Comfort Food and Easy Entertaining

As a private chef, caterer and cooking instructor I am often asked "What do you enjoy cooking when you're at home on a weeknight or entertaining guests at your table?" I started this blog to answer that question. Here I will share with all of you the recipes that I find delicious and comforting. Many of the recipes are my own versions of classic dishes, some are contemporary twists on old ideas, and some are discoveries I made while perusing my grandmother’s vast collection of cookbooks dating back to the early 1900’s. Please enjoy these videos. I have also included links to some of the published articles I have written recently. Please feel free to comment here or email me directly with any questions, comments or general thoughts. My email address and information on my catering, private chef and private cooking classes can be found on my website:

The Perfect ... Gift for the Host or Hostess by Scott Hargrove

Whether you’re heading over to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner or a friend’s apartment for the holidays, a thoughtful gift is a must. A gift for the host or hostess is a well-balanced combination of several variables. The gift should be something well suited for the recipient, tasteful, yet not extravagant but also nice enough that it will not end up in the recycle or “re-gifting” bin.

A Bottle of Vino

So, to start, I thought I would give you all some tips on the old stand-by hostess gift: a bottle of wine. A bottle of wine makes the perfect gift. It’s easy to carry, doesn’t require really any wrapping and you can pick up a nice bottle for usually less than $20. However, there are a few tips that will ensure you arrive at your host’s home with a bottle they will enjoy. The most important is to buy your wines at a reputable wine shop or liquor store that does a high volume of sales. This will ensure that you are paying the fairest price for your bottle, but more importantly, the employees at these types of stores tend to be more knowledgeable and focused on customer service and will be able to direct you to a bottle of wine to best fit your needs. The two stores I use most frequently for my wine purchases in Denver are Argonaut Liquors and Bonnie Brae Wines. But I encourage you to try out a few wine shops in your neighborhood and find one where you feel the most comfortable.

One varietal (a wine made from a single named grape variety) that I often recommend as an excellent gift is Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is probably the food-friendliest of all wines, meaning that it can be paired with red meats, heartier fish dishes, and poultry. When shopping for a Pinot Noir look for one made in Oregon State (they make the best Pinots) and know that your bottle does not have to be old to be good. You’ll find a lot of great ones in the $12-$20 range.

Also coming from the Pacific Northwest are some great Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons made in Washington State. Look for a little more age on these bottles, but you’ll find some really delicious ones from 1999, 2000, and 2001 for under $20.

As for some good white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc look for ones from New Zealand and Napa Valley in the $15-$25 range, you’ll love them. And for those Chardonnay lovers try a bottle from the Sonoma County area.

“Chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are safe choices for the holidays. But zinfandel is the classic choice for Thanksgiving. It’s the only wine that Americans like to call their own,” says John Roesch, wine director of, a Manhattan-based wine shop on the Web, who explains zinfandel may have its roots in California. The “inherently spicy variety” also easily mixes with all the different flavors on the Thanksgiving table, he adds. He also encourages consumers to experiment with riesling and syrah, which are both quite trendy these days.

Food Related Gifts

Not all hosts or hostesses drink wine but many — if not all — have an interest in food. A great housewarming gift for the first-time turkey chef or the sophisticated foodie is a product called FoodSmarts. Nope, it’s not a book about the latest diet craze. It is, however, filled with flavorful food facts minus the calories. It’s a game that contains 100 multiple choice or true-false questions and answers, which test players’ knowledge of the culinary world. Any diehard hostess or FoodNetwork junkie would love this game. I recently found them online at for about $25.

Unique items for the hostess’s pantry are great gifts as well. Specialty sea salts (they come in all different colors from all different parts of the world with different and distinct flavors), olive oils, vinegars, jams, or an interesting mustard picked up on your last trip to Europe all make super gifts.

Soaps and Lotions

If you’re looking for something a little more personal, but still for the home, some nice soaps, lotions and creams designed for use in the kitchen make great thank-you gifts. Cucina products available at Anthropologie and Nordstrom are fantastic and always receive raves from their recipients. You’ll also find many of the unique soaps, lotions, and room sprays at L’occitane, Williams-Sonoma, and at many online retailers make great gifts.

If all else fails…

If for some reason you cannot seem to find that “perfect” gift for your host you can always take them something handcrafted. People love to receive something made personally for them, be it a small set of handmade candles, homemade jams and jellies, or even some fresh squeezed orange juice in an antique decanter paired with a box of pastry for your host to enjoy “the morning after” would all be very thoughtful. Whatever you decide, make your gift a heartfelt and personal thank you for your host’s hospitality and you will surely continue to receive invitations to their gatherings in the future.

Scott Hargrove is a transplant to Denver from Seattle. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Scott’s passion for gracious living and entertaining led him into event planning for non-profit organizations, corporations and individuals. He is an event planner, private cooking instructor, caterer and consultant and can be reached through this publication or at

No comments: