warmly and go to our favorite restaurant with an extra blanket in tow. The Scandinavian countries have a saying that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” Embrace the cold and have a memorable moment.

This season is also all about getting back to basics when it comes to the holiday party: a curated guest list and amazing homemade food that is simple and delicious. Or have an open house style party to allow a flow of friends coming and going.

Bake a ham and a turkey, make some fettuccine alfredo and a crunchy salad. Pop a homemade apple crisp into the oven or make simple baked apples and serve them with your best vanilla ice cream. Follow Ina Garten’s excellent advice: Do not make more than three or four things. Supplement your main dishes with a fabulous cheese and charcuterie board with plenty of olives, cornichons and spreads that complement great breads. Delight in the local chocolate shops and bakeries for sweets. Excellent beverages are a must.

Eggnogs and hot chocolates – spiked for the adults – and warm mulled wine are perfect party drinks. Sparkling wine and apple ciders are a natural part of the season and are also refreshing. Find some great wines as well, such as a merlot, syrah or a good pinot noir. With its warm cherry and mushroom, forest floor earthiness, pinot noir goes with everything “holiday.” Chill it slightly before serving and it is even better. As it warms up, it will open and fill the glass with the perfect complement to the meal.

That said, let’s have a wonderful holiday season and create a beautiful bubble of joy in how we celebrate and what we celebrate this holiday season. Simple is good – really good.

The writer is CEO and owner of Sonoma Cellar.