Woodland-Inspired Holiday Menu
Into the woods
Winter feasting once began with a woodland walk, a seasonal ritual of hunting, gathering, smoking and preserving. Today's cellars may be empty of crabapple jelly and hams, but on this holiday table, we rekindle the spirit of that distant past. The decor is mossy and untamed, and the menu hearty-inspired by native ingredients, piney air and the living tapestry of the forest floor.
For all its lushness, this centerpiece takes minimal effort. Lay a foundation of live moss (available from florists or online) around a focal point, such as a gnarly log or a mound of stones. (The moss stays green for weeks, but it does shed. Lay a protective surface under it.) Forage at crafts stores or nurseries or in your backyard for extras. Tuck fern clippings or tiny potted houseplants in crevices. Scatter real or faux acorns and pinecones. "Plant" a few ceramic toadstools. To finish, nestle glass bud vases, votive candles and tapers around the arrangement for sparkle and color.Buying guideDining table EQ3 Harvest, Wayfair. wayfair.com Dessert plates Gien Sologne, Replacements. replacements.com Chargers Threshold Wellsbridge semiporcelain in Aqua, Target. target.com Bud vases Inkwell in square and oval, Terrain; shopterrain.com Cafe chairs Marais French style in Gloss Copper, Amazon. amazon.com Flatware 20-piece Paris hammered service, Horchow. horchow.com Mercury glass votive holders Syreeta, set of eight, Home Decorators Collection. homedecorators.com Moss Florabundance. florabundance.com Mushrooms Teresa's Plants and More LLC. etsy.com
Table setting accents
Attach acorns to twine with hot glue for looping around silverware.
Using an inexpensive wood-burning kit and materials from a crafts store, make coasters or trivets to use or give as favors. Basic botanical motifs like evergreen sprigs are easy for beginners to freehand.
The menu: Appetizers
Cheese Straws | Paprika-spiced sharp-cheddar crackers look like a bundle of kindling mounded on an appetizer board or standing in a jar.Juniper-Marinated Mushrooms and Onions | The earthy, pine-tinged flavor of juniper berries (available at specialty shops) complements rich meats and cheeses.Smoked Whitefish Spread | Horseradish adds zing, celery crunch and pickles tang to an addictive cream cheese spread.Spiced Apple-Cranberry Chutney | Fresh and dried fruits simmer in an aromatic mix of brown sugar, onion, cinnamon and star anise.
Woodland menu: Sides
Mashed Sweet Potato with Melted Leeks | Luxuriously silky leeks-slow-cooked in butter and seasoned with lemon juice and thyme-ripple through sweet potatoes.Nuts and Berries Winter Slaw | Crisp shredded Brussels sprouts, toasted hazelnuts and cranberry-orange dressing provide an unexpected burst of fresh flavor.
Woodland menu: Main course
Mustard-Crusted Rack of Pork | Perfumed with rosemary and sage and served with white wine gravy and whole-roasted garlic and shallots, this succulent roast delivers drama at a bargain price.
Woodland menu: Dessert
Roasted Pears with Lemon Cream and Candied Pine Nuts | This grand finale of a dessert is all about contrasts-warm and cool, creamy and crunchy, sweet and tart. Adapt it to your schedule by making the components ahead.
For an airy alternative to traditional indoor wreaths, wire fern fronds onto a single-wire wreath ring. To punctuate a buffet or mantle, let Norfolk island pines go au naturel: Shake and rinse the soil from the root ball; place in a large glass vase or urn. (The wreaths will last just one day, but kept in indirect light, the pines can stay fresh for several weeks.)Buying guideTable Brookfield demilune in distressed light ash, Ballard Designs. ballarddesigns.com Vase Barcelona, World Market. worldmarket.com Faux bois stencil Cutting Edge Stencils. cuttingedgestencils.com Wine glasses Kapelle, Anthropologie. anthropologie.com Etched old-fashioned glasses Reaching Branches 12-ounces, Daydream Designs. etsy.com Copper platters set of two, Home Decorators Collection. homedecorators.com