I finally found the time to do some entertaining on my own – and for my own – this past winter at my home in upstate New York. I usually throw parties in the spring and summer so that I can utilize all of my outdoor space, but my friend Rebecca Ffrench and I had a hankering to throw an Italian Alpine holiday feast. We selected a date between Christmas and New Year’s to help people keep the festivities going.
We wanted to create a theme of sorts; being that we live in the Catskills – essentially our version of the Alps – we decided to do an Alpine spin on Italian cuisine, which is always a favorite. The Dolomites theme seems to be popping up everywhere lately, so we thought this was just so apropos.
All of the décor was plucked from the field; we created arrangements from pine boughs, berries, spruce tips, dried milk weed pods, grasses, and green lichen-covered logs. Our friends at Broadway Party Rentals shipped in gorgeous modern burnished black flatware and beautiful crushed taffeta linen that had the look of wood grain, and I got the opportunity to pull out all of my pottery that I never seem to be able to use. We threw some sheepskins over the mismatched chairs – even I don’t have 27 matching chairs – and created a cozy, intimate dining table.
The invitation was extended to all of our favorite local Phoenicia and Woodland Valley chefs, celebrity photographers, publishing executives, hotel owners, home designers, and foodie friends to join us in a celebration of the bountiful local delicacies available in our area year-round.
To begin our feast, we had an incredible presentation of locally pastured and cured meats from Jacüterie in Ancramdale, Alpine cheeses from Chaseholm Creamery, smoked duck and pheasant sausage from Quattro’s Farm in Pleasant Valley, and pickles and krauts grown by my husband, Joshua Sheldon, and made by yours truly. Our lavish meal continued with the most succulently tender roasted pork shoulder with crackling skin, venison ragu with polenta, canederli (Alpine dumplings) made with beets and local rye bread, all kinds of delicious vegetables from Eliza Clark and Tim Trojian of the gorgeous new Foxfire Mountain House, and an incredible winter salad of bitter greens from our neighbors, Hayley and Marlon. But the most fun and delicious part of the evening – I have to admit – was the pizza. We have a wood burning soapstone fireplace with a pizza oven on one side, and our close friend Rudy Accornero – of Savini Tartufi in Tuscany – graciously made fresh mozzarella and pizzas with a selection of truffles that he brought with him from Italy.
The final course of our feast included Italian cookies from private chef Rebecca Shim of Phoenicia Honey Co., several frozen treats from my friend Robin Chess (who is an incredible cook, and leads the cooking program at our local school)…and I could go on! We were so stuffed that we didn’t even have a chance to open all of the dessert cordials I bought from Harvest Spirits in Valatie. In the spirit of the holidays and Italian-inspired camaraderie, it was a wonderful night of community, gastronomy, and overindulgence.
All photography by Joshua Holz.