Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It brings about warm feelings, and of course, much celebration. I adore spending time with my family, enjoying great food, wine, and especially the company of friends. When Friendsgiving became a thing, it felt like hitting the jackpot! The same warm, comforting celebration, but with my closest friends whom I consider my extended family.
I hopped on the bandwagon and began celebrating Friendsgiving with my friends, and each year it gets better and better. I typically host at my home a week prior to Thanksgiving, and we make it a potluck style dinner where I cook a turkey, supply the wine, and each friend brings a side dish, appetizer, or dessert. It’s an evening we all look forward to every single year.
A Warm Welcome with Cranberry Recipes and Wine
Every celebration should begin with small bites for nibbling, and the perfect wine to sip while saying your hellos, and mingling. As much as I personally love pumpkin flavors, the Massachusetts native in me always includes cranberry flavors in my Friendsgiving menus. There is so much one can do with cranberries and pairing that fruit flavor with wine is truly fun and exciting.
I particularly enjoy having cheese selections to nosh on, but one that is a bit more eclectic than a simple cheese plate. Cranberry Pecan Mini Goat Cheese Balls are full of flavor and texture and would truly pair with almost any wine you pour in your glass. The goat cheese, which is highly acidic, will smooth even the sharpest white wines, the pecans are a beautiful pairing with off-dry and semi-dry whites, and the cranberries complement the tart red fruit notes of many red wines, whether lighter-bodied or fuller-bodied. I would reach for an unoaked Chardonnay, an off-dry or dry Riesling, and a Petite Sirah, respectively.
Perhaps you prefer the warm creaminess of baked brie. An alternative option would be Baked Stuffed Brie with Cranberries and Walnuts. Pair this crowd pleaser with a more sophisticated white like a Pinot Gris from Alsace, France, or a dry Rose’ from Provence or Tavel, or even a medium-bodied Syrah/Shiraz.
I am a huge fan of cocktail meatballs, and one of my favorite styles combines the sweetness and tartness of cranberry sauce with the spicy kick of chili sauce. We all know sweet loves heat, and Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs would pair perfectly with an off dry glass of celebratory bubbly, such as Prosecco.
And a Savory Side (Dish) of Fun
Side dishes can be extremely fun and unique, and at a potluck celebration this allows each guest to get creative. I love stuffing with a little something special, like Sausage, Apple, and Walnut Stuffing, which is one of my all-time favorites. The protein portion of the dinner doesn’t need to begin and end with turkey. The savory sausage, tangy apple, and nuttiness of the walnuts in this recipe make this dish a great partner for a wide spectrum of wine styles, depending on your preference for white or red. A beautifully balanced Chardonnay from Oregon will wow your white wine lovers, and a Portuguese red blend will more than satisfy your red wine loyalists.
My Friendsgiving would not be complete without a batch of buttery Spoon Bread Casserole on the table. It’s another side dish I crave all year long. This dish is incredibly simple to make and offers all the comfort of cornbread, but with a richer, creamier, more buttery flavor. It shines with any Chardonnay, and I’d reach for either a California Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France, or even an Oregon Pinot Gris would be welcome pairings that wine drinkers will cling to even after that last bite. A selection of reds would also work wonderfully.
About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Product Development at Sail to Trail WineWorks in Worcester, MA and the Director of Wine Education at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.