How to Host a Flawless Fall Dinner Party

Tria Giovan

Tria Giovan

Event planner Tara Wilson reveals her top eight tips for entertaining this season to Country Living Magazine.

Setting

Fall weather can be unpredictable, depending on where you live, but Tara Wilson said hosting an outdoor party in fall is unexpected—and your last chance before the chilly winter months. However, always have an indoor back-up plan in case of sudden bad weather.

Theme

Developing a theme is a fun part of event planning. “Use it as your guide for all decisions from invitations to party favors. A theme can be as simple as selecting a color palette that is used in all the details,” Wilson says.

Centerpiece

You don’t have to go over-the-top to create a stunning scene. Wilson enhances standard grocery store bouquets of roses or mums with a few natural elements, like feathers and dried wheat.

Hurricane lanterns are another great option for outdoor dinners. “They add light for function, glow for ambiance, and their shape and size make them practical in windy settings,” Wilson says.

Drink

Pair a fun, seasonal beverage with your meal or appetizer. Wilson calls hot apple cider spiked with champagne a timely (and tasty!) choice.

Appetizer

Welcome guests with a snack—like a rustic cheese board—as they arrive. Wilson’s favorite three cheeses: blue cheese, apricot Stilton, and pepper-crusted Brie. “I serve them with a fresh sliced baguette, dried cranberries, apricots, and cashews. I also love including an organic honey to complement the blue cheese,” Wilson says.

Entrée

“Beef tenderloin can be served at room temperature, so the pressure of getting it to the table hot isn’t an issue,” Wilson says. She suggests serving the beef with a rustic salad of greens, dried cranberries, sugared pecans, and blue cheese.

Tara’s Beef Tenderloin
Serves 6
1 6 to 8 lb beef tenderloin, trimmed
1 16 oz bottle of Italian dressing
8 oz. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1/2 stick of butter

Place beef tenderloin, dressing, and Worcestershire in a gallon bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Remove beef from bag and pat off excess marinade. Coat tenderloin completely with salt and pepper. Tie into 5 sections with cooking twine. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large braising pan, melt the butter on medium heat; add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Place tenderloin in the pan and sear on each side for approximately 4 minutes. Transfer tenderloin to a baking sheet and cook until meat reaches a temperature of 125 degrees, about 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Dessert

No meal is complete without a comforting sweet, and Wilson’s favorite pear crumble is an easy solution. She adds a bit of blue cheese crumbles (1/8 cup), as well as uncooked oats (instant oatmeal, about 1/4 cup) and brown sugar (2 tablespoons) to the crumble part of the recipe.

Warm Pear Crumble
Serves 8
For poached pears:
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups medium-dry white wine
8 Bosc pears, unpeeled but cored
For crumble:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons coarsely ground pecans
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
1/2 cup pecan halves

Prepare pears: Place sugar and water in a large pot. Heat over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add pears. Place a crumpled piece of parchment paper over poaching liquid. Cover pot, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool.
Prepare crumble: Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in sugar and ground pecans. Cut in butter to form rough crumbs. Do not over mix. Stir in pecan halves.
Heavily butter a 2-quart baking dish. Stand pears in dish. Sprinkle crumble mixture around pears. Bake in a preheated 375-degrees F over until crumble is brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Favor

If you plan on giving out a party favor, Wilson advises choosing something cheap, but useful or consumable. Her go-to gift for autumn? Caramel apples.
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