Any Excuse to Set a Table

Well the holiday season has officially kicked off at our house.  We celebrated our immediate family Thanksgiving last night and it was so fun to have comfort food and great conversation!  Every year I am completely wiped out on the actual holiday of Thanksgiving and found I was ready for holiday food weeks before it was time and I never actually got to menu plan on the holiday itself because we were at relatives' houses so I began the tradition of hosting early. 

Really I'll take any excuse to set a table and plan an event and this was a fun one.  Re-appropriating all of the pumpkins into a centerpiece, I used everything left out of the yard for the flowers arrangements and looked for an excuse to use some feathers.  I swear I will have a boa on my table before it's said and done.  It sparkled with all of the candles and crystal and had the right energy.  I added conversation starters in glasses to the table to get everyone involved in the conversation, especially since it was at the of the week and I knew folks were tired.  Questions like "What is the ultimate sundae?" or "If you could live in any time period in history, when would it be and why?" or "If you could live in any house in any TV series or movie, what would it be?"  It was a riot and the kids couldn't wait to read the next question and participate in the answering.  I would recommend this for any dinner party with questions appropriately suited to your guest list.    

There are soooooo many lovely Thanksgiving recipes out there and honing the menu down was no easy task.  To see the full menu, click here.  The Kale and Pancetta salad was a big hit and I am now craving it as I type, remembering the sweet and tart, salty and smoky flavor of the ingredients all together on the plate.  It will be repeated here this winter several times, for sure.  The quail didn't turn out as I had hoped, but I will be back to the drawing board on those.  The turkey was sublime.  Brine your bird.  Period.  It creates the most succulent, lovely meat.  I used salt, clementine oranges, and bay leaves in the water bath.  24 hours ahead and then take out, rinse, pat dry, butter the skin and roast.  

The Appetizer course was Gorgonzola, Hazelnut, and Honey crostinis with Spiced Cider Mimosas.  That was a home run flavor combination.  Such fall goodness married in each bite.  

Spiced Cider Mimosas

1 quart Pressed Apple Cider
4 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Tablespoon Whole Cloves
1/2 Tablespoon Whole Allspice
1 Bottle Prosecco, Cava, or other Sparkling Wine

Place cider and spices in saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat off and let steep for 30-45 minutes.  Strain cooled cider into a container and refrigerate.  Pour 1/2 ounce of cider into champagne flute.  Top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with apple slices.

The show stopper course of the evening was the Pine Nut and Lavender Honey Tart.  It was absolutely just right and is now on the master dessert list for the house.  We had a similar tart to this in Atlanta years ago at Craft restaurant and it was one of those life changing desserts where you say, "OMG I have never tasted anything like this and need more of it in my life."  It is a special occasion dessert because of the cost of pine nuts ($21 a pound?!  Seriously?!) but was worth the cost.  It may work with other nuts in it too.  Maybe hazelnuts or almonds along with the pine nuts?  We tweaked the recipe in some ways and will tweak a few more things next time like toasting the pine nuts first.  I knew that going into it and didn't follow my instinct.  It will happen next time.  Steven did the pastry crust because we all know he is a master at that and I run screaming the other direction.  The shell does not need to be sweet at all, as the tart is plenty sweet on it's own.  We would recommend pre-baking it for about 10 minutes before adding the filling. 

Pine Nut and Lavender Honey Tart with French Vanilla Whipped Cream

For the Pastry Crust click below

For the Filling

1/3 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Local Clover Honey
1/4 Cup Lavender Honey*
1 tsp Salt
1 and 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
1/2 Cup Cream
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 and 1/2 Cups Toasted Pine Nuts*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place sugar, honeys, and salt into sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, whisk in butter and cool completely.  When cool, whisk in the cream, egg and yolks.

Place fluted tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet.  Cut a 12" disk and fit into a 10" fluted tart pan, pressing into the flutes to make sure there are no air pockets anywhere.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove crust from oven, evenly place toasted pine nuts in the bottom of the pan.  Pour filling over pine nuts.  Gently tap pan on counter to release any air bubbles in the pan.  Bake for 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and middle is set but still wobbly (think pecan pie here).  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Serve immediately with French Vanilla whipped cream. 

For the Whipped Cream

3/4 cup cold Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste

Beat ingredients together in a cold bowl (place in freezer 30 minutes prior) with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.  

*Lavender Honey can be made by placing the honey from one small jar in a saucepan with four or five sprigs of fresh lavender.  Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and steep for 30-45 minutes, or to taste.  Remove lavender sprigs with fork and discard.  Return honey to jar and label accordingly.  Can be stored like regular honey.

*To toast pine nuts, place them in a dry non stick skillet over medium heat on the stove.  Gently shake pan to prevent burning.  Toast until nuts are golden brown and fragrant.

Yesterday the boy was running errands for me and came back with this lovely thing in his hands.  This is an experimental batch bottle of bourbon.  A 23 year old to be exact and I am so excited to open it and taste what kind of magic is in it.  Buffalo Trace does lots of experimental batches and puts them in a barrel and puts them on a shelf in their warehouse for decades until they feel like it might be time to pour it in a bottle for the fans out there.  We tried to go on the list for a 20 year old Pappy or a 17 year old Eagle Rare, but we have had a bottle of it every year and it was someone else's turn this year.  We opted for one of these babies instead.  Yes please.

The upcoming weeks include an annual girl's pilgrimage to Chicago and holidays, holidays, holidays.  I will be strategizing how to carve out down and alone time and still be present in the noise that will happen, otherwise known as extended family gatherings.  Wish me luck. 

Until next time, go and bake this tart, pour a mimosa and send me some pictures of your own table settings.  Or host a dinner just to set a table.  Either one works. 


You Might Also Like


  1. omg. pine nuts are my favorite nut, they pack such a flavor punch in such a small package, i just can't wait to try that tart. and i am definitely one of those people who have a dinner just so i can set the table.... :-)

  2. Forget the mimosa, pass the bourbon :) beautiful!!!!