With the arrival of shorter days and cooler nights, you may be ready to celebrate the end of summer with a festive fall party. From hors d’oeuvres to decorations, these local party planners and caterers offer their recommendations for the perfect autumn gathering.

Ann Lemcke


• Incorporate seasonal items into the decor. Use apples, whole walnuts and pine cones in your table centerpieces. Gather leaves from your backyard and spray them with shellac for shine. Fill a carved pumpkin with fl owers instead of a vase.

• Pumpkin isn’t just for dessert. Pumpkin bisque and Tortellini with a Pumpkin Cream Sauce are savory op- tions for fall party dishes.

• Get creative with your presentation. Serve soup or chili—perfect for a cool, fall evening—in hollowed-out acorn squash. Toast pumpkin seeds for a garnish.

• Welcome your guests into a home fi lled with the aromas of warm, autumn spices by simmering cinnamon sticks on the stove or lighting candles.

Tortellini with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Courtesy of Art of Entertaining

Serves 10-12


½ c fl our

½ lb. melted butter

2 ½ quarts half & half

3 T. chicken base

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

¼ c brown sugar

1 can pumpkin pie mix

1 can pumpkin puree

Additional ingredients

2 lbs. cheese tortellini

1 lb. bacon

1 c frozen peas (thawed)

1 c Asiago cheese


Combine flour and butter over low heat to make a roux. Add other ingredients and continue to mix until smooth and thickened. Boil cheese tortellini according to package instructions. Set aside. Cook bacon and crumble. Pour cooked pasta onto serving bowl, add peas, the pumpkin sauce and crumbled bacon. Sprinkle with Asiago cheese and serve.

Rob Schaefer


• Food and beverage pairings are very popular right now. People today don’t have the time or energy to cook big, lavish meals, so offering three or four small dishes paired with wine or cocktails is an easy and delicious option for a fall party.

• Put a modern spin on a classic favorite. We offer an apple pie baked into a whole apple. It has every- thing great about an apple pie, self-contained with a unique twist.

• Saturate with one autumnal shade (chocolate brown, rust, celadon green, etc.) and use it through- out the elements of the party, playing well off the neutral palettes many people have in their homes.

• Embellish your existing glassware. Take your ordinary wine and martini glasses and make the drinks look spectacular by wrapping the stems with braided raffia, wired beads, etc. You don’t have to run out and buy new stemware for every occasion.

Baked Apple ‘Pie’

Courtesy of Laura Cottler Steven Becker Fine Dining


2 T. butter

3 large apples, diced

½ t. cinnamon

2/3 c brown sugar

1 T. cornstarch

¼ t. salt

½ t. vanilla


Saute apples in butter just until soft. Add cinnamon, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt to apple mixture and stir until apples are coated. Cook until bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. To prepare apple ‘pie: Fill a whole, unpeeled, and cored MacIntosh or Pink Lady apple with heaping spoonful of filling, taking care to drip juices from pan over filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until outside of apple is softened and filling is bubbling.


1 sheet store-bought puff pastry Cinnamon-sugar


Sprinkle cinnamon sugar onto sheet of puff pastry and cut strips ¾-inch thick. Placing hands on either end of strip, twist hands in opposite directions to form a long twist. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Garnish apples with caramel sauce, toffee bits and cinnamon-sugar puff pastry twists.

Kate Fogerty


• Transform your backyard with strings of white lights, and make the space appropriate for cooler weather with piles of blankets and a firepit. Play off the natural colors found in the backyard and expand them into the invitations, paper products, etc.

• Don’t be afraid to use rustic elements. Use tree rounds to create height and dimension on a buffet table. Print invitations on wood and use pieces of birch bark to make napkin rings.

• Use versatile and popular mason jars as glasses for fun drinks like spiced apple cider, bake mini pies in the small versions, or turn them into candle holders, spread around the party.

• A s’mores bar is perfect for an interactive autumn dessert option. Lay out the fixings and let guests make their own. Take s’mores to the next level by turning them into cupcakes, brownies, truffles or even lollipops!

• Mix fall colors and patterns in your table linens. Choose two different plaids for a table-cloth, or make your own at the craft store. You also can use natural fabrics like burlap, and mix it with a feminine element like lace to create an unexpected touch.

Greg Ziegenfuss


• Take advantage of the intersection between the late summer and fall harvests. In late September, there still are tomatoes, corn and summer squash available, but you also have access to apples, pears and winter squash. Fall food isn’t limited to the muted colors of browns and oranges—there are lots of options to choose from.

• Cooking styles change as it gets cooler, with techniques like braising and roasting. Maple and Bourbon- braised Pork Short ribs with Apple Compote is a great entree for a fall dinner party.

• When offering appetizers, make sure each bite is packed with flavor. You can incorporate the heavier braised meat into a lighter, brighter vehicle like a short rib taco.

Brian Blasingame


• Go beyond the grade school fall color palette of reds, yellows and oranges. Whether you’re incorporating it into the linens, flowers and invitations, look to the harvest fruits and vegetables at the market for inspiration and a broader spectrum of autumn colors and tones.

• Create simple and sophisticated ac- cent decorations. Press leaves between two glass plates and use it as a charger or hors d’oeuvres plate. Add fall fruits to floral arrangements. Fill vases with dried beans or lentils for the buffet table.

• Be sure to add ambient light to your outdoor parties. Line terraces and walkways with candles.

Cassie Burd


• Get heartier with the dishes you’re serving. Add grains like quinoa and lentils. Soup shooters at a cocktail party provide a warm and fi lling op- tion, as well.

• Get darker and richer with your drink pairings. While summer means vodka and gin, fall is a great time to create cocktails with darker liquors like bourbon, whiskey and spiced rum.

Maple and Bourbon-braised Pork Short Ribs with Apple Compote

Courtesy of Butler’s Pantry

Serves 8


8- to 6-inch Berkshire pork short ribs (available from your specialty butcher)

½ c olive oil

3 T. black pepper

3 T. kosher salt

3 c diced yellow onion

1½ c diced carrot

1½ c diced celery

2 T. minced garlic

3 c Bourbon

6 c chicken stock

3 c apple juice

1 c maple syrup

1 bay leaf


Generously season the pork with 1 T. each kosher salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy-bottom six quart Dutch oven, heat the oil to almost smoking and sear ribs on all sides working in batches, should be golden brown on all sides. Remove ribs from the Dutch oven and add the onions, carrots and celery and continue to cook over high heat until caramelized. Add the garlic and quickly sauté to aromatic; do not burn. Deglaze with the bourbon, being sure to scrape up any brown bits. Add the apple cider, chicken stock, maple syrup, remaining salt and pepper and the bay leaf; bring to a boil. Add pork ribs to the pot, reduce to a simmer, cover and place in the preheated oven and braise until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone. Remove the ribs to a platter, cover with foil and return to a 150-degree oven to keep warm. Drain the vegetables from the brais- ing liquid, remove excess fat, pour into a clean sauce pot and reduce in half, or to sauce consistency. Serve the braised short ribs on top of your favorite mashed potatoes with the reduced braising liquid and the apple compote (recipe follows). Serve with colorful autumn vegetables like baby beets, carrots and French beans.


1 tart Granny Smith apple, cored and diced to ½ inch

1 Red Delicious apple, cored and diced to ½ inch

½ c dried tart cherries

2 T. butter

1 T. cider vinegar

1 T. honey


Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add apples and dried cherries; quickly sauté. Remove from the heat, stir in the vinegar and honey. Serve with braised or grilled pork.

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