From thank-you gifts to office parties, (complete with reindeer-antler headbands), ’tis the season to uncork lots and lots of wine bottles. A bottle of wine is a thoughtful gift and a welcome addition to any seasonal potluck. Use this handy guide to choose the best wines to bring to a party.
Choose the best wines to bring to a party
Easy, Affordable Gifts
Strategy: Get great value by purchasing a pack of six bottles of wine and dividing it up as thank-you gifts for coworkers, friends, or handyman who fixed that leaky pipe. Reds: Look for red wines that can pair well with food or be consumed on their own. Something light like a Pinot Noir will please everyone on your list. White: Chardonnay is the perfect rich white wine for the Holiday season.
Strategy: Make the recipient feel special the moment the bottle is unwrapped. Give memorable bottles that will surprise and delight the recipient. Reds: Consider gifting an older bottle. A bottle that has been aged over 7 years will have a mellow complexity that makes it a special gift. Whites: Consider a lesser-known varietal like Chenin Blanc or Vermentino. Of course, you can never go wrong with a beautiful bottle of sparkling wine.
Office Holiday Party
Strategy: Keep the focus on chatting, reconnecting, and reminiscing with co-workers. Choose fruity, spicy wines that stand up to hearty winter fare. Reds: Bone-warming, palate-coating reds like Malbec or Syrah. Whites: Versatile, crowd-pleasing wines like Sauvignon Blanc.
Family Holiday Dinner
Strategy: Take the lead and pick out a few bottles to minimize group decision making. Try choosing a few special wines you wouldn’t uncork on an ordinary weeknight. Reds: Please every palate by selecting two red wines. Go for a fruity and concentrated red that complements rich holiday foods, such as a Rioja, along with a lighter blended bottle. Consider serving a dessert wine like Port to end dinner on a high note. White: Choose a crowd pleasing white, like Chardonnay or Viognier, that has the heft to stand up to everything on the table.
Gathering Among Friends
Strategy: Make it all about the party, not the wine. Choose a bottle that everyone will love, but not so good that it’s the subject of discussion. Reds: Try a wine that everyone is likely to be familiar with, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. These approachable wines make cheerful party pours. White: Get two: a sparkling wine, and a quaffable white from Spain, such as a fruity Albariño.
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The holidays are about two things: celebrating the people you love, and eating. Our holiday gift guide helps you combine two. Our team of test kitchen chefs picked out the best kitchen gifts for people who love to cook, whether they’ve mastered risotto or are just trying out grilled cheese.
I’ve gifted this to my mom and my partner, and they’ve both told me how it has revolutionized their cooking. You can use it to zest citrus, make garlic paste, and create fluffy clouds of cheese—it’s a small grater with lots of possibilities. — Annabel Epstein
Being quarantined has led to a lot of at-home cocktail making sessions, which have been made significantly more enjoyable (and efficient) thanks to my citrus squeeze. From margaritas and palomas to sidecars and sours, making a big batch of drinks in a short amount of time has never been easier. This is the perfect gift for people who love cocktails. I also use it all the time for curd. — Lauren Katz
This is one of the best nonstick pans I’ve ever used. It can brown anything, and food won’t stick. It’s also a wonderful size; it’s big enough to cook a lot, but not so large that it feels unwieldy. This is one of the best gifts for people who like to cook, or for someone who is just getting started in the kitchen. — Lisa Appleton
These bowls are my go-to kitchen gift idea. I truly believe that a set of great prep bowls will set any home cook up for success in the kitchen. They’re perfect for organizing your mise en place, and they can also double as storage containers for leftovers in the fridge. — Kristen Merris-Huffman
A good wooden spoon is one of the most underrated and versatile tools in the kitchen. It won’t damage or scrape your pans, and it’s perfect for sauteing and stirring. Durable and attractive, a sturdy wooden spoon is an essential part of the home cook’s kitchen. —John Adler
Also known as a fish spatula, this tool can do so much more than its name suggests. I love it for flipping pancakes, pressing down latkes, or gently scraping under the crispy cheese that starts to puddle around a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s such a precise tool that allows you to get really close to your food. This is a great gift for a cook who already owns most of the basics. — Claire King
This set has the only two sizes of baking dish you’ll ever need. The small one is perfect for a few chicken breasts while the larger is great for a lasagna. The white ceramic is super durable and transfers heat well, while also being simple and stylish. — Diane Casner
So many fruits and vegetables are show-stoppingly attractive, even in the dead of winter. Take advantage of their natural beauty for your holiday centerpiece this year. It’s easy! Just take a trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market, but a few extra pomegranates, persimmons, or plain old tomatoes, and use them to decorate your holiday tables and entryways.
How to Make a Holiday Centerpiece
Once you’ve selected your produce, it’s time for the creative part. You can mix and match produce, or just fill a bowl with your favorite fruit. Experiment with cutting a few fruits open to create a still life effect. You can scatter fruits freely across the table, or use a rimmed platter like a vase. It’s an easy way to keep things organized. These are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables to use as edible centerpieces.
Ideas for Table Centerpieces with Fruits and Vegetables
You might have pears around anyway. To make them into a beautiful table centerpiece, try mixing several different types—an assortment of colors will feel beautiful and bountiful. This works with apples, too! When you’re done, you can make apple pie barsor pear butter.
Whole persimmons bring a beautiful orange color to your holiday table. To make a festive plate setting, try cutting one in half to reveal its star-shaped seed pattern. After you clear the table, you can try making a persimmon grilled cheese or a stir-fry.
Satsumas are like clementines, but with stems and leaves. Pile a few handfuls on a footed cake plate to beautify your table.
You might love pomegranates for the jewel-like little seeds inside, but don’t discount the outsides! They’re rustic and a deep, dark red. We like them lined up on a skinny platter or set right on the plate. Try cutting one in half to reveal the beautiful interior. After your meal is over, eat the seeds straight, or drop a few into a glass of sparkling wine for a beautiful cocktail.
Artichokes are technically flowers, so it’s no surprise that they’re beautiful. Set an artichoke on a plate to prop up a place card, or slice a few in half to reveal their beautiful layers.
Lots of chefs have dozens of lemons around. Pile them up in a pretty bowl to create the easiest possible centerpiece. When you’re ready for your next meal, use their juice to helps balance flavor, and their zest to add some zing. Did you know there’s a right way to cut them into wedges?
You probably have some leftover pumpkins hanging around from Halloween. You don’t need plates or platters to make these feel festive. Just scatter small pumpkins across the table, or leave larger pumpkins in the entryway. When you’re cleaning up, crack them open and make soup. If you have gourds around, they can make a beautiful centerpiece too.
In the holiday spirit? Check out our gift guide to find the perfect present for the cooks in your life.
Gin and ginger ale combine forces to make this spicy, refreshing gin punch.
This gingery punch will be beloved by all—even those who claim to not like gin-based drinks! The angostura bitters turn this punch a gorgeous shade of blush and the massive ice cube, shaped by a bundt pan, cools the festive drink without making it watery.
The ingredient list is simple. You’ll need limes, ginger root, and ginger ale. The ginger root gets minced into pieces and made into a sweet, spicy syrup that gives this cocktail a special kick.
Ginger ale blends all the flavors together and adds pizzazz with some bubbles. To garnish, try frozen lime slices. Freezing them before helps the slices maintain their shape in the punch. Once everything is all mixed in together, the punch is ready and your work is done.
Every good celebration needs a few cookies. This is especially true around the holidays. The perfect holiday cookie plate should have a balance of flavors. If you have something chocolatey, something spicy, and something traditional, then you’re guaranteed to please everyone’s sweet tooth. Mix and match these easy recipes below to create your ideal combination.
These spicy ginger cookies won our 2020 Holiday bakeoff for a good reason. The crunchy sugar exterior paired with the soft and chewy interior creates a delightful textural contrast. The addition of crystalized ginger makes these a memorable addition to any cookie plate.
Our take on the classic black and white cookie features sour cream and fresh lemon zest mixed into the dough, which boasts the same light, bright flavors and cake-like texture, with the signature 50/50 frosting on top (we like to think both sides are equally delicious!)
To give these delicious cookies their distinct crinkled appearance, you’ll roll the dough (made with chocolate chips, orange zest, and crunchy walnuts) into balls, then coat them in powdered sugar before baking, allowing cracks to form as they spread out and rise in the oven.
Put simply, decanting is pouring the wine from the bottle into another vessel, then serving it from that vessel into each person’s glass. This isn’t just for show—it ensures the wine smells and tastes its best. Here’s why and hot to decant wine.
What is a Decanter and What Does it Do?
Exposure to oxygen brings out the flavors and aromas in a glass of wine. Some red wines, particularly aged or bold red wines, need a little time to relax and show their full potential. Wine bottles have a narrow opening, so even when you uncork the bottle, not much air flows through. Decanters are designed to let air flow. A wide-bottomed decanter will create a shallow pool of wine with a large surface area. This exposes the wine to oxygen more quickly.
Why Decant Wine
Decanting wine brings out the best flavors in robust red wines. It can also help eliminate unwanted aromas, like the burning smell of alcohol. If you’re serving an aged wine, decanting gives you an opportunity to remove any sediment that may have formed in the bottle. As a bonus, decanters are beautiful, and will add an elegant touch to your table.
How to Decant Wine
Start by tasting your wine. Pour a small bit of the wine directly from the bottle into a glass and taste it. If you don’t smell and taste much of anything, that’s a sure sign that decanting is necessary.
Place your clean decanter on the counter, pour the wine slowly into it. If you’re serving an aged wine, stop once you start to see the sediment—that can stay behind in the bottle.
After an hour, take another sip. Do you notice a difference? The wine’s aromas and flavors should already be more obvious.
When to Decant Wine
Decant wines aged over 7 years and bold red wines like California Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, or Zinfandel. Let wine breathe for about an hour before serving. You can always open a white wine to enjoy while you wait.
Mulled wine is the perfect set-it-and-forget-it elixir for holiday parties. You can tweak any recipe as you see fit, but don’t use your Blue Apron reds! Mulled wine was first created centuries ago to make spoiled wine drinkable, but modern wines are of much higher quality and last longer. So shop for a simple, cheap-and-cheerful red that could use some spicing up. You’ll have a delicious, winter-warming drink for everyone to enjoy by the fire!
2 750ml bottles of fruity red wine
10 whole cloves
2 star anise pods (optional)
5 cardamom pods (optional)
5 Tbs granulated brown sugar
1/2 Cup water
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Cup of Port
Two shots of Bourbon (optional)
Make a small pouch with the cheesecloth. Put the cloves, anise and cardamom pods inside and tie it tight with string. Zest the lemons and oranges using a vegetable peeler, pulling off wide strips. Cut the fruit into 1/4 wedges.
Put a pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, zest and spice pouch. Heat to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved, then turn the heat to low and wait until the water volume is reduced by half.
Add all remaining ingredients, and squeeze the juice of the fruit wedges into the pot before adding them. Leave until heated through, about 20 minutes. Don’t let the mixture boil. Serve warm and garnish each serving with a new cinnamon stick.
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Since the start of the holiday season, we’ve been crafting edible gifts to inspire you to delight your family and friends. Twelve of them, to be exact. Because there’s nothing lovelier than a homemade present. You can catch the whole series on our Instagram feed, but fortunately, there are still a few days left before Christmas for you to hop on the edible gift bandwagon. Here, our twelve delicious ideas.
For the first in our edible gift series, we’re making the fixings for a spicy, refreshing holiday cocktail. In a large container, combine 750ml tequila and 7 to 10 cinnamon sticks. Let sit for 1 to 2 days for a warm tasting tequila and 3 to 4 days for a strongly flavored cinnamon tequila. Strain the tequila and discard the cinnamon sticks. Pour the tequila back into its original bottle for a pretty presentation.
Create 10 to 12 small bundles of fresh woody herbs (such as thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, or lavender) and secure the stems with wire. Attach the bundles to a small (6 to 8 inches) wire wreath frame, slightly overlapping each bundle over the previous bundle. Attach a bow or pinecone and enjoy!
In a clean mason jar (or other decorative bottle) combine 8oz. bourbon and 3 to 5 vanilla beans, split open. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged. Tightly seal the jar and give it a good shake. Let the jar stand in a cool place for 3 weeks, shaking occasionally. The extract will intensify the longer it sits with the vanilla beans.
On a sheet tray combine, 2 cups cashews, 2 cups walnuts, 1 cup pecans, 1 cup almonds, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/3 cup date molasses, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 2 teaspoons chipotle powder, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss to combine and spread out in one layer. Roast the nuts at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and toss with an extra 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary. Allow to cool completely before packing the nuts into an airtight container. Will keep for 2 weeks at room temperature. Happy gifting!
In a large container, combine the peel of 10 unwaxed lemons and one 750 ml bottle of 95% proof grain alcohol. Let sit for 10 to 12 days and then strain through a layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl. In a large pan, make simple syrup by combining 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar and bringing to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Let the simple syrup cool to room temperature and then add it to the alcohol mixture, tasting as you go. Decant into pretty bottles with instructions to keep the limoncello in the freezer where it will keep indefinitely. Cheers!
In a food processor combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, 2 cups powdered milk, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips and 1 tsp cinnamon. Divide the mixture between 3 pint-sized containers and enjoy! The hot cocoa mix will keep for 2 months. Stay warm!
Wash 5 lemons. Make 4 cuts lengthwise in each lemon without cutting through to the stems. Stuff the cuts in the lemons with a mixture of 5 tbsp. sugar and 5 tbsp. salt. Stuff the lemons into a 12oz. jar, pressing them down tightly to pack. Let the lemons sit for 3 to 5 days at room temperature. Then, add 1 cup lemon juice and let sit in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or until the rinds have softened. Before using, rinse the preserved lemons to remove excess sugar and salt. Use in Moroccan dishes like this one.
Slice 1 grapefruit in half. Juice 1 half, reserve the juice and discard the flesh. Roughly chop the other half and reserve. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the chopped grapefruit and a chopped 2-in piece of ginger and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. In a large wide mouthed container, combine the cooled grapefruit syrup (including fruit), reserved grapefruit juice, 1 cup Campari, 1 cup vodka and ¾ cup sweet vermouth. Stir to combine and refrigerate overnight. Strain the mixture and discard the fruit. Will keep up to 1 month stored in the fridge.
Chop up a ½ pound of the best-ever dark chocolate. Heat ½ a cup of heavy cream to boiling. Add 1 tablespoon espresso powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate. Stir well, then add 1 tablespoon of flavored liqueur (your choice!). Set aside for an hour, then roll 2 teaspoon portions of the mixture into balls. Roll the balls through two different cocoa powders, chopped nuts, or powdered sugar. Store in the fridge. (See more detailed instructions here.)
Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper. Crush 5 candy canes into pieces. In 2 separate bowls, melt 8 Ounces of Chopped Bittersweet Chocolate and 12 Ounces of Chopped White Chocolate in the microwave in 15 to 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted and smooth. (If desired, stir ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract into the melted white chocolate.) Spread the melted white chocolate onto the parchment paper. Evenly top with dollops of the melted bittersweet chocolate. Using a knife, pass the knife through both chocolates to swirl. Press the crushed peppermint pieces into the chocolate. Set aside to harden.
It’s Christmas day. We hope you’re celebrating over delicious food! In case you need a moment to yourself, we’ve got plenty of fun links from across the web, to entertain you while you cook, and provide conversation fodder for tonight’s Blue Apron dinner. Here’s some stuff to take a look at today.
Christmas is coming! Between the eggnog and the gift wrapping, we hope you find time to eat. And we can help with that. We’re thrilled to announce our Christmas menu. Both the meat-fish and the vegetarian box can be made as full-on feasts for six people each, or as three separate meals for two, nourishing food to alleviate all the cookies and cake we eat this time of year.
Our moist roast beef gets a pungent, creamy kick with horseradish-laced sour cream. The vegetable beside the beef is treviso, a longer, thinner version of round radicchio. To calm its slightly bitter flavor, we sear it a hot pan until it’s browned and caramelized, then dress it in an intense balsamic vinaigrette.
The sauce for this fresh pasta dish is inspired by Cioppino, a classic Italian-American seafood stew originally from San Francisco. It usually features fennel, so we used both the anise-flavored bulb and its delicate, green fronds. Though the tomatoey mixture may contain any combination of the day’s catch, ours features sweet bay scallops, shellfish shallower waters than the common sea scallop.
An upgraded wedge salad, this bowl full of goodness combines greens, nuts, chicken, and blue cheese–the perfect festive start to a meal.
Our pot pie is as cozy as any traditional savory pastry, but it’s easy to make, healthful, and graced by a really delicious whole wheat and olive oil crust.
In this holiday recipe, we used a combination of barley and black rice to stuff four onions–two red, two white. The stuffing looks like beautiful confetti in the baking dish and on your plate.
Green cauliflower, sometimes referred to as broccoflower, has no more to do with broccoli than its color. The purple contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine and red cabbage. Orange cauliflower contains 25 percent more vitamin A than white. Wow! No matter the color, roasting it in a hot oven brings out its sweetness, perfect for balancing a salad of hearty, bitter lettuces like mustard and beet greens and frisée.