Keeping It Simple

'Tis definitely the season for open houses and parties.  While we have people over quite frequently, I don't always have a lot of time to do elaborate preparations.  Especially this time of year, when I usually have just a couple of days at home between long stretches of time on the road on TV tour.

Happily, I grew up in a house in which my parents entertained a lot.  One of the tricks I learned from my mom was to prepare as much as possible in advance, so you can actually spend time with your guests.  Whether it was a small dinner party or an open house for 100, Mom always had everything under control - and would be ready long before the first guests arrived.

This week, I had a great time sharing ideas for easy holiday entertaining for Sam's Club and Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits (Stamford, CT) on several shows.  When it comes to food and drink pairings, keeping it simple is definitely the way to go.  Even better, Sam's has a lot of ready-made appetizers and desserts, so you can keep your kitchen time to a minimum!  Here are a few ideas:

Food styling by  FoodStyl.

Food styling by FoodStyl.

Sparkling wine is festive for any occasion - especially the holidays.  The crisp flavors of Enza Prosecco ($14.99) pair nicely with tomato bruschetta, bacon-wrapped dates, and the creaminess of a wheel of brie topped with roasted pineapple and habaňero sauce.  Or, try this cranberry-orange baked brie.

A food-friendly white wine, Barone Fini Pinot Grigio ($11.99) goes with just about anything, but is especially nice with seafood like a shrimp tray with cocktail sauce.  It also brings out the creaminess of desserts like Sams' Member's Mark pumpkin cheesecake or Italian creme cake.

A full-bodied red wine such as Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) and whiskey like Redemption Rye ($29) definitely call for heavier fare.  Pair these up with hearty foods like beef tenderloin skewers, BBQ or beef sliders, or a block of sharp cheddar cheese and crackers.  Red wine is also a fabulous pairing with chocolate, whether you prefer yummy sea salt caramels or a decadent red velvet cake.

Cheers to the holidays!