The holiday season is ripe with picture-perfect pairings that come to mind as easily as the opening chords of “Deck the Halls.” Red and green, cinnamon and spice, mantels and stockings, Christmas carols and hot cocoa—the list of tried and true couples is a big one. Our favorite pairing, though, involves close friends and great parties. We enlisted a few local pros to help transform your next holiday gathering into an extra-special affair. Whether it's a casual gift exchange with friends or a lavish family feast, these pairings prove two together is always better than one alone.
|Sweet & Savory
With all due respect to Grandma’s sugar cookie recipe, Chef Davis’ decadent chocolate toast with cranberry marmalade, seared foie gras, sea salt chocolate nib bark and candied nibs may be the dessert your family and friends rave about this year.
|Wine & Cheese
El Greco Manchego ($14.99 per pound at Grassroots Natural Market) is made in the La Mancha region of Spain from sheep's milk. The cheese is aged four months before release, yielding a distinctly nutty and slightly salty flavor. The Arcenco Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 ($16.99 at Riverside Liquors) is a sangiovese, blended with merlot and cabernet franc, then aged 12 months in French oak. The flavor is filled with dark plum and black cherry, with a certain earthy component.
|Flowers & Fabric
Take a break from the abundance of poinsettias this season with an arrangement of fir evergreen, magnolia, cynbidium orchids, white roses, silver ornaments and beaded cherry blossom branches, expertly positioned over an olive crinkle taffeta underlay with an olive paillette overlay. Scatter a few floating candles in stemmed glassware to create a fresh, Florida-friendly interpretation of snow-covered trees.
|Sandwich & Seasonal Side
A classic BLT is always a hit for lunch gatherings, but this amped-up version is hearty enough to serve at dinner, too. An autumnal accompaniment, such as roasted butternut squash with cranberry and pear chutney, pays homage to the holiday season without adding another overwhelming feast to your guests' holiday calendar.