Wine For Beginners (A Survival Guide For Swanky Parties)

If you’re at a swanky cocktail or dinner party, odds are the wine itself will become a featured part of the conversation. It is natural to discuss the varietal and how well it was done. 

But it can be a little intimidating, too. True wine lovers are known for being a little bit too erudite. They know their types of wine, from pinot grigios to pinot noirs and beyond, and they sure seem to have strong opinions about everything from appellations to acidity. 

But the truth is, you don’t have to feel like a dummy when you are amongst this set. Our short little guide to wine for beginners gives you everything you know to hang with the best of them (and maybe teach them a thing or two!). 

Two women chat on a couch and sip white wines.

First Things First – Red Wines and White Wines

You probably already know that most wines fall into largely three categories– red wine, white wine, and rosé (let’s not worry about the fortified and dessert wines for now). But interspersed within those are so many different grape varietals and blends it can make your head spin. 

But if you can wrap your brain around America’s most popular wines, you can probably navigate yourself through any art reception or dinner party with ease (and if you add these fun wine facts to the mix, you will REALLY impress people). But what ARE the most popular wines you might encounter at a dinner party? 

Wine bottles, grapes, and glasses sit on a table.

Luckily, there’s a study for this. Here are the top 5 wines you should know: 

 1. White Zinfandel

As the name suggests, White Zinfandel is in the white wine category. But you might be surprised to know that it comes from a dark-skinned grape (use that fact to outwit your wine snob friends!). Perhaps this wine’s popularity comes from the fact that it is quite sweet and crisp. Usually, it hints at melons and strawberries, which makes it perfect for drinking chilled on a hot summer night. 

But avoid a wine foul and never pair this one with a super-rich dessert. Its already-sweet flavor is considered too much to pair well with all that sugar. But charcuterie boards (or less sweet desserts) make a good pairing choice. 

2. Moscato

Light-bodied and sweet, Moscato is another famous white wine. It is considered one of the oldest grapes in the world, and you can find it growing in many regions of the world. But Italian Moscato grapes are perhaps the best well-known. This wine is also known for its slightly spicy nuances – we are talking flavor profiles such as cinnamon and mint. Because of this, we love pairing it with Asian cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese at our dinner parties. It handles spicey foods like a pro! 

3. Merlot

Finally, we have hit a red wine on our countdown! And it is quite a controversial one, too. If you haven’t seen the movie Sideways, you might not be familiar with the film’s quite negative take on the wine. And in fact, the movie directly influenced the merlot market as sales took a nosedive. 

But lately, merlot has been having a renaissance of a sort. Perhaps this is one of the best wines for beginners. “The Little Blackbird,” as it is sometimes affectionately known, is easy to drink. It can stand on its own without food–or you can pair it with your rich cheeses and savory meats. If you are having a hamburger to eat for dinner tonight, this might be your best go-to. 

4. Cabernet Sauvignon

A full-bodied red, cabernet sauvignon is the result of a French vineyard’s accidental breeding of two other grape varietals: a cabernet franc grape and a white sauvignon blanc. And never has a love child been so delicious–and drinkable. 

We love cabernet sauvignon in particular because it pairs well with food. It’s high in tannins, so you can expect to leave a dry finish on your tongue. And it has a complex flavor profile that many people find fun to explore–you can detect anything from green pepper to vanilla to tobacco in this one, folks. 

5. Chardonnay

Many of the world’s sparkling wines use chardonnay (we’re looking at you, Champagne). But if chardonnay was defined by one word, that one word might be buttery. Here’s the thing, though…

While chardonnay should taste good with your buttery foods, it shouldn’t taste too much like butter itself. In fact, chardonnay is prized for (what should be) its complexities. What winemakers love about this varietal is that it is easy to grow, making it easier to adapt to individual tastes. So you should be able to find new and exciting flavors with every new chardonnay you encounter. 

Deciphering a Wine Label

Figuring out a wine label can be almost as impossible as learning another language. Here are a few tips to get you started. 

A bottle of wine is held up to the camera.

  1. Brand or appellation?

Forget about the word “reserve” when it comes to wine. It doesn’t really mean anything (at least not by any standardized measurement!), and there are no rules attached to it. 

The best wines are designated by their appellation. These wines have a strict protocol to follow, and specific world regions govern them. Wines that are a bit more free-spirited go by brand. 

There are many examples of this, but one might be the aforementioned chardonnay. The regular stuff is called simply that. A higher degree would be Chablis Premier Cru. We know you would never even know that was a chardonnay, would you? 

There are 15 nations with officially regulated appellations, though the strictness of the rules and what matters varies wildly among them.

      2. Regions and vineyards

You can get wines from soooo many different areas of the world. But here is a rule of thumb for you–the vaguer the region, the likelihood that the wine will be less… shall we say…. apropos for wine drinkers with a true taste for the good stuff? The more specific the wine region (we’re talking about getting down to the specific vineyard), the more likely you’ve got a good bottle of wine. 

Vineyard full of lush grapes.

     3. Vintage

This is the year the wine’s grapes were harvested. Lower-shelf wines tend not to have a year associated with them, as they are often pulled from various years. They use these blends to mess with the recipe, so to speak, until they get the right flavor. 

    4.  Awards & points

Honestly, these awards and points are so all over the place that we don’t think they are much worth worrying about. There are so many contests and competitions and festivals, far more than we can keep track of. And their rules are all over the place, too. You are probably good to go as long as something lands at least a silver or gold medal (probably best to toss out the bronzes) and scores above a 75. 

Tasting Wine

Tasting wine doesn’t have to be complicated. It falls into four basic steps: 

  1. Look: How thick is the wine? How colorful? 
  2. Smell: Can you detect any scents of berries? Tobacco? Pepper? Something else? 
  3. Taste: What do you experience on your taste buds as you take that first sip… Sour? Sweet? Fruity? Dry? How does it taste when it first hits your tongue vs. when it’s lingered there for a moment? Does the taste stay with you (this is called long-bodied)? 
  4. Decide: Did you like it? Is this a varietal you like? Call this your mindfulness moment. Is this a wine you would want to make a long-term commitment with? If it is, maybe take note of the bottle and the grape. 

​​Woman gazes at a glass of red wine.

Detecting a bad wine… 

Want to be a wine drinker that really knows their stuff? Learn how to detect a bad grape in the bunch. Here are a few top reasons to put that glass of wine down and why they happen:

  1. Oxidation – This is the most common thing that can make a good wine go wrong. It makes wine taste flat or bitter. And it doesn’t just happen during the winemaking process, either. Leave an opened bottle of wine out for a day or so and try it (if you want to see what we mean). 
  2. Cork Taint – If your wine smells like your dirty laundry, it could be cork taint. This contaminant sometimes seeps into wines from the barrels they have aged in or even the cork itself. 
  3. Heat Damage – Wine stored in direct sunlight can become a victim of heat damage. They might smell overly sweet or processed. People in the know might call them “cooked wines,” which is never a good thing unless you are making a sauce. 

Wine As A Journey

So, that’s The Austin Artisan’s “wine for beginners” in a nutshell. All that’s left to do is to drink up. Enjoying wine, my friends is something you don’t need a how-to to do. 

What is your favorite wine varietal? Tag The Austin Artisan on Instagram and let us know (and catch some valuable advice on our favorite wine pairings while you’re there). 

Enjoy gourmet food better than any 5-star restaurant in your own home. The Austin Artisan’s meal delivery services are designed to take you on a culinary journey of taste. Learn more about our menus and more!

Create A Luxury Lifestyle Inspired By The Way Billionaires Live

Jeff Bezos. Kim Kardashian. Ralph Lauren. We associate these names with glitz and glamour. But what is it really like to live a life full of such decadence? And what can you learn from their way of life that you can steal and use in your own life? 

We looked to some of the most influential and wealthy people in the world for inspiration on creating a luxury lifestyle your way. 

 Indulge In Memorable Experiences

Jeff Bezos has famously spent days and even weeks searching for rocket ships lost in the Atlantic. He even claimed to have found the long-lost ruins of Apollo 11, the spaceship that took Neil Armstrong to the moon. 

But you don’t have to own an underwater submarine to take part in an amazing adventure. Whether you go mountain climbing or wine tasting or take a spin down the Autobahn, be sure to set aside time to indulge in activities that inspire your sense of curiosity. 

Woman drinks red wine from a glass.

Not sure where to start? We recommend starting with curious flavors that you’ve never experienced before, ones that take your taste buds on a journey. 

Eat well. Very well.

Mogul Mukesh Ambani is worth a cool 95.6 billion (but don’t fact check this number is probably going up at a rate of 1 gazillion per second). What does he do with that money? Well, besides owning the most expensive house in the world, he also has a live-in personal chef. And he’s not the only one. 

Reportedly, Ambani loves homemade Gujarati food. Rihanna’s personal chef approaches food that is “all about pleasure,” according to this Bon Appetit article. Marc Jacobs asks his chef to whip up gourmet chicken dishes

But you don’t have to be a billionaire to indulge in the luxury lifestyle of having a personal chef. 

Chef cooks fiery dish over a stove.

If you live in Austin or the surrounding area, we specialize in home-cooked meals crafted by expert chefs that are delivered straight to your door. We’re talking innovative ingredients perfectly puzzled together to create a meal experience. 

Not an Austin resident? A bit of internet searching should help you find local chefs in your own city that specialize in gourmet weekly food delivery. 

Give back. 

This isn’t just kumbaya talk, folks. Giving back is one of the best ways to make you feel good. It spurs those happy hormones. It is no wonder that just about every top celebrity finds a way to give back. 

Group of volunteers smile at each other.

The key here is to find a way to contribute that goes beyond just writing a check. Monetary donations alone won’t ever give you connection or provide you with a sense of community. How can you get involved in your community in a way that speaks to your passions? What issues and problems do you see most in the world that you care most about tackling? Do you have a specific skill or talent that can help someone else? When the storms hit Texas last year, The Austin Artisan whipped up batches of soup for those that needed it most. But you have your own gift to share. 

The point is, channel your inner philanthropist, and you will find a truly defining characteristic of living a luxury lifestyle. 

Indulge in your quirky hobbies.  

Elon Musk reportedly owns numerous one-of-a-kind movie props. Richard Branson has flown into outer space. Queen Elizabeth owns the Cullinan I, the largest existing diamond on record. 

That’s certainly something that not everyone can say. 

From trying unique foods (might we suggest our celery root espuma?) to owning something that is a true rarity, indulging in exclusive experiences truly oozes a luxury lifestyle. 

But the truth is, your hobby doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. For example, take Tom Hanks: he loves to collect vintage typewriters, spending a mere $50 or so on each. Taylor Swift loves making her own snow globes. And perhaps quirkiest of all? Penelope Cruz allegedly loves to collect coat hangers, of all things. Of course, whether this is a rumor or fact, only her closet knows. 

Woman examines her shelf of pottery.

From restoring classic cars to pottery to nurturing your garden of roses, whatever your flavor might be, indulging in it full throttle is a true hallmark of luxury. 

Own your dream home. (Or add something dreamy to your existing home.) 

Oprah has famously nicknamed her house “The Promised Land.” Bill Gates lives in “Xanadu 2.0.” And Drake? He’s named his 12,500 square foot mansion “YOLO.” 

It is no secret that many of the world’s wealthiest people live out the ultimate luxury lifestyle in their dream homes. But the details? That means different things to different people. Iconic film director Steven Spielberg has a reef-style aquarium in his home. Kanye West’s toilet is reportedly encrusted with gold. And Warren Buffet? He has lived in the same modest house in Omaha since 1958. 

Clownfish swim in an aquarium.

The point is to make your living space unique to you. Fill it with meaningful things that make you happy. Or throw in an ice cream parlor, infinity pool, or maybe a home theater. 

Indulge in Self-Care

Moosa Bin Shamsher, aka Prince Musa, is worth billions. And besides employing dozens of bodyguards and writing with a diamond and gold encrusted pen (a pen valued at one million dollars, no less) he reportedly takes a shower in rose water every day. 

You don’t have to be a billionaire to indulge in a bit of self-care, though. Whether you have a favorite brand of chocolate, love the scent of lavender, or can’t live without the feel of your favorite silk pillowcases – indulging in a luxury lifestyle by indulging your five senses is one way to feel like the world’s wealthiest person. 

Woman cuddles up with tea and a chocolate cookie.

Get in touch with nature. 

Sure, Leonardo Di Caprio is building an eco-resort on an island he bought in Belize. 

But you don’t have to be a billionaire to experience Mother Nature’s best. Grab your slice of nature in your own way – without the maintenance. Simply going on a walk outside can be plenty. 

Woman walks through woods.

As John Burroughs (a turn-of-the-century conservationist) said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.” 

Stay healthy. 

As Count Rugen in The Princess Bride famously put it, you can have all of the above. But, “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” 

Make sure you take time to exercise. Eat healthy, nutritious foods. Do what it takes to stay well. You’re going to need to be in tip-top shape to tackle your luxury lifestyle list. 

Who has the most luxurious lifestyle in the world?

So the answer to who has the most luxurious lifestyle in the world? It might just be you, in your own way. 

What are the ways you indulge in a luxury lifestyle? Tag The Austin Artisan on Instagram and let us know (and catch a glimpse of some of our favorite luxurious ingredients while you’re there).

Toast to Holiday Cheer With These Bourbon Christmas Cocktails

At The Austin Artisan, we love whipping up inventive takes on more than just food – we love trying new things with cocktails too. Especially when the cocktail contains whiskey, one of our favorite spirits for cooking and drinking. 

We’re sharing some of our favorite bourbon cocktails that have made an appearance at holiday celebrations this year. The first one up on our list? A cocktail that is the perfect pear-ing (forgive the pun!) for toasting to good cheer in the new year and beyond! 

Pear & Ginger-Infused Whiskey Cocktail

Why are pears associated with Christmas? 

Pears have long been associated with the Christmas holiday, partly because of practicality. A deliciously juicy and fresh pear (especially if it’s encrusted in gold like Harry and David’s famous pears) might stay that way for a reasonably long amount of time, which made them a good choice of fresh fruit to survive those long winter months. But when the popular Christmas song came along, it was then that the fruit became a true icon of the holiday season. You know the one… 

…and a partridge in a pear tree… 

Now you might be wondering why anyone would want a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas. The truth is, nobody really knows. Perhaps they once had a meaning associated with the weather or with seasonal food. But whatever that meaning was, it has become long lost to time. 

So there’s a culinary mystery for you. But here’s the thing about our featured cocktail today. Unlike a partridge in a pear tree, it is something you definitely have use for. It is the color of a shimmering star and boasts the perfect amount of sugar and spice for a festive cocktail.

Pear & Ginger-Infused Bourbon Christmas Cocktail Recipe

Pear & Ginger-Infused Bourbon Christmas Cocktail

2 ounces of freshly squeezed Bartlett pear juice

1/2 ounce of ginger simple syrup

2 oz bourbon

1-2 drops of walnut bitters

splash of sparkling water

Serve in a glass with ice

garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange twist

Apple Cider Old Fashioned Bourbon Christmas Cocktail

Next up on our bourbon Christmas cocktails list is a new and inventive take on an old-fashioned. Our take on the classic cocktail features apple cider and a bit of ginger for some traditional Christmas flavors. 

What bourbon pairs well with apple cider? 

Honestly, any bourbon pairs well with apple cider. Straight Bourbon is consistently 51% corn, has to be aged for at least 2 years, and this process imbues it with hints of caramel. This makes it the perfect pairing for apple flavors. 

We love supporting Texas businesses. For this recipe we recommend picking up a bottle of bourbon from Texas-favorite Balcones. And we suggest Rambler for the sparkling water.

Apple Cider Old Fashioned Bourbon Christmas Cocktail

Apple Cider Old Fashioned Bourbon Christmas Cocktail

1 oz Apple Cider

1 Oz Bourbon

1/2 oz Ginger Syrup

2 Dashes Walnut Bitters

1 Oz Rambler Sparkling Water 

Sugared or Fresh Cranberries for Garnish

You Liked ‘Em By The Thousands: A Round-Up of the Internet’s Most Popular Holiday Recipes

The holiday season, more than any other time of the year, is defined by food. From gingerbread to hot cider, prime rib to hot chocolate, your dinner tables are going to be a veritable cornucopia of bounty this season, no doubt. 

But we were curious. 

Which ones do you love the most? Which ones practically scream “holiday spirit” for you? 

After all, with thousands of recipes out there to choose from, you can make about 1000 different types of gingerbread. And don’t even get us started on fruitcake. 

But which recipes are actually worth the effort? We were curious, so we took to the internet to find out. We gathered the most popular holiday recipes from Google’s search results. We used data like how many pins they got, how many positive reviews, and even how many people visited that specific recipe page per month (some receive almost 100k views EVERY month). 

These are the crowd-pleasers, the festivity makers, the family favorites you eat every year. In short, these are the most popular holiday recipes on the Internet. 

So without further ado, here’s our guide to the recipes you should be trying out this holiday season. Add them to your menu. They pair perfectly with a cup of kindness and good cheer. 

The Internet’s Most Popular Holiday Recipes

Apple Cider

Cup of apple cider next to apples and cinnamon.

There is nothing that smacks of holiday cheer (and comfort food) more than a piping hot cup of apple cider on a cold winter’s day. And with almost 25k monthly views to one particular post on Delish, it seems you all agree — homemade apple cider is the way to go. This is especially true if it comes with an apple-picking outing. Make a day of it at a local farmer like Austin’s own Boggy Creek Farm or Austin Orchards

Gingerbread Cookies

Holiday gingerbread cookies

Ginger was once one of those gourmet ingredients only available to the aristocracy. Nowadays, anyone can get their hands on it, and it’s a good thing because a batch of Christmas cookies is nothing without this spicy addition to the classic holiday sweet. And with almost 100k monthly views, you’ll ADORE this recipe for gingerbread cookies courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction. Notice her use of brown sugar instead of white sugar? Absolutely sublime. 

Roasted Chestnuts

holiday chesnuts

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Jack Frost nipping at your nose…

Okay, you know the song, but have you ever actually tried roasted chestnuts? They are a unique flavor that’s simply a must for the holiday season. But they can be a bit intimidating if you have never worked with them before. This recipe from The Spruce Eats makes them approachable. 

Christmas Ham

A Christmas ham or “Yule ham” might not be considered a classic holiday dish as much in the United States as it is in Europe, but we think it should be. And this brown sugar-based glazed version (accented with a dash of dijon mustard) from Cafe Delites is about as good a way to roast a ham as any we’ve seen. And with thousands of visits and plenty of good reviews to spare, it seems you agree. 

Fruitcake

It’s quite a feat to declare one’s own dish the best of anything, but it might be an especially precarious move to call your fruitcake the best in the world. Fruitcake, after all, is one of those very polarizing desserts. It is rarely allowed to take center stage. 

But that’s only the case when you haven’t had the real thing, and this fruitcake recipe from A Beautiful Plate is the real thing. Passed down by the author’s British grandmother and perfected by the generations, it is moist, fruity, and full of flavor. Don’t believe us? Read one of the hundreds of raving reviews. 

Wassail

“To wassail” refers to the old English custom of going house to house singing carols. But it also means to toast to somebody’s good health, and we can’t think of a better way to do so than with the drink that is synonymous with the deed. This wassail recipe from Yummy Healthy Easy is all three things: it is yummy, healthy, and easy. 

Beef Wellington

Beef wellington

Beef Wellington is a classic British dish made famous by the Savoy Hotel in London. It features tender beef wrapped in flakier puff pastry and is a gorgeous addition to any holiday table. In The Austin Artisan’s version, I use thin slices of prosciutto as a topping, giving the dish a rich, savory finish. It is one of the most popular recipes on our website! 

Christmas Pudding

If you haven’t had a flaming Christmas pudding, you’re in for a fiery treat. This delicious cake is the tradition you never knew you were missing.  Creating the fire isn’t as scary as it looks, either. Simply heat a few tablespoons of brandy in a pan and pour it gently over the finished pudding. Then you set it ablaze. Talk about lighting up your holidays! 

Pigs in a Blanket

You might not believe it at first, but Pigs in a Blanket are one of the most popular holiday recipes you can find out there. An unexpected choice of holiday favorites? Sure. But we love them too. And for this recipe, we go straight to the crescent capital of the world — Pillsbury themselves

The holidays are a wonderful time of celebration, gratitude, and great food. And with these most popular holiday recipes, your dinner menu is sure to be a hit!

Want more ideas? Follow us on Instagram, so you never miss out on a recipe or another round-up!

Leftover Mashed Potato Croquettes With Cranberry Gastrique

Never Wonder What You Can Do With Leftover Mashed Potatoes Again. 

There is nothing better than a heaping mound of creamy mashed potatoes on your plate, especially if they are perfectly made (for tips on that, check out this blog on Thanksgiving side dishes). No wonder the statistics say that this Thanksgiving, a whopping 64% of you will have mashed potatoes on the menu. 

With any luck, you have a bit of that delicious turkey (and some cranberry sauce) hanging around as well. If you have this trio of ingredients, you can make some delicious leftover mashed potato croquettes that are sure to be a crowd favorite. 

What is a croquette? 

The word croquette comes from a similar French word meaning “to crunch.” Typically, croquettes consist of a filling that is then surrounded by eggs and bread crumbs and deep-fried. 

The filling can be anything from meat to fish to even sweets. But for this quick and easy recipe, we use up some of those delicious Thanksgiving leftovers you’ve got waiting in the fridge. 

Let’s get cooking! 

Leftover Mashed Potato Croquettes with Cranberry Gastrique

 

Leftover Mashed Potato Croquettes with Cranberry Gastrique

Typically, croquettes consist of a filling that is then surrounded by eggs and bread crumbs and deep-fried.

  • 4 cups Mashed Potatoes
  • 1.5 cups Chopped Turkey
  • 2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1.5 cups Flour
  • 4 cups Oil for Frying
  • 2 cups Cranberry Sauce
  1. Take 4T of mashed potatoes and shape them into a ball.

  2. Use about a tablespoon of leftover chopped turkey and press into the center of the mashed potatoes.

  3. Reshape mashed potato into a ball.

  4. Set up a 3-stage breading station by whisking eggs with 2 tablespoons of water in one container, flour in another, and bread crumbs in another.

  5. Start by rolling potato ball in flour, then in egg mixture, and finally in bread crumbs.

  6. Heat oil to 350 and deep fry til golden brown.

For cranberry gastrique:

  1. Simmer cranberry sauce til reduced by half and thick syrupy consistency.

leftovers, Side Dish
American
leftovers, mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving, turkey

The Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes Battle It Out for a Place at Your Dinner Table

Whether you deck your halls with Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving or after, one thing we can agree on is that the fourth Thursday in November offers up some of the best food we have all year. From stuffing and gravy to your grandma’s beloved cranberry salad, the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes delight us at best and give us something to talk about at worst. (We all have that one cousin who likes to use the holidays as a time to experiment in the kitchen…)

Flavor experiments aside, Thanksgiving is a time to come together to express gratitude and share a delicious meal while making a few memories along the way. That’s why it’s one of our favorite holidays around here. It’s all about engaging in a culinary experience, which is our specialty. 

We started The Austin Artisan to handcraft experiences around the table no matter the occasion. We help busy families connect over a meal at least once a day. We entertain lifelong friends celebrating milestone occasions with private catering. And we make spending time together easier for couples who are tired of arguing over the dishes. 

So, you can see how Thanksgiving is the holiday for us. But since it’s our job to make things around the kitchen a little easier for our clients, we decided we’d go one step farther and find out which of the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes would reign supreme if they were to go head-to-head (or stuffing to stuffing) at the dinner table.

This is our not-at-all scientific, but a one-hundred-percent true guide to the Battle of Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes. May your favorite casserole win.

The Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes Hash It Out

Stuffing vs. Dressing

Arguably the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes of them all, stuffing and dressing are essential at the Thanksgiving table. But they are not the same thing. While the flavors may be similar, it all depends on how you prepare it. 

Stuffing is quite literally prepared by stuffing it into the turkey’s cavity and letting it cook while the turkey cooks. On the other feather (er, hand), dressing cooks outside of the bird in a casserole dish. 

The term “stuffing” actually fell out of fashion back in the 1850s thanks to some Victorian nobles who took umbrage with the vulgarity of the word. But, more recently, the actual dish has declined in popularity due to the risk of food-borne illness. 

For that reason, along with the fact most states south of the Mason-Dixon Line prefer it, we crown dressing the winner of this round of the most popular Thanksgiving side dish battle.

Cranberry Salad vs. Cranberry Sauce

While cranberries are still under consideration for the most popular Thanksgiving side dish, they are definitely the oldest traditional delicacy at the table. Ocean Spray estimates Americans consume over 400 million pounds of cranberries each year, with 80 million of them used at Thanksgiving (that’s 20% for those keeping track at home). 

Cranberries are native to North America, they were likely in attendance at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe in some form or fashion since the Wampanoags used the berries in meals, as medicine, and to dye fabrics.

As for more recent Thanksgiving meals, cranberries are usually found in a Jell-O style salad with other chopped fruit or hastily plopped on a plate while your grandma argues the rings from the can are a built-in slicing guide.

If we had to choose (and we do, that’s the whole point of this article), we’d pick cranberry salad as the most popular Thanksgiving side dish this round.

Yams vs. Mashed Potatoes

 

Up next in our culinary clash for the most popular Thanksgiving side dish, we have yams versus good ol’ mashed potatoes. But first, you’re probably wondering if a yam is the same thing as a sweet potato (and if you weren’t, you are now). 

Well, yes and no. Yes, this popular Thanksgiving side dish is prepared in similar fashions, but the yam is a different vegetable. Initially found in Africa, yams have a rough, brown exterior compared to the sweet potato’s softer, reddish skin. They’ve since been used interchangeably since colonial times when enslaved people substituted the New World’s sweet potato for the traditional yam.

Now that we know where yams and sweet potatoes came from, let’s compare them to the beloved Southern staple known as mashed potatoes. Yams are often prepared with a sweet topping or served as a sweet potato pie; whereas, mashed potatoes pair well with the extra gravy from your slice of turkey. However, put the wrong person on mashed potato duty and you risk having goopy, gluey potatoes that stick to the serving spoon instead of falling to your plate with a satisfying “thwack!”

For these reasons, we call the match-up between mashed potatoes and yams a tie in the battle of most popular Thanksgiving side dishes. Don’t make us choose.

Green Bean Casserole vs. Mac and Cheese

 

At last, two comfort foods go noodle to bean in this brawl of most popular Thanksgiving side dishes. In one tastefully decorated holiday dish, we have green bean casserole with its slightly dubious cream of mushroom soup and crunchy onions. In the other casserole dish, we have creamy and cheesy macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs on top.  

Green bean casserole is the brainchild of Dorcas Reilly, a Campbell Soup Company employee who whipped up the dish for the first time in 1955. While it can be customized to different tastes, the original recipe for this popular Thanksgiving side dish calls for six ingredients. And according to Campbell Soup Company, it graces the tables of 20 million families every year.

Macaroni and cheese has been around for a little longer. Like 131 years longer. Mac and cheese first appeared in an 1824 cookbook entitled The Virginia Housewife and has endured in popularity because you can make it super fancy with multiple kinds of cheese or make it with the “cheapest protein possible.” While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend making it with processed cheese, there’s something to be said about serving familiar flavors on holidays.

The only way you could go wrong with this most popular Thanksgiving side dish skirmish is if you tried to make macaroni and cheese green bean casserole (people are still trying to make this a thing, but we’ll leave it at that!). So bring on both mac and cheese and green bean casserole! We have plenty of room for both of them at our table.

Cornbread vs. Dinner Rolls

The final most popular Thanksgiving side dish match-up is between cornbread and dinner rolls. Both are packed with delicious carbs and served with copious amounts of warm butter. You really can’t go wrong with either (and both deserve a spot in the breadbasket). But, to keep things fair, we pick dinner rolls because there’s cornbread in the dressing.

And the winner of the Battle of the Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dish is…

You (well, and us, too!). Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of celebration, gratitude and really great food. If you haven’t sorted out your family’s most popular Thanksgiving side dishes just yet, we would love to help you plan a meal that will wow your family and impress even the fanciest of your guests if you’re in Austin or the surrounding areas. For more information or to make a reservation for the holidays, call Michael at 737-307-2250.

Kick-Off Your Thanksgiving Countdown With This Checklist (And These Recipes Adored By The Internet)

They were the most talked about, the most pinned, the most searched, the Thanksgiving recipes so popular that they earned the top place in Google’s mysterious algorithm and got a ton of clicks. 

And judging by the number of positive reviews and upvotes, the eating was pretty fantastic as well. So chances are, your entire family will love them too. 

From casserole dishes to comfort food favorites, we’re rounding up the most popular Thanksgiving recipes from the Internet. Be sure to add them to your Thanksgiving Countdown Checklist (click here to jump to the list!)! They are sure to make a holiday meal that is delicious and vetted by home chefs everywhere. 

Turkey and Happy Thanksgiving montage.

Plan Your Thanksgiving Countdown Using These Tried, Tested, and True Recipes

Thanksgiving Turkey

Cooking the turkey is one of those things that many people find intimidating. There’s the defrosting, the removal of the innards, and the fact that not doing all of these things correctly can either lead to undercooked turkey or overcooked turkey. Neither is a pleasant proposition, especially after hours of work and many hungry tummies seated at the table. 

It is perhaps, for this reason, that Tastes Better From Scratch’s recipe for Thanksgiving turkey is so popular. With over 5k pins on Pinterest and almost a whopping 200k monthly visits. Why? Perhaps it’s because the writer speaks straight to the reader’s fears of creating a Thanksgiving disaster, and step by step breaks down those fears one by one. 

Most Popular Mashed Potato Recipe

Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes, preferably covered in delicious gravy handmade from all of those delectable drippings you should have leftover after completing the turkey. 

But while mashed potatoes are a lot of people’s favorite dish, they aren’t as simple as they seem. You’ve got to choose the right potatoes, mash them at precisely the right temperature, and not overdo it on the butter and the dairy. 

 A dish of mashed potatoes sits on a slate.

This mashed potato recipe from Gimme Some Oven asks for a blend of potatoes, which makes it stand out from other recipes. And with the simple tips on common mistakes people make when making mashed potatoes, your favorite side dish is sure to be a hit. 

Most Popular Stuffing Recipe

Being a Chef, at times, causes one to think thought-provoking, highly philosophical questions. For example, we’d like to know who it was that thought to themselves, what would it taste like if we took a bunch of bread and seasonings and cooked them inside a dead turkey? 

We’ll never know. What we DO know is that a Thanksgiving without stuffing is practically a sin. 

A dish of Thanksgiving stuffing.

This recipe for stuffing from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice is so popular that even Kitchn magazine featured it. With over 41000 pins on Pinterest, it far exceeds just about anything else you can imagine in the stuffing popularity pageant. And perhaps this is for a good reason. The recipe is simple enough that anyone can do it, but the additional sausage adds a bit of that fancy feeling. What’s not to like? 

Yams.

Candied Yams

Rosie Mayes’ blog is about soul food recipes, and her baked candied yams recipes don’t disappoint. What makes her recipe stand out is partly that she uses garnet yams, which are not only sweet and flavorful but bake up moist very nicely. Her spice mix includes ones you might expect (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.), but it might be the pure vanilla extract that takes her recipe over the top. And with over 15k pins and nearly 100k monthly visits, it seems home chefs agree. 

Green Bean Casserole

Campbell’s green bean casserole recipe might get over 400k monthly views because of its pure simplicity. It requires only 5 ingredients: green beans, cream of mushroom soup (Campbell’s, of course!), milk, crispy fried onions, and here’s the kicker: soy sauce. Easy enough, right? 

Green bean casserole.

But the fact that it is a classic side dish that the whole family finds tasty is perhaps why this recipe gets so many good reviews. And according to their website, the recipe gets a mind-boggling 4 million views each Thanksgiving Day! Since Campbell’s pretty much invented this side dish, it’s only fair they get the popular vote, right?

Most Popular Pumpkin Pie Recipe

From figuring out which is better, white or brown sugar, to whether or not to use ginger, there’s a lot that goes into making a perfect pumpkin pie. 

Pumpkin pie.

Sally’s Baking Addiction proclaims her pumpkin pie recipe to be the result of a lot of trial and error, and we believe her. But while her recipe is the result of countless hours of tinkering with ingredients, it is perhaps her secret ingredient that truly makes her recipe stand out: black pepper. With nearly 300k monthly visits from your pumpkin lovers out there, it is definitely something you should try out for yourself. Check out the full pumpkin pie recipe here. 

The Thanksgiving countdown has begun, and time’s a tickin’. But these recipes are all you need to put together a Thanksgiving feast that is worthy of a memorable family gathering (and a very long nap afterward). Need help organizing everything? Check out our Thanksgiving countdown cheat sheet below: 

Thanksgiving Countdown Cheat Sheet

 

4 weeks ahead:

  • Call friends and family to make sure your guest list is final. You need to know the number of people you can expect.
  • Make a list of all the dishes you want to serve. You should include drinks such as wine, beer, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • You can either print or bookmark recipes after you plan the menu. This will help you with your shopping list.

3 Weeks Ahead:

  • Take a look at all of the recipes and figure out how much of each ingredient you need to feed your guests.
  • Get your order in now to ensure you get the best turkey you can buy.
  • If you have to buy extra place settings, décor, or cooking equipment, you can place those orders now as well.

2 Weeks Ahead:

  • Make room in the fridge, freezer, pantry for turkey, and all the things you’ll prepare in advance.
  • Start shopping for the food you’ll cook this week. For example, you can prepare pie crusts, homemade stock, and rolls and keep them in the freezer.
  • Get Cooking! Begin your first round of cooking, and freeze foods in airtight containers. It’s a good idea to label each item.

1 Week Ahead:

  • Buy items for any recipes you plan to cook and freeze this week. Finish your shopping for canned goods, frozen veggies, paper towels, and beverages.
  • Pick up the turkey if you ordered it, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time. It will take a few days to thaw and brine it if the turkey is frozen.
  • Create a beautifully dressed table now. You can make it look festive by using gourds, cloth napkins, and candles.

The Week Of:

  • You can buy perishables 3-4 days in advance.
  • Finish Cooking: Defrost crusts and assemble pies. Blanch vegetables, boil potatoes, arrange appetizer platters, and keep plugging away at your recipes.
  • On the big day, stuff and roast the turkey, toss salads and reheat all your pre-made dishes. (The last-minute details will depend on your menu.)
  • After all your hard work, it’s time to sit and eat. And remember to toast to the host!

Now that you’ve done all that work for Thanksgiving, would you rather not do the cooking for the rest of the holiday season? The Austin Artisan has you covered, but you have to move fast–private caterings are booking up quickly. Check out our dinner party page, or give us a call at (737) 307-2250 to reserve your preferred date before it gets snatched up!

4 Ghoulishly Good Traditional Halloween Foods For A Deliciously Spooky Dinner

The old saying by Ray Bradbury says, “Something wicked this way comes…” But when Halloween comes around at The Austin Artisan, we give the old saying a different twist altogether. Something delicious this way comes.

In homage to the spookiest season of the year, we’re talking about some of our favorite traditional Halloween foods. Add them to your dinner table and invite your goblins, ghosts, witches, and vampires to enjoy a delectable feast that is perfectly on theme. 

Woman dressed as witch holds up a jack-o-lantern.

Caramel Apples

Apples themselves have long been a symbol of this time of year. This is partly because of their seasonal nature that peaks just about now, but also because of their long-standing symbol of being forbidden fruit. 

But according to historian Joan Morgan, bobbing for apples had a more romantic history, less than a spooky history (although one superstitious nonetheless). Back in the day, girls looking for a suitor would mark their apples before placing them in the barrel of water. As the apples floated and potential suitors went to work trying to catch one with their teeth, the apples became a matchmaking game. Whichever fellow happened to catch the young woman’s apple foretold of a potential romance in the future. 

How about them apples? (Sorry, we had to.)

But what about caramel apples? Why are they so associated with Halloween? Well. It turns out that caramel apples were the result of an experiment in reducing food waste.

A platter of candy apples sits on a black plate.

 It was the 1950s. After the Halloween season was over, it seems Dan Walker of Kraft Foods noticed an overabundance of excess caramels. It occurred to him to melt the caramel down and throw a batch of them in. The result was a history-making,  culinary masterpiece. Now, caramel apples are practically an art form. 

Want to add a caramel apple to your Halloween line-up? Check out these caramel apple recipes! They make delicious gifts

Pumpkin Seeds

I once saw a t-shirt that confessed, “I hate pumpkin spice. There, I said it.” 

It seems pumpkin spice has become almost as controversial as the cats vs. dogs debate. But when it comes to Halloween, there’s no avoiding it. And while pumpkin spice might be the flavor everyone loves to hate, you have to admit, there’s something magical about that moment that every coffee shop becomes chock full of lattes filled with the stuff. 

But why have pumpkins become known as a spooky squash? 

The history of jack-o-lanterns goes back to old folklore. The story goes that an old Irish blacksmith had tricked the devil, and when he died, he was left to linger on the earth. He hollowed out a turnip to carry an ember the devil had given him to light the way as he wandered the earth. The Irish celebrated this folklore every year by carving scary faces on turnips and even going so far as to mimic the part of the story by burning a piece of coal inside. 

Jack-O-Lantern sits in a window.

Irish immigrants to the U.S. found a lot more pumpkins than turnips. And we have to admit; they make better carving material. Just check out these beautiful jack-o-lanterns

But don’t let all those seeds go to waste. You can roast them into something chock full of magnesium and Vitamin K, and absolutely delicious. Use a simple roasted pumpkin seed recipe like this one from AllRecipes. 

Roasted pumpkin seeds.

Candy Corn

Vox once proclaimed candy corn “Halloween’s most contentious sweet.” 

The flavor profile itself is one of honey, sugar, butter, and vanilla. What’s not to like there? Probably nothing. It’s the waxy texture that makes this candy one of those love it or hate it kinds of things. 

The candy’s tri-color orange, yellow, and white look is meant to mimic chicken feed, which is actually what the kernels were marketed as at one point. Chicken feed candy was a hit with the kiddoes. The company now known for creating Jelly Bellies that popularized the candy around the turn of the century. And over time, the “penny candy” became a favorite amongst kids that had little money to spend. The candy wasn’t so much associated with Halloween as it was a popular go-to year-round. 

Candy corn spills out of glass jar.

But as candy and Halloween became more and more synonymous, so did the rise of candy corn as the candy of the season. Its harvest colors and history as one of the first candies to be passed out to trick-or-treaters in the 1950s cemented its status as an iconic Halloween food.

Bonfire Toffee

Unless you are from the United Kingdom, you may not have heard of bonfire toffee. But no list of Halloween foods would be complete without this stiff, brittle toffee that is also associated with the country’s Guy Fawkes night. 

Bonfire toffee.

Photo Credit: Dominic Winsor from Southampton, United Kingdom via WikiCommons

The confection consists of demerara sugar, black treacle, and corn syrup. It isn’t appealing to the eyes, but its popularity speaks to its deliciousness on the tongue. Want to try your hand at making it? One of our favorite bonfire toffee recipes comes from The Spruce Eats

Throw a Dinner Party

Want to host a dinner party that includes these and more from all that the autumnal harvest season has to offer? The Austin Artisan has you covered, but you have to move fast–private caterings are booking up quickly. In fact, our Christmas calendar is already just about full! 

Let us know what you have in mind, and we will put our culinary wizardry to the task. Check out our dinner party page or give us a call at  (737) 307-2250 to explore the possibilities.

2021 Halloween Catering Menu

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. And to celebrate, our very own Chef Kori has switched out her chef’s hat for a wizard’s hat (just in time for October). She’s whipped up a host of creative recipes you have to taste to believe. We’re talking some culinary hocus-pocus the likes of which you’ve never seen before. 

From charcoal to black vodka to chocolate, this multi-course menu is deliciously dark and wickedly wonderful. The perfect pairing for a Halloween party. Check it out below! 

So if you’re looking to book a private Halloween-themed catering event to treat your guest list of resident ghosts, ghouls, and goblins this October, you are in the right place. The Austin Artisan offers themed Halloween catering menus to suit a wide variety of appetites and settings! 

Book quickly by calling (512) 436-2401. Halloween season is short, and dates are vanishing so fast it’s practically scary.  

Halloween Charcuterie Board

There’s nothing better than a Halloween party, complete with creative costumes and the strains of Boris Karloff’s “Monster Mash” playing from a nearby speaker. The perfect pairing for all these festivities?  A Halloween charcuterie board that is equally spooky. 

Take your basic snack board and turn it into one from your guests’ greatest nightmares — in the most delicious way, of course! 

From sweet treats to savory meats, these tips and tricks will leave you with a Halloween charcuterie board that is sure to leave your guests ghoulishly grinning. 

Add in a bit of extra sugar. A sugar pumpkin, that is! 

Nothing screams Halloween louder than a pumpkin. Jack-O-Lanterns have a long and storied history in Halloween and are the perfect addition to your Halloween charcuterie board lineup. Mini-pumpkins (aka sugar pumpkins) are an excellent choice because they are small enough to take up less room on your board, and they come in spooky colors that can accent your overall look — namely, ghostly white and fiery orange. 

Carved jack-o-lantern sits on a wooden board.

Make use of spooky Halloween props. 

A local Halloween store like Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds is a great place to find props that will perfectly accentuate your Halloween charcuterie board–and you might find a unique vintage costume while you’re there. 

A few fake spiders crawling on your block of brie? A skeleton’s hand clutching at slices of blood oranges or a caramel apple? Or how about adding a bit of black webbing underneath the board itself for ultimate effect? Take a walk down the aisles and see what kind of inspiration comes to you; there are thousands of ideas! 

Prop skeleton hand holds red apple.

Add edible spooky eyes and other elements to your cheese boards and other foods. 

Edible spooky eyes make an easy instant spooky (but fun) addition to your Halloween charcuterie board. Add them to your cupcakes, cookies, chocolates, and even your fruits or cheeses for immediate effect. 

Glass jar contains candies and sugar pumpkins, and skulls.

Even your meats can look creepy

Floral-shaped meats have become a huge trend with charcuterie boards. But add a pimento-stuffed eyeball to the center, and you change the look entirely. 

​​Rosette meats with olive in the center.

Use a Halloween gingerbread house as your focal point. 

There’s nothing like a beautifully made gingerbread house to catch the eye. And who said they are only for Halloween? You don’t have to be a wiz at the decorations and icing, either. You can grab kits from your local supermarket and make this a part of your Halloween charcuterie board the kids can help with (they will love it!). 

Halloween gingerbread house.

Don’t forget the classic candies. 

No charcuterie platter is complete without a bit of sweetness, and we’ve covered a bunch of ideas on this list. But don’t forget your classic Halloween candies. That’s right; we’re talking white chocolate, black licorice, gummy worms, and candy corn. The candies might be notoriously controversial (people seem to either adore their flavor or hate it), but you’ll have a great time listening to your guests weigh in on the love ‘em or hate ‘em aspect of your spooky treats.  

Bowl of candy corn.

Get creative with your cutting. 

A section of any snack board should be dedicated to cheese platter favorites. It is simply a must! But with a bit of creative cutting, you can make it perfectly match your overall Halloween charcuterie board theme. Try blocks of brie cut into the shape of a ghost or slices of cheese that look like pumpkins. 

Sandwich toasts with cheese cut in shapes of ghosts and pumpkins.

Get creative with your accents, too!

Have a dish of puree or jam? Draw circles using sour cream (or sweet icing), and then use a toothpick to draw out the lines and create a spider web. Add a plastic spider to complete the effect!

Bowl of puree with drawn on spiderweb.

Use small pumpkin bowls for sauces, dips, and candies. 

Forget your boring old glassware or stoneware. Give small pumpkin bowls a good washing and put your caramel popcorn, ghost chips, black olives, and anything else that needs containing inside. 

Pumpkin basket spills out treats.

Don’t forget to give the little details a Halloween theme. 

You’ve created a lovely (ahem, we mean TERRIFYING) Halloween-themed board. Don’t ruin the effect with boring decorative items, and that includes your serving plates and utensils. Forget white plastic plates. Opt for black plates and silverware, and consider including napkins that are on theme too. And don’t forget finishing touches like beverages (we think a good pumpkin spice drink or a Halloween-themed cocktail is always in order!

Black cutlery sits on a black plate surrounded by cobwebs and plastic spiders.

Want to serve a Halloween-themed dinner party without all the cooking and clean-up (talk about terrifying!)? The Austin Artisan has you covered. We love cooking up decadent dishes that are so delicious; it’s almost scary. 

Contact The Austin Artisan and let us know what you have in mind, and we will put our culinary wizardry to work. Check out our dinner party page or give us a call at  (512) 436-2401 to explore the possibilities.