Are you planning a Hanukkah party this year?

Take a look at my feature for the 2010 holiday issue of Rockland Magazine. In it, I share my thinking on how to blend a little tradition with a lot of glamour and make this year’s Festival of Lights your brightest one yet.

My mission is always to apply a little creativity to local, seasonal ingredients. This being a Hanukkah party, potato latkes are certainly on the menu – but with a gourmet twist.

And, thinking seasonally of course, I created two other latkes as well: butternut squash-leek latkes with cumin for an exotic flair; and beet-scallion latkes with a cayenne-spiked crème fraîche.

No holiday party is complete without some bubbly – after all, what drink says celebration more than sparkling wine? For this party I’m serving two spectacular sparklers: The Blanc de Blancs from Lieb Family Cellars on the North Fork of Long Island; and the Brut Rosé from Graham Beck Winery in South Africa.

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Last March an email from a dear friend, blogger Amy Wilson, landed in my inbox. The title read: “I have a puzzle for you”…. Intrigued, I read on excitedly.

It was all about an upcoming dinner party. But it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill dinner party. The menu for this special celebration of her husband’s birthday had some “serious limitations.”

“Here’s the rub” Amy wrote. Three couples were coming over and all four men (her husband included) had just declared they all wanted to be vegetarians. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, the menu also had to be vegan and gluten-free — and no spinach, mushrooms, celery or rice could make an appearance.

“Is there a menu for an elegant dinner party that can accommodate these restrictions?” Amy asked tentatively. The answer, of course, was a resounding yes.

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It’s not every day that I get to cook for someone as special as Randall Grahm, the self-proclaimed “founder, winemaker, terroirist-vinarchist and prez-for-life” of Bonny Doon Vineyard.

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Holidays are always a good excuse to get together with family and friends. In my case, holidays are always a good excuse to indulge in cooking a feast…

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When Mary Lynn Mitcham, Editor in Chief of Rockland Magazine, asked me if I would write a feature about holiday desserts, she didn’t have time to finish her sentence before I wholeheartedly agreed!

This was last August, mind you, so I had to put my “holiday dessert” head on a little earlier than usual. Mary Lynn wanted me to create a special dessert for each of five different occasions: a brunch, a holiday dinner, a Christmas feast and a New Year’s Eve party, as well as one for holiday gift-giving.

I immediately started working on the concepts, and soon had sent her a list of the desserts I dreamed up. Thankfully, she loved them all. And so my journey began!

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