Food & Wine
December 01, 2007

December is the unofficial entertaining month, with office parties, cocktail gatherings, family get-togethers, weekend open houses with friends and more. This issue, I hope, will be your unofficial entertaining guide for this hectic time of year. The centerpiece is chef John Besh’s exquisite holiday dinner. With a magnificent beef rib roast and popovers, it’s certainly a celebration of Christmas, but also of a more promising future for New Orleans, Besh’s beloved city.

For those of you who have family or friends descending—and expecting to be fed—chef Tom Valenti of Manhattan’s Ouest and the forthcoming West Branch has the perfect strategy: Pick simple, satisfying dishes that can be made ahead of time. Refrigerate. Reheat as needed. Though I live in a small city apartment and don’t have a lot of room for overnight guests, I’m still excited about making Tom’s baked pennette with meat sauce. Other lifesavers include Grace Parisi’s fast hors d’oeuvres and easy winter-vegetable side dishes from Grace and Melissa Rubel in our Test Kitchen.

If you’re planning a party, turn to Ray Isle’s "Holiday Wine Survival Guide," in which he answers questions about wines for entertaining and giving as gifts. I’m grateful to know that a bottle of Tablas Creek’s Côtes de Tablas will impress the wine cognoscenti without my having to spend a huge amount of money.

This issue also features fantastic food gifts. I want to try making Executive Food Editor Tina Ujlaki’s nut brittle and Jacques Pépin’s pâtes de fruits—great as a present or for serving with dessert. Our News & Notes section suggests 40 more gifts to buy, from a whole hog (don’t worry, it’s delivered in small portions) to Mad Hatter sugar bowls that look like they’re ready to walk off the table. In fact, with so many ideas, you could consider this issue your unofficial gift-giving guide, too.

Where I’m Coming From

Notes from my Recent Expeditions:


New York City

Chef Michael White’s Italian cooking is relaxed, confident and delicious. His grilled pork belly with wild arugula was spectacular. 45 Tudor City Pl.; 212-599-5045.BLT Market

New York City

Laurent Tourondel’s food is so good—whether he’s focusing on steak, fish or, as is the case here, market-fresh ingredients. I loved his risotto with langoustines. 1430 Avenue of the Americas; 212-521-6125.Café Carlyle

New York City

You go for the music—I saw Eartha Kitt perform—but the food at this newly renovated spot was completely respectable: tasty Caesar salad, great steak, creamy cheesecake. 35 E. 76th St.; 212-744-1600.

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