Cozy Christmas Dinner
Festive Front Entry
The soothing aroma of a wood-burning fireplace fills the crisp mountain air. It's one of those amazing winter days when it looks and feels like it could snow any minute. "I love this weather," says Scott Counce as he takes a break from decorating his front door to sip a mug of warm apple cider. "It's just so much fun to get the house all festive. I love it. My wife loves it. It really gets us in the spirit."
photo: Scott Counce dresses up the front door with an antique grape-picker's basket filled with fragrant branches and pinecones.
Natural and Casual Elegance
Scott and his wife, Katherine, love to entertain year-round, but for their annual Christmas dinner, the couple, who own The Merry Wine Market in Black Mountain, North Carolina, takes it up a notch. "When it comes to decorating, it's all about what my wife and I call natural and casual elegance," Scott says with a big smile.
Fuss Free Entertaining
As hosts, though, the Counces' main goal is to make everyone comfortable and the occasion fuss-free. This sensibility carries over to the kitchen where Katherine, a trained chef, creates dishes with unexpected twists without being too fancy. We fell in love with her Butternut Squash Risotto and Pork Loin Roast With Carolina Apple Compote (which received our highest rating). Best of all, you can pull off this fabulous menu with plenty of time left to share with family and friends.
photo: Pinecone candles give the dinner table a warm glow. Use extra serving pieces to complement the color palette and provide protection, if needed, from dripping wax.
Try these tasty, budget-friendly wines with this festive menu.
- Goat Cheese-Pesto Crostini: Praxis, Sauvignon Blanc, California; Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Gris, Oregon
- Pork Loin Roast With Carolina Apple Compote: McWilliam's, Hanwood Estate Chardonnay, Australia; Smoking Loon, Chardonnay, California; DeLoach, Pinot Noir, California; Columbia Crest, Grand Estates Merlot, Washington
Senior Photo Stylist Buffy Hargett worked with the Counces to create a snazzy holiday look. Here are her tips.
- Combine natural elements such as cut branches, sticks, pinecones, and birds' nests with twine and galvanized buckets for a rustic presentation.
- Light candles 10 minutes before guests arrive or before sitting down for dinner.
Styling Secrets (Cont.)
- Look for opportunities to add a wreath in unexpected places such as on cabinets, mirrors, or small interior doors.
- Dress up a store-bought wreath by combining several complementary shades, textures, and lengths of ribbon.