Are you ready yet?
It may be hard to believe, but Christmas, Hanukkah and other seasonal celebrations are barely two months away.
Which means it is time to start planning your festivities right now, especially if this year is the year you want to blow out the stops and do something really special.
Festivities equal food, and here are two of the best culinary celebrations to be found in the North Bay:
Twelve Days of Christmas at Meadowood in St. Helena. This series of dinners is world-renowned, as top chefs and vintners gather to prepare elaborate feasts over 12 nights in a benefit for Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger.
The entire dining room of the lavish mountaintop resort morphs into holidays on high, starting with a cocktail reception in the salon, and then seated dinners (hint: the private tables are cozy, but in-the-know attendees request to be seated at the communal table for one-on-one hob-nobbing with the vintners).
The multi-course, wine paired meals stretch over several hours, and often include a sneak peak into the kitchen, where visiting celebrity chefs work with The Restaurant at Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow.
Kostow and his crew work nearly a year in advance, planning the participants and the fantastical, intricate menus. The food is announced only as guests sit down, as the chefs continue to devise, concoct and create their always-evolving inspirations.
In 2009, just a sampling of dishes showcased plates decorated with kinome leaves from Japanese prickly ash trees; foie gras suspended in gelée, quince and shiso; pretzels in chocolate ganache with peanut butter and beer ice cream; and foie gras with marshmallow, yams and brittle.
The line-up this year includes:
Day 1 ~ December 3
Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto in Napa, Honolulu, Philadelphia and New York) with Shari and Garen Staglin (Staglin Family Vineyard)
Day 2 ~ December 4
Mathias Dahlgren (Mathias Dahlgren in the Grand Hôtel, Stockholm, Sweden) with John, Janet, Loren and Hailey Trefethen (Trefethen Family Vineyards)
Day 3 ~ December 7
Roland Passot (La Folie of San Francisco) with Kary and David Duncan (Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey Cellars)
Day 4 ~ December 8
Michael Mina (Michael Mina in San Francisco) with H. William Harlan and Deborah (BOND Estates)
Day 5 ~ December 9
Ludo Lefebvre (Ludo Bites in Los Angeles) with Koerner Rombauer and KR Rombauer (Rombauer Vineyards)
Day 6 ~ December 10
Mark Fuller (Spring Hill in Seattle) with Cherie and Philippe Melka (Melka Wines)
Day 7 ~ December 11
Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta) with Delia Viader (VIADER)
Day 8 ~ December 14
Trey Foshee (Georges at the Cove in San Diego) with Margaret Duckhorn (Duckhorn Wine Company)
Day 9 ~ December 15
Jeremy Fox (San Francisco) with Daphne and Bart Araujo (Araujo Estate Wines)
Day 10 ~ December 16
Shawn McClain (Sage in Las Vegas) with Ann Colgin and Joe Wender (Colgin)
Day 11 ~ December 17
Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina (Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles) with John Conover (PlumpJack & CADE) plus winegrower Andy Beckstoffer (Beckstoffer Vineyards)
Day 12 ~ December 18
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena) with Jae Chun (Dana Estates)
Details: While dinner is naturally pricey for such a collection of chef talents (pricing begins at $990 for weekday events and $1,065 for Friday and Saturday events), the cost is per couple and includes one night’s lodging at Meadowood. Twelve Days of Christmas at Meadowood, 900 Meadowood Lane, Saint Helena. For Reservations, call (707) 963-3646 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, Michelin-star executive chef Jesse Mallgren rings in the holiday season with the highly popular Dickens Dinners.
For the first time in the event’s 17 year history, the festival is being held on Christmas Day, too.
This series sells out quickly, for its magical retreat into classic holiday cheer, for when people dressed to the nines in the spirit of the season, caroled with their neighbors and decorated their homes with gorgeous twinkling lights and festive ornaments.
The historic 1881 Victorian mansion which houses the inn and restaurant is lavishly bedecked, including 4,000 twinkling lights on a 14-foot tall Christmas tree. Manor owners Bill and Trudi Konrad spend more than a week decorating the mansion with wreaths, garlands, fresh flowers, toys and ornaments.
In a nod to A Christmas Carol, carolers wander the grounds, dressed in period clothing, while guests tuck into a five-course menu highlighted in dishes like petite lobster Shepherd’s Pie, Beef Wellington, and Christmas Pudding.
The Dickens dates include Dec. 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, Dec 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 (Christmas Day offers matinee or evening service)
Details: Dickens Dinners at Madrona Manor, 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg. The five-course menu ranges from $85 to $115 per person and $30 additional for suggested wine pairings. For reservations, call 707-433-4231 or visit madronamanor.com.
Tip: Jingle bells! Let Pure Luxury Transportation be your holiday sleigh. You (plus friends and family) will delight in a private “carriage” ride to your special dinner, in the elegance and convenience of a limousine or Town Car.