Fall Dinner Menu

We always travel to my family’s house for Thanksgiving, so I’ve never had true ownership of the holiday.  My mom leads the charge and my sisters and I pitch in with our assigned dishes… it’s been that way since I was five. Knowing this, I often host a festive dinner right before the Thanksgiving holiday for close friends here in Santa Barbara. No turkey, but fall fare straight from the garden and farmers market, and this year, seasoned with inspiration from our recent trip to Piedmont.

Here’s a peek at the menu this week:

Tamarillo and prosciutto with mint

Tamarillo, also called tree tomato, is flourishing in my garden. It’s a small melon- like fruit with the consistency of a peach. It’s great with curries, on it’s own, or with cured meat.  Tamarillo has been a fun and unusual addition to my garden.

Drink: Gruner Veltliner from the Wachau region

Risotto with butternut squash, guanciale, and sage

I created this recipe the other day for lunch.  It was delicious and easy to pull together. Roast the squash while you cook the rice and the timing works out perfectly.  A good substitute for guanciale (which is cured pork cheek) is pancetta. I fried the sage in a mixture of butter and olive oil and used them as a crunchy garnish.

Drink: A bright and acidic red wine like a Barbera d’Asti

Cherry guava sorbet

Cherry guavas are so divine…tart and yummy.  We have two bushes near the tennis court and we often snack on them between sets.  This cherry guava sorbet looks festive and is a tasty palette cleanser in addition to being a fun mid meal treat for the kids.

Farmers market roasted game hens with roasted Brussel sprouts
I have had my eye on these game hens at the farmers market for weeks. I was never a fan of Brussels sprouts until I had them roasted — they are delicious and work quite well with the little hens.

Drink: A traditionally styled Barolo.

Robiola with honey and hazelnuts
At a dinner near Alba Italy (more of a feast for gluttons) with our friend Roberto Conterno from Giacomo Conterno, I fell in love with these three ingredients.  The honey was refined, light tasting and was combined with fresh hazelnuts. The hazelnuts are harvested in the fall and are simply amazing when you eat them fresh. Robiola is a traditional cheese from Piedmont; it is made from goat or ewes milk and has a bright and acidic taste, all the while remaining creamy.  I found a big round of Robiola at C’est Cheese here in Santa Barbara.

Drink: RWC Charleston Sercial Madeira.  Madeira is a great after dinner option and so tasty… it’s especially good because it has a long shelf life after it is opened.   Be it as it may, in a group setting it will most likely be polished off.  Cheers!