One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the parties. Each year my husband and I throw a fancy-schmancy dress up party for our friends where we wine, dine, laugh and dance the night away. Since starting Haute Hope I’ve realized that I can carry over my budding conscious lifestyle when I’m playing host and guest! I’ve teamed up with my darling friends Sheeva, from Local and Lejos and Chef Becky Reams of Bang Bang Brunch to create a definitive guide to staying conscious during the holidays!
The in-laws are arriving, friends are in town, and everyone is heading to your abode for a night filled with holiday cheer. As stress levels tend to rise during these events, expenses do as well. Here are a few tips to nail your hostess game, without breaking the bank and still shopping consciously.
#1: Mix old with new.
A holiday party is the perfect occasion to break out silverware you do not use everyday. But flatware can get expensive, and, it is not great for the carbon footprint on the environment to purchase new items that you will only use once or twice a year. Vintage flatware and glassware are a sustainable and affordable way to dress up the table, without being wasteful. It will take some treasure hunting (isn’t that half the fun?!), but most local thrift stores carry these types of items.
Pro tip: If you don’t have any luck in town, check eBay as a resource.
#2: Fair trade florals.
Be conscious about the flowers you are buying, as a significant amount of the flower market is filled with toxic pesticides and unfair labor practices. Whole Foods offers The Whole Trade Guarantee, which signifies their commitment to ethical trade, fair wages and sound environmental practices throughout the flower farming process. Save money by buying one bundle and splitting the arrangement into 3 or 4 small vases. Scatter throughout the table!
Pro tip: Peek around your backyard & neighborhood to see if there are greens you can use in your arrangements (red flowers, pine needles, tree leaves).
#3 Elevate your table setting.
A quick and easy way to impress guests is ditching paper napkins for block printed, cotton napkins. The Riya Set is a subtle way to infuse a holiday color scheme, without being over the top. They pair perfectly with The Cilla Plate, a pistachio glazed ceramic. By supporting artisan women through your purchases, you can feel good about sitting down to the table for your meal this holiday season. To see more ethical table setting options, head to Local + Lejos.
Cooking around the holidays can sometimes be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re trying to follow a conscious lifestyle– but with a few simple tips, your holiday spread will be uniquely beautiful, thoughtful, and of course delicious!
#1: Learn to embrace the cheese plate.
Cheese plates are the ultimate double duty dish– they work beautifully for a starter/first course, and an elegant ending to a meal with or without a sweet accompaniment.
One of the best, and easiest, ways to be conscious here is to simply use local cheeses! A few favorites, from nearby local California creameries are:
#1 Humboldt Fog, from Cypress Grove Chevre— A classic in and of itself, this delicious piquant, creamy goat cheese works well by itself, or paired with a little honey and fig jam.
#2 Aged Goat Gouda, from Central Coast Creamery. This aged goat is a bit crumbly, complex, and salty; a perfect cheeseboard addition.
#3 Point Reyes Blue, from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. This classic blue cheese has gained accolades nationwide for is creamy, funky perfection. A blue cheese is always a welcomed cheese board candidate.
#4 Last but not least, Mt. Tam, from Cowgirl Creamery. This classic California cheese, named after the majestic Mt. Tamalpais, is an earthy, buttery, triple cream, made from California Straus cows milk.
So now you’ve got the cheese selection down, what about add-ons? As for accompaniments, simply visit your local farmers market! In the fall, honey crisp apples and a few varieties of pears are perfect. Add in some macrona almonds, a seasonal fig preserve from a family owned business, or a fair-trade honey like this one from Bang Bang, and you’re in business.
#2: A sweet seasonal treat.
After all the work you’ve put into creating a beautiful evening, its worth it to end the meal with a little sweet indulgence— Not to mention, an opportunity to impress your relatives or neighbors with your expert baking prowess (they don’t have to know it was a cinch to pull together). For fall, opt for a hearty, yet simple fruit based dessert. Something like an apple cobbler, or persimmon crumble. Again, the farmers market will be your best friend. Simply scour for whatever is seasonal and looks beautiful. Talk to the farmers, they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. This Pear and chocolate tart is a perfect fall dessert, and uses local ingredients making it not only tasty, but a smart eco choice. It’s made with Sonora wheat flour from Kenter Canyon, and Bosc pears from Frog Hollow— as well as fair trade Askinosie Chocolate
Pro tip: When baking pies, tarts, or brownies, try baking them in a cast iron skillet, for a personal, and unique touch! Simply bake as usual and deliver the whole thing to the table, for a surprising and fun display.
The hostess with the most chocolate pear tart
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup Sonora wheat flour (or other fair trade whole grain flour)
1/2 cup local unrefined honey
6 oz melted Askinosie (or other fair trade) 70% chocolate
3 large organic eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 firm, ripe Bosc pears
2 tablespoons additional honey for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch cast iron pan with butter; set aside.
Combine almond meal and flour, set aside. Cream butter with sugar in a stand mixer. Add eggs, then honey, vanilla, salt, cocoa and finally melted chocolate. Add flour mixture and mix until combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan.
Peel, halve, and core pears; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rubbing them with lemon as you work (to prevent discoloration). Arrange slices on chocolate mixture, slightly overlapping, without pressing in.
Place pan in oven and bake until top is puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate mixture comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 30-45 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Briefly heat remaining 2 T honey in the microwave or on the stove until liquefied. Gently brush pears and let set, at least 20 minutes. Remove tart from pan, and serve.
Best kept secret: make sure to scour the Bang Bang blog by Chef Becky Reams for delicious and seasonally driven recipes and ideas.
“Good manners reflect something from inside-an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.” – Emily Post
As a guest, whether you’re staying with friends for a few days over Thanksgiving or attending the holiday party of the year, you won’t want to arrive empty handed, or depart without sending a thank you. Choosing a unique and conscious hostess gift can be a bit of a challenge but these three suggestions are sure to properly please and thank any discerning host and help others along the way!
#1: The Classic:
You can never go wrong with an excellent bottle of wine. Particularly, ONEHOPE Wine’s Cabernet Sauvignon which helps to fund organizations who provide Austic children with ABA therapy. For a fancier fete, choose their Brut Sparkling Wine (glitter edition of course) where each bottle of wine gives 15 meals to a child fighting hunger! Bottles start at 18.99
#2: The Bountiful:
When looking to really wow your host, a well-appointed gift box filled with home goods is an absolute winner. For the go-to conscious gift box visit Haute Hope, where you (and your discerning hostess) are certain to fall for The Pacifica, To Market or The Cherie. Each box is filled with well-curated products that give back to a good cause or positively impact the world. Pro tip: Surprise your host and have your gift delivered to their door post-stay or party. Gift boxes begin at $75
#3: The Worldly:
Stop by your local farmer’s market or grocer and grab a bag of seasonal nuts (chestnuts, walnuts, pecans), petit pears, a few persimmons or pomegranates. Take your finds and add them to one of Local + Lejos’ gorgeous Bariku bowls. Handwoven by women in Rwanda for each bowl sold, the artisan is able to pay for annual health insurance for one family member.
Bonus: Handwritten notes are few and far between these days. Add an Of Note Stationers (a darling company committed to letter writing as a mindful act, that allows you to slow down and enjoy life) letter pressed card to any of the gifts above and secure your post as guest of the year.
It’s pretty amazing that this day and age you can host or attend a beautiful holiday gathering and still make a difference in the world. Taking a few extra minutes to be thoughtful and intentional with your purchases can go a long way and affect so many lives; what better way is there to embody the season of giving than that?
Here’s to a wonderful holiday season filled with friends, family and giving back.