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Tips for hosting a party that shines

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Updated: 2/03 12:15 pm

(BPT) - Entertaining with family and friends is something that we all look forward to. But hosting can sometimes be harried. To keep you and your guests happy, consider hosting a wine party that shines.

David Mirassou, wine expert and sixth generation of America's oldest winemaking family, believes that food and wine enhance one another and are best shared with family and friends. His secret to hosting a stress-free soiree is planning for a creative, small-bite menu with wine pairings that highlight the flavors of each dish.

'The wine you select should complement the food, look beautiful on the table and inspire toasts,' says Mirassou. 'The right wine can add elegance to any occasion and it can play an important role as both a gift and entertaining staple at celebrations throughout the year.'

Here are a few wine entertaining and gift-giving tips:

* Offer small bites and festive fare. Prepare an assortment of appetizers and small plates for entertaining, allowing your guests more sampling opportunities and letting you out of the kitchen to mingle more.

* Create a cozy setting. Consider setting up food stations in your home to allow guests to congregate in different areas. Floor cushions around a coffee table and coasters on the mantle will encourage mingling.

* Plan to offer your guests both a red wine and a white wine. A Chardonnay has wide appeal because it has fruit-forward flavors to maximize food pairing options. A Pinot Noir also has great versatility in food and wine pairings.

* How much wine should you serve? A general rule of thumb is to plan on about one glass of wine per person for each hour of the gathering.

* Stretch your wine dollar. Now is the time to take advantage of price breaks for purchases of six or more bottles at many supermarket chains. For an event, the savings can really add up.

* Personalize a gift from the vine. With very little effort, wine can be a gift with a personal touch. Embellish wine gift bags or boxes with ribbon and trim or add a custom neck tag by writing a note about the wine you are giving. Having trouble picking the right wine to give as a gift? Visit Mirassou.com to take their quiz and see what's right for you, along with some wine pairing ideas. You can also visit the site or Facebook.com/MirassouWinery for more entertaining tips and recipe ideas.

Try this Belgian Endive and Dried Cherry Quinoa Salad - an easy-to-prepare recipe that is also festive in its presentation.

Belgian Endive with Dried Cherry Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook/stand time: 22 minutes
Chill time: at least 1 hour

Ingredients:

Salad:

1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

24 Belgian endive spears

Dressing:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon stone ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve; drain well. Bring stock and quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then let cool. Whisk together all dressing ingredients and stir into quinoa with cherries, chives and thyme. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Stir in walnuts and spoon into endive spears. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe tip: This light appetizer may be prepared one day ahead. Add walnuts and spoon into endive spears just before serving. Use a tri-color quinoa blend for extra color. Pairs best with Mirassou Sunset Red.

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