Fall is a season filled with an amazing abundance of rich colors, when the leaves change and the harvest comes to bear with fruits and vegetables whose flavors warm us to our very souls. And as a time of year when we so often gather together with friends and family, dinner parties become a regular event, one where we can sit and savor time with one another as we breathe in the scents, savor the flavors, and luxuriate in the wonderful warmth that seems to flood through us with every sip and bite.
Dinner parties also offer the perfect opportunity to create an experience, from the flavors, fragrances, colors, and textures of the foods you serve to the décor and plating. Every aspect is a flood to the senses, so use the richness of fall to inspire every component—both on the plate and off.
From hors d’oeuvres to dessert, we’ve created a stunning five-course menu that will help it all fall into place, offering the perfect pairings for each course that compliment the inherent beauty and subtle nuances of the ingredients. And whether you fancy yourself a true connoisseur or simply appreciate a great glass of wine or a spectacular spirit, this fall menu is sure to fill your senses and make your guests fall in love with the glorious harvest of fall.
A great cheese course is the perfect way to start off a dinner party, and when it comes to fall, there’s no better choice of cheeses than the creamy, pungent nuttiness of bleu cheese teamed up with the saltiness and hazelnut notes of aged Havarti. Adding the crunch of whole grain, butter, or even water crackers creates the perfect contrast of textures, but freshly sliced whole wheat bread offers a pillowy denseness that acts almost as a neutral foil to the deep flavors of the cheeses. To round out the course, add charcuterie meats like salami and prosciutto, two options whose flavors meld beautifully with the cheeses and fresh seasonal fall fruits like figs, pears, apples, and grapes. For some additional saltiness, add black olives and toasted pumpkin seeds, and sweeten it all up with apple butter—all fall favorites that highlight the best autumn has to offer. To play up the harvest theme, use a large wooden platter to plate and garnish the platter with dried corn husks, apple leaves, sage, and edible flowers in rich golds and reds.
Bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
With their earthy nuttiness, Brussels sprouts create the perfect counterpoint to the smoky undertones of bacon and highlights the saltiness in a way that makes it seem to sing. Add to that the hint of sweetness of the balsamic drizzle, and all the rich flavors of fall come together in one perfect bite. When you’re plating, place the sauce in the center and surround it with the sprouts and create more visual interest by using a platter that’s colorful enough to balance the lack of color in the dish.
Butternut Squash Soup
A silky-smooth soup filled with warm spices that play in perfect harmony with the natural sweetness of butternut squash, this harvest-time staple is one that celebrates the essence of fall in every single aspect. Golden in hue, it naturally brings to mind autumn and all it has to offer, and its richness is one that seems to wrap you in comfort. To play up the golden color of the soup, plate using bright white soup bowls atop gold chargers. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds to add some variance in texture or finish with a simple drizzle of heavy cream.
Quince & Vanilla Sorbet
Quince isn’t an ingredient that many people turn to when harvest time hits, but this luscious fall fruit is one that needs to be celebrated for its tartness and acidity. Balanced out by just a hint of sweetness from the vanilla, this sorbet is a refreshing break from the more rich courses that precede it and will be served next.. To keep things looking classy, serve in shallow champagne glasses or footed sorbet dishes with dessert spoons.
A hearty yet elegant dish filled with earthy mushrooms and packed with the richness of beef rounded out with red wine, Beef Bourguignon is a classic that never goes out of style—but nowhere is it more celebrated than in the advent of fall, when we seek the comfort of its depth of flavor and meatiness. Plate using dinnerware that stands up to the lack of color variance in this stew-like dish. If you’re using white plates, be sure to use a charger underneath that will give it some visual interest, like a rich green or even aubergine to play up the aspect of red wine.
Gorgonzola, Pear & Arugula Salad
With its peppery arugula balanced with the nuttiness of pecans and blue cheese and the sweetness of those freshly harvested fall pears, this salad highlights autumn at its peak. It’s a beautiful display of nature’s colors, with greens and golds and reds that bring to mind the changing of the leaves and the bite in the air. Avoid plating on a dish that’s dark so that the colors of the salad stand out. Try clean, crisp white so that it looks even fresher when presented to your guests.
Bourbon Pecan Pie
The sticky sweetness of pecan pie is popular all over the country—most especially in fall when the pies richness and density feel at their most comforting. But bringing it all up a notch is the addition of bourbon, a perfect ingredient whose caramel notes seem to make an already delicious pie even more addictive. Serve up your pie in style by using gold-rimmed dessert plates and a sweet dollop of airy whipped cream.