Fall is the perfect season for sharing the bounty of the harvest with those you hold most dear. From autumn inspired table settings to a menu of hearty harvest delights, there are plenty of ways to transform a run of the mill dinner party into a cozy get together celebrating the joys of Fall.
Some Assembly Required
Managing your time with a structured plan of action can make the process of planning your harvest feast a breeze. Embrace foolproof recipes that will please any crowd; curate a simple menu with one main course, a soup or salad course, dessert, and a selection of easy to prepare cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres that can be prepared ahead of time. List everything you will need, ensuring no extra trips to the market are made on the day of your party.
Pair the wine and spirits with mood and ambiance that reflect the harvest season. You don’t have to break the bank or spend hours on end working on a crafting project to set the tone with tablescapes. Sketch out two strong ideas that vary in possible execution, listing the materials you need to successfully set the scene for an enchanting autumn dinner.
It’s never a bad idea to have a few appetizers handy before dinner. You want to have small bites that company can enjoy as they sample a selection of autumn wines or even a signature harvest feast cocktail. And with these creative inspirations, you don’t have to add even more to your plate by overcomplicating your undertaking.
- Building a fall charcuterie board starts with selecting a variety of cheeses that best encompass the taste of the season. Thin slices of an aged cheddar, a blue stilton, a firm asiago, and a soft goat cheese are strong bets for building the perfect pre dinner appetizer plate.
- The traditional spread of salami, pâté, prosciutto, and soppressata are great options for your board. However, the addition of maple syrup glazed bacon sweetens the pot and punches up fall flavor tenfold.
- Pumpernickel toast crisps, dry rubbed with rosemary before going into an oven, make for the perfect companions to your favorite store-bought cracker selections.
- A plethora of succulent apples, pears, and figs with some fig jam ties the whole board together.
There’s always time for a cocktail, and a signature libation can turn the party up to eleven. You should of course have a nice blend of red and white wines for your guests to sample, but why not go the extra mile and play mixologist with a cocktail that captures the essence of fall? Something as simple as an Apple Slider can spice up any harvest feast. For this, you’ll need 1 cup of apple cider or naturally sweetened juice, ¼ of a cup apple brandy, ¼ of a cup of brandy, and julienned apple slices for garnish. Place glasses in the freezer for approximately five minutes before serving. Fill your cocktail shaker halfway with ice, before adding your liquids. Shake vigorously for about 1 minute before straining into your chilled glasses and garnishing with the apple slices.
Balancing your menu makes celebrating the flavors of fall a breeze. Divide and conquer your menu into four quadrants: something from the oven, something from the stovetop, something from the fridge, and something fresh from the market. Adhering to these four simple principles will help you streamline your menu and maximize your time in the kitchen.
- A slow-roasted, candied pork shoulder incorporates the rugged texture of pork with the spiced flavors of fall, making it a delightful main course at any happy harvest feast. After being roasted in a dutch oven, you can pair your pork with honey glazed carrots and buttered leeks.
- A stovetop Tuscan white bean soup makes for a perfect first course thanks to the culinary combination of hearty ground turkey (or any poultry) and the fiber rich nutrition of white beans. You can even 86 the meat altogether and replace with a selection of vegetables for a vegetarian friendly alternative to your main course.
- You can prepare all the ingredients you need for an arugula walnut salad ahead of time along with a honey dijon dressing, garnished with nibbles of gorgonzola for a pre dinner salad in the tradition of festive fall.
Don’t forget about dessert. Why spend the extra time baking when you can pick something up at your local bakery or cafe of equal or greater value than what you can whip up on your own? In-season apple strudels are great for larger fall parties, while individual portions of cheese danishes make for an excellent pairing with a cup of after dinner coffee.
Ready, Set, Go For It
From table covers to personalized outdoor furniture cover sets, a happy harvest feast is only as exciting as the tablescape you lay out for the occasion. Fall is all about creating a sense of community in your dining experience. Invite guests into a welcoming space with a cornucopia of fall colors, accentuated by rustic undertones in your cutlery sets. The kitsch of a fall banquet can be played up by replacing typical glassware with 16 oz. mason jars. Opt for a traditional creme tableware set with wicker place settings for a varied texture on the tabletop. You can decorate your table with pinecones, miniature pumpkins, and misshapen gourds for even more fall color. A dining table cover goes a long way in tying the whole look together. Set up dinner outside around the novelty of a picnic table with seating arrangements forged by barrels of hay.
For something a little more elegant, you can implement a modern fall aesthetic in your decor. White and gold go together seamlessly in any season, but especially pop in contrast with the changing tides of fall. Choose a color palette that feels glamorous and chic, pairing your selections with neutral tones for a lively and engaging dinner soiree. Set the spread up under the cover of your screened-in porch with lighting courtesy of overhead paper lanterns and tabletop antique candelabras. Hide other pieces of your outdoor furniture with custom tarps or grill covers for a night of elegance under the harvest moon.
What’s a party without a little favor to take home? Corn goes hand in hand with the harvest season, from creamed on Thanksgiving day to haunted houses and mazes during the weeks leading up to Halloween. While mazes might be off the table this season, you can gift your feast guests with a unique take home that will tickle them pink, blue, purple, and green. Glass gem corn is an innovation of selective plant breeding, resulting in crystallized kernels of technicolor corn. Buy these stalks at a local farmers market, international grocer, or online as an added thematic decoration on your table covers and personalized on your outdoor furniture cover. When the night comes to a close, send your guests home with something truly special.