Holiday Entertaining With Whole Foods

I was invited to attend a food blogger holiday gathering at my local Whole Foods (River Street, Cambridge) last Wednesday night. The purpose: to learn about affordable holiday entertaining. I love Whole Foods, bloggers, and holiday parties, so I immediately knew I would be attending this event.

I scooped up Elizabeth, Kathy, Meghan, and Daisy on my way through Central Square. (This was actually the first time I got to meet Elizabeth and Kathy!)

We arrived to find a bunch of tables set up in the Community Room. We checked in at the first table and then saw that the rest of the tables offered different things to sample: cheese, wine and beer, hot appetizers, and dessert.

We quickly surrounded the cheese table and learned the many things you can do with a goat cheese log, such as slice it and coat in olive oil, panko, and herbs and then bake it. (This was incredible!)

Rolling a log in decadent Marcona almonds stirred with honey or in pecans is a sweeter option.

You can also mix it with other ingredients and turn it into a tasty spread. Available for us to try that night were an olive spread, a sundried/roasted tomato and basil spread, and a peppadew spread.

The peppadew spread was my favorite. I had aways assumed peppadews were hot peppers and steered clear of them. Tonight I learned that they're actually mild and sweet (and some can have a little heat) and pair perfectly with goat cheese.

I'll be making this spread for future parties for sure, especially since I can find the peppadews on the salad bar at Whole Foods and the goat cheese logs in the cheese section.

Tearing myself away from the cheese momentarily, I stopped at the wine and beer table in time to get a pour of Santa's Beered, a festive holiday beer. I really think this would make a great holiday gift for the beer lover on your list.

Next, I moved on to the hot apps table. The spread included prosciutto and pea arancini,  chicken and spinach arancini, chicken satay, stuffed mushrooms, and Swedish meatballs.

I sampled some arancini and Swedish meatballs. These would definitely make for some outstanding party fare.

Any of the appetizers can be ordered by the dozen and mixed and matched. And they only cost $10 for a dozen, $18 for 2 dozen, $26 for 3 dozen, and $34 for 4 dozen. Check out the Whole Foods Web site for ordering info.

While I think it's great that you can pick up already prepared appetizers for your holiday parties, I love making my own dishes, so I was happiest learning all the things I could make with a log of goat cheese.

Would you believe I never made it to the dessert table? I think I filled up on cheese!

I went back to the beverage table and tried two wines. One was a cabernet sauvignon.

The other was an interesting Spanish red called Camino de Navaherreros. It's a biodynamic grenache, and there's a great story behind the picture on the label, so be sure to ask when you see it at Whole Foods. I loved that I could actually taste a cherry finish. Usually I can't detect and separate the different flavors in a wine.

Once we had sampled to our hearts' content, many of us headed out into the store to do some grocery shopping. I had some baking to do over the weekend, so I loaded up on butter and chocolate.

Bridget, Daisy, and I browsed the wine section for the Camino de Navaherreros but then remembered it wouldn't be out until the end of the week. Oh well... it was still a great photo op!

We left with some fun (reusable) swag bags packed with all the info on Whole Foods' holiday offerings, some coupons, an adjustable measuring spoon, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a wooden spoon, Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips, a candy cane, a pencil, some Lake Champlain chocolates, and a clementine.

I enjoyed finally meeting Brian from A Thought for Food in person and getting to catch up with Emily (A Cambridge Story), Meesh and Jacki (Just Add Cheese), Melissa (Foodies at Work), Bridget (Yogurt and Berries), Rachel (Fork it over, Boston!), Michelle (The Economical Eater), and of course the ladies who came to the event with me.

It was a great evening, filled with lots of friends and food, and I'm looking forward to the next one! Thank you to everyone at Whole Foods River Street for inviting and treating us all!

Do you make or buy appetizers for holiday parties? Have you ever tried peppadews?