Popping Up a Winter Wonderland

Edible, handmade festive season decor perfect for gifting

’Tis the season to pop up some festive season fun by creating a scenic winter wonderland that tastes as great as it looks.

Gather the kids and make a hands-on family festive season tradition out of crafting festive, edible decorations. Popcorn is the perfect choice to pop up and eat while trimming your popcorn tree and decking out your creations. At 30 calories a cup, whole-grain, freshly popped popcorn offers a nutritious alternative to traditional festive season party nibbles. Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories, non-GMO, gluten-free, has no artificial additives or preservatives and is sugar-free.

These clever recipes can help you make edible decor or gifts to give to friends, family and co-workers. Find more creative festive season recipes at popcorn.org.

Festive Popcorn Trees

Yield: 10 trees

  • 10        cups air-popped popcorn
  • 1          bag (10 ounces) miniature marshmallows
  • 2          tablespoons butter
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla extract
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • green decorating sugar
  • blue decorating sugar
  • 1          tube white frosting with decorating tip
  • small, colorful candies (such as sprinkles and miniature silver dragees)
  1. Place popcorn in large bowl.
  2. Place marshmallows and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Pour mixture over popcorn in bowl. Toss well to coat popcorn evenly.
  5. Line baking sheet with foil.
  6. Spray hands with nonstick cooking spray then scoop up about 1 cup popcorn mixture.
  7. Shape mixture into cone, keeping base flat to form tree.
  8. Sprinkle tree with decorating sugars; place tree on baking sheet.
  9. Make nine additional trees.
  10. Pipe frosting on trees to make garland then decorate with sprinkles and silver dragees, as desired.

Serving suggestion: Place each tree on sugar cookie and decorate serving tray with shredded coconut to resemble snow.

Notes: For best flavor and color, start recipe with unflavored white popcorn. You can make your own colored sugar by adding food coloring to sugar then stirring in bowl or shaking vigorously in sealed container. Add additional food coloring for more intense tones.

Festive Season Popcorn Snowman

Yield: 5 snowmen

  • 1          package (1 pound) large marshmallows
  • 1/4       cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, plus additional
  • 1          teaspoon vanilla
  • 10        cups popped popcorn
  • sprinkles (optional)
  • licorice (optional)
  • gum drops (optional)
  • cinnamon candies (optional)
  1. In large saucepan, melt marshmallows and 1/4 cup butter.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Pour over popcorn and stir mixture.
  5. Butter hands well and form into balls.
  6. Decorate with sprinkles, licorice, gum drops and cinnamon candies, as desired.

Festive Season Wreath Popcorn Treats

Yield: 8 wreaths

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3          quarts popped popcorn
  • 4          tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 3          cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3          tablespoons lime gelatin dessert mix
  • small red candies
  • jellybeans
  • red fruit leather
  1. Lightly spray large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
  2. In medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert mix until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over popcorn and mix until coated.
  3. Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 9-inch logs then bend to form wreaths.
  4. Place wreaths on wax paper. Press candies and jellybeans into wreaths as decorations; cut fruit leather to make ribbon and add.
  5. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap for storage. Add ribbon tie to plastic wrap as decorative closure.

Tip: Soak saucepan before cleaning.

Chocolate Popcorn Reindeer

Yield: 8 reindeer

  • 8          cups unsalted, unbuttered popped popcorn
  • 2 1/2    cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2       cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
  • 2          tablespoons butter or light olive oil
  • 1/4       teaspoon salt
  • 16        pretzel sticks
  • 16        eyeball candies
  • 8          red candy-coated chocolate candies
  1. Place popcorn in large mixing bowl.
  2. In saucepan set over medium heat, heat marshmallows, chocolate, butter and salt, stirring often until smooth. Toss marshmallow mixture with popcorn until well combined.
  3. Scoop 3/4 cup popcorn mixture into ball. Repeat with remaining mixture to make eight balls total. Place each ball in paper muffin cup liner.
  4. Insert pretzel stick on each side of ball to resemble antlers, attach two eyeball candies for eyes and red candy for nose. Let cool completely.

Tip: Eyeball candies can typically be found in baking aisles of supermarkets or bulk food stores. (Family Features)

The Popcorn Board

Festive Season at Hotel Ella!

Photography courtesy of Jake Holt.
Hotel Ella

Hotel Ella

The festive season is ramping up at Hotel Ella and we have all the delightful details.
Goodall's Kitchen

Goodall’s Kitchen

  • Thursday, November 23rd from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Featured dishes include herb roasted turkey breast, grilled acorn squash and sourdough stuffing.
  • $72 per person or $25 for children 12 and under.
  • Price includes buffet, soda, iced tea and coffee. Alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
  • Complimentary valet parking. 
  • For reservations, email goodalls@hotelella.com or call 512-495-1800.
Parlor Bar

Parlor Bar

  • Sunday, November 26th from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Drink and be merry at the Holiday Trunk Show while shopping for the perfect gifts for your loved ones at pop-up shops housed in Hotel Ella.
  • Free to attend.
  • Drink specials available as well as champagne from the Champagne Supply Co. truck.
  • Mini manicures offered by tenoverten.
  • Includes a special takeaway gift from Hotel Ella.

Salon Series: Turk Pipkin’s Book of the Every-Other Month Club

  • Tuesday, November 28th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Presented by Austin Way and The Nobelity Project.
  • Hotel Ella welcomes author, actor, filmmaker and activist Turk Pipkin for an evening of selected readings from his new book project.
  • Free to attend.
  • Turk Wine will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going to The Nobelity Project’s Kenya Schools Fund that provides clean water and electricity to children in Kenya.

These Wreaths are Bananas: Recent Works by Maggie Stephens

  • Friday, December 1st from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Join us as we deck the Parlor Bar walls with one-of-a-kind handmade wreaths by local artist Maggie Stephens.
  • Wreaths are on display and available for purchase from December 1st to January 2nd.
  • Free to attend.
  • Complimentary bites and valet parking. Drinks available for purchase.
Santa’s Workshop (Ticket link coming soon)
  • Sundays, December 10th and 17th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Free photos with Santa and holiday kids crafts.
    • Toy donations to Caritas. 

Festive Season Events at Horseshoe Bay Resort!

Check out the variety of festive events that will take place at Horseshoe Bay Resort during the months of November and December!
Thursday, November 23rd
  • 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Fall Festival & Turkey Trot for the whole family. Celebrate Horseshoe Bay Resort’s 21st year of celebrating Thanksgiving traditions with a 10k run or 5k run/walk while children ages 3 to 8 enjoy the 1k Kids Trot. After the Turkey Trot, head over to the Fall Festival for hayrides, pie walks, musical hay bales, face painting, arts & crafts and much more.
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Thanksgiving Brunch at the Yacht Club, with a spread including a soup and salad station, iced seafood display, an assortment of meats on the carving block and assorted brunch classics and entrees. Thanksgiving brunch costs $67 per person, $27 for kids five to 12 and $6 for kids five and under.
Friday, November 24th
  • 5 p.m. – Pumpkin Chuckin’ at Turtle Beach, where guests can hurl pumpkins in the lake to celebrate the changing of the holidays. Pumpkins available for purchase for $3, with the owner of the furthest pumpkin receiving a prize.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Saturday, November 25th
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
  • 6 p.m. – Gingerbread House Village in the Hotel Lobby with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.
  • 6:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. – Letters to Santa at Yacht Club Waterfront. Stick around until 7 p.m. to hand deliver it to Santa himself!
  • 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Holiday Laser Light Show at the Yacht Club and Candy Cane S’mores at Star Gazer Beach.
  • 7 p.m. – Santa Claus is coming to town! Stop by and get a picture with Santa.
Daily Activities
Throughout the month of November
Enjoy Horseshoe Bay Resort’s everyday activities in the month of November, including:
  • Whitewater Putting Course open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Course is closed until 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Exotic animals on display between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Whitewater Putting Course.
  • Arcade at the Marina filled with classics like Pac-Man and Galaga.

Horseshoe Bay Resort Winter Wonderland
Saturday, December 9th from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Take a stroll through Horseshoe Bay Resort’s Winter Wonderland and enjoy the Laser Light Show, Texas State University’s Acapella Group Vocalibre, photos with Santa, arts and crafts, food and beverage stations, horse-drawn carriage rides and more. Check the resort event calendar for pricing and updates.
An Evening with Nutcracker
Sunday, December 17th starting with dinner at 5 p.m. and the show at 6 p.m.
Don’t miss a fabulous performance of a Christmas classic by Ms. Rhonda’s School of Dance, a Fredericksburg dance company that has been operating for more than 26 years. The evening includes a dinner buffet with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the students of the Fredericksburg Dance Company. Cost is $49 for adults and $25 for children ages five through 12. Reservations required.
Friday, December 22nd
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Gingerbread House Decorating in the Yacht Club Ballroom, where pre-assembled gingerbread houses are made on property and are ready for you to decorate! $40 per gingerbread house with supplies and decorations included. Reservations required.
  • 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. – Mini Nutcrackers at the Kids Club where you can paint your own nutcracker for $3 each.
  • 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. – Holiday Sand Art at the Kids Club for just $3. Makes for a great holiday gift for your loved ones!
  • 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Candy Cane Course at Whitewater Putting Course (weather permitting) where you can enjoy a round of golf surrounded by holiday cheer and hot chocolate. Regular rates apply.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Saturday, December 23rd
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • Kids Club activities include:
    • 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. –  Jingle Bell Canvas Art
    • 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. –  Tea Light Snowman
    • 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Holiday Ornaments
    • 3 p.m. – Ugly T-shirt Design
    • 4 p.m. – Christmas Bingo
  • 5 p.m. – Holiday Sunset Cruises on board the Ladybird Yacht on Lake LBJ. Cost for adults is $20 and cost for children ages five to 12 is $10. Other dates for Holiday Sunset Cruises include December 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. - Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Sunday, December 24th
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • Kids Club activities include:
    • 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. – DIY Stockings
    • 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Christmas Pillows
    • 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Cookie Decorating
  • 3 p.m. – Christmas Caroling in the Hotel Lobby
  • 4 p.m. – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas read by the Hotel Lobby Fireplace, with complimentary milk and cookies and a special fireside reading of the traditional book.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Candy Cane S’mores (weather permitting) at Whitewater Fire Pit, a traditional sweet treat with some holiday flare. Complimentary.
Sunday, December 31st
  • 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. – New Year’s Eve Celebration at Kids Club featuring new crafts and activities by the hour including a bird show, karaoke, video games, dancing, s’mores, pizza, glow in the dark shirts and more. $90 per child age four through 12. Reservations required.
  • 9 p.m. – Ring in the New Year with Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes Live at Horseshoe Bay Resort for a night full of good music and dancing with one of the premier party bands in Texas. Doors open at 9 p.m. with bar service, a champagne toast at midnight and a culinary treat after midnight. For overnight resort guests and club members only.
Daily Activities
Throughout the month of December
Enjoy Horseshoe Bay Resort’s everyday activities in the month of December, including:
  • Whitewater Putting Course open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Course is closed until 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Happy Hour at Whitewater Putting Course featuring half-priced putting, candy and drinks excluding beer and wine.
  • Arcade at the Marina filled with classics like Pac-Man and Galaga.

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach Unveils Thanksgiving Menu, One-Day Specials to be Thankful for This Turkey Day

Complimentary Bottle of Prosecco or House Wine for Restaurant Reservations with Four or More Adults; 10% Discount Off Thanksgiving Menu for Those with Overnight Room Reservations

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach announced on November 15 its 2017 Thanksgiving Day menu, along with two timely specials. Perfectly situated along the picturesque seven-mile beach of Fort Lauderdale, the hotel is the ideal place to enjoy a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday with a prix-fixe menu at its full-service restaurant, Bistro, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, November 23.  Groups of four or more will receive one complimentary bottle of prosecco or house wine for every four adults within the reservation and those staying overnight will receive 10% off their meal.

“This year we have created a traditional, yet inspiring, Thanksgiving feast and we are excited to welcome hotel guests, as well as our local neighbors,” said Thomas Russo, executive chef at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach. “Our menu this year truly captures the essence of what Thanksgiving is all about.”

Inspired by classic homemade recipes, this year’s Thanksgiving menu at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach will make guests feel right at home. From the first plated course to the dessert round, rich and fragrant ingredients will be delicately infused throughout. The menu includes Potato Leek SoupCranberry Speckled Pear and Walnut Salad and Apple Brined Turkey. For dessert, options include Pumpkin Pie Spiced Latte Ice CreamPecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. Fresh brewed coffee and teas are also available. This special menu will be offered at $38.00 per person for adults and $12.00 for children 12 years old and under.

For those looking to stay overnight, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach is within walking distance to shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and nightlife. The hotel is minutes from the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District featuring museums and international art galleries, Las Olas Boulevard and the Broward Center for Performing Arts. Guests can also treat themselves to a complimentary lobby treat every day of the week with the hotel’s Daily Delights program, or relax poolside. The hotel’s fitness center is open throughout the day for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle even while on vacation.

For more information, or to make restaurant reservations, visit https://www.Sonesta.com/FortLauderdale or call 954-302-5233.

8 Simple Small Plates for Holiday Entertaining

For festive season parties of any size, tasty appetizers and starters are menu must-haves. While the main course roasts and before dessert is served, guests may flock to the table for snacks and small plates to keep cravings at bay.

When pre-dinner hunger strikes at your festive season gathering, be the center of attention with quick, delicious and simple appetizers that deliver exactly what your guests crave. One way to be the star of your festive season soiree is with Litehouse’s rich and flavorful Simply Artisan Reserve blue cheese and gorgonzola center cuts. Whether the foundation of a delicious cheese plate or crumbled in a recipe – such as one of these eight apps – it’s a win-win solution.

Find more festive season solutions and appetizer recipes at litehousefoods.com.

  1. Pear Obatzda – Traditionally served with fresh pretzels, this 15-minute Obatzda recipe is the perfect dip for the snack table. The savory taste of pear can keep the whole party satisfied.


  1. Steak Crostini – With appetizers, the name of the game is providing quick bites that make for easy eating. Look no further than bite-sized Steak Crostini served with blue cheese and crackers.


  1. Grilled Raspberry, Basil and Blue Cheese Sandwich – Handheld nibbles go a long way when entertaining a crowd, which is why sandwiches are an obvious solution. Go for sourdough bread and melty cheese like mozzarella and Litehouse Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese to make this appetizer a snap.


  1. Bacon Blue Cheese and Mac – This mac and cheese recipe can help please guests of all ages, but there’s just one problem: it’ll be gone quicker than you think.



  1. Gorgonzola, Grape and Honey CrostiniA quick and easy appetizer, this crostini recipe is perfect for entertaining guests because there is minimal prep involved. Gorgonzola, juicy grapes and sweet honey converge for a delightful snack.


  1. Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Quinoa CaviarIf you’re going for classy without all the hassle, 5 minutes is all you need. This quinoa caviar recipe comes together in almost no time by incorporating blue cheese and pomegranate for a decadent starter.



  1. Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites – Guests at holiday parties typically crowd the kitchen anyway, but blue cheese and fig cookies wrapped in bacon can make it hard for even the most patient eaters to stay away.


  1. Harvest Salad – For those trying to save room for the main course, a light salad is a great option. Freshen up a standard salad with sliced apple and pear and tangy Simply Artisan Reserve Gorgonzola Cheese. (Family Features)

3 Activities for Food and Fun in Cooler Weather

When the weather cools down, parents begin to look for indoor activities to keep their kids busy and entertained.

Singer, actress and mother Christina Milian feels it’s important to fuel family fun with activities that strike a balance of fun and food, not just for kids but parents, too. One of her go-to spots for family fun and food during the fall and beyond is Chuck E. Cheese’s, along with a few suggestions for indoor activities to help beat boredom during the cooler months.

“A change of seasons is a great time to change up your routine,” Millian said. “Fall offers new opportunities to entertain at home and new foods to feed your little ones. A couple of my go-to at-home activities include a build-your-own pizza night or a karaoke party.”

A Build-Your-Own Pizza Night

Trying new recipes with your kids is one way to make the most out of family time at home.  With all of the toppings to choose from, a build-your-own pizza night is a simple way to allow kids to have some hands-on fun in the kitchen and taste their own creations.

A Karaoke Party

Karaoke is a simple yet fun way to keep kids entertained while at home. To turn it up a notch, make it into family dance night and encourage your kids to create their own choreographed dance routines to their favorite karaoke songs.

A Night Out for Dinner and Games

With hundreds of locations across the country, a restaurant such as Chuck E. Cheese’s can provide fun for the whole family while offering a menu that features something for every palate; including options like classic pepperoni pizza, salads and wraps. The restaurant also offers games for kids of all ages, and tickets can be redeemed for prizes that bring the fun home.

Find more ways to keep the whole family entertained as the weather cools at chuckecheese.com. (Family Features)

Local Alcohol Worth Traveling For!

(Hotels with their own line of alcohol or an “in” to experience local alcohol) 

We’re presenting thrilling ideas that speak to the art of living well and having an “in” to immerse yourself in local culture.

No matter what your cup of tea or shot of liquor is, trying local alcohol will spice up your travel and give you a taste of the destination’s flavors. For every type of alcohol, there are always places rumored to be the best to try it and the experiences are definitely worth traveling for. Whether it’s an alochol specific to a certain region, winery, distillery, or even bar, these hotels offer an “in” for you to experience local alcohol, and some have their very own exclusive line of alcohol.

Choose your insider booze experience:

Sandpearl Resort Deep Blue Tangerine Wheat

Sandpearl Resort Deep Blue Tangerine Wheat

Booze: Craft Beer

Where to have it: Opal Sands Resort, Sandpearl Resort, Lido Beach Resort – Opal Collection hotels in Clearwater Beach and Sarasota, Florida

With trendy craft breweries popping up all over Florida, a few of the Opal Collection hotels offer guests a taste of local beer through a partnership with Sea Dog Brewing Company based in Clearwater, Florida. This local brewery created an exclusive line of craft beers for the Opal Collection hotels, with two brews, the “Deep Blue IPA” and “Deep Blue Tangerine Wheat”, available on tap at Opal Sands Resort, Sandpearl Resort, and Lido Beach Resort. The Deep Blue IPA is a medium-bodied crisp, triple-hopped IPA with citrus and floral spices and the Deep Blue Tangerine Wheat is a light, fruity, and earthy ale. For a chance to check out the local brewery scene along the St. Pete / Clearwater Craft Beer Trail, Sandpearl Resort offers a Craft Beer Trail Chauffeur Service, where up to 14 beer lovers get their own VIP ride for the day or night and a map of the all the best hotspots.

Aruba Marriott - Aruba Ariba

Aruba Marriott – Aruba Ariba

Booze: Coecoei (Aruban liquor)

Where to have it:Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino – Aruba

Sure to ease you into vacation mode, when you first arrive at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino’s tropical oasis, you’ll be greeted with the One Happy Island’s signature cocktail, an Aruba Ariba. While to first-time visitors, it may just look like a tropical rum punch due to its vibrant red-pink color, but it’s so much more than that. The Aruba Arriba features 3 juices including pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice as well as 5 liquors including rum, vodka, banana liquor, Grand Marnier, and Coecoei – a centuries-old Aruban liquor first made by Indian tribes and derived from the sap of the kukwisa agave plant and then mixed with rum and cane sugar.

The House Rum

The House Rum

Booze: Rum

Where to have it: The House – Barbados

The island of Barbados may only measure 166 square miles, but this eastern Caribbean locale (aka the birthplace of rum) has no shortage of lively spots to ‘lime.’ The most iconic: the Mount Gay Rum Factory where travelers can sign up for distillery tours and tastings, complete with a few sips of the limited edition 1703 Master Select blend. For rum lovers looking to imbibe on the beach (because when in Barbados, right?), head toThe House, the chic, adults-only boutique hotel on the island’s platinum west coast. Not only can the property arrange private Mount Gay tastings, but the friendly staff will help keep the party going at the on-site 1703 Mount Gay Rum Bar. When the iconic sunset calls for a drink to complete the ultimate Insta story, look no further than the Bajan Rum punch, best enjoyed from the comfort of the bar’s plush, oversized lounge chairs.

CasaMagna Puerto Vallarta Tequila

CasaMagna Puerto Vallarta Tequila

Booze: Tequila

Where to have it: CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta – Mexico

At the epicenter of tequila culture you’ll find CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta — one of the few resorts in the world that grows its own agave azul onsite and produces a proprietary brand of tequila. The resort offers 114 tequilas by the glass, an in-house Tequila Sommelier, and weekly tasting classes for guests as part of the “CasaMagna Secretos de la Familia” program to help increase their knowledge of and appreciation for the most famous product of the resort’s home State of Jalisco: Tequila. Try their signature tequila mixed in the Margarita Magna – tequila cuervo gold, controy (Mexican orange liqueur), freshly squeezed lemon juice, mango & coconut cream. Oh boy!

JW Marriott Cusco Camote Pisco Sour with Sweet Potato

JW Marriott Cusco Camote Pisco Sour with Sweet Potato

Booze: Pisco

Where to have it:JW Marriott El Convento Cusco  -  Peru

Cusco is one of the world’s top destinations for gastronomy. Beyond native dishes, their national spirit, Pisco, is a big part of the culture, and a must-have when visiting Peru. JW Marriott El Convento Cusco invites you to join Executive Chef Thais Rodriguez behind the bar for a hands-on tutorial on how to make the perfect Pisco Sour – the national drink. During the lesson, guests learn the origins of Pisco, the different ways to enjoy it, and the secrets to mastering Peru’s classic cocktail, while personalizing their Pisco Sours with macerated varieties of pisco like passionfruit, ají picante — a hot chili pepper — or the hotel’s signature drink, the Camote Sour. Made with juiced sweet potatoes, the cocktail is loaded with nutrient-rich health benefits and served exclusively at the JW Marriott Cusco. Not only will you leave with lasting memories, but also with a pretty useful party skill that’s sure to impress. 

Il Salviatino Laterrazza

Il Salviatino Laterrazza

Booze: Wine

Where to have it:Il Salviatino – Tuscany, Italy

Among the rolling Tuscan hills you will find Il Salviatino, a hand-restored, 15th century villa just 15 minutes outside of the pulsing city of Florence. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, Il Salviatino makes it a priority to connect guests with the area’s most cherished wine makers by arranging tours and tastings at private, family-owned wineries… so it’s less about the crowds, and all about the vino. A favorite among the hotel’s Service Ambassadors isColle Bereto, a hidden gem in the Chianti country offering beyond-belief views and private tastings within its 11th century, 148-acre property, which is owned by the Panzauti family. Here, guests encounter a variety of Sangiovese grapes, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. After touring the vineyard and cellars, they are treated to a wine pairing lunch – al fresco – with the simplest, but most delicious Italian specialties – cheeses, meats and homemade pastas — on the menu.

Blue Curacao  and Coconuts

Blue Curacao and Coconuts

Booze: Blue Curaçao

Where to have it: Willemstad, Curaçao

Curaçao, the “C” of the ABC islands in the Caribbean, is known for its blues music, its 35+ ocean-blue beaches, and most importantly, its Blue Curaçao liqueur. This famous drink is distilled and bottled at Landuis Chobolobo, an estate built in the early 19th century, located in the heart of the island, Willemstad. The refreshing bright blue liqueur is crafted from dried Laraha orange peels exclusively grown in Curaçao. Want to try the different flavors of The Genuine Curaçao Liqueur? Take a guided tour of the Chobolobo factory and witness how the famous “Blue Curaçao” has been distilled using traditional methods for more than 100 years while enjoying the different flavors including tamarind and chocolate.

AIDS Services of Austin Presents 30th Annual AIDS Walk Austin on October 29

Annual walk celebrates 30 years of “sole” with a day of entertainment, food and live music to benefit local HIV and AIDS advocacy organizations 

AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) will host the 30th annual AIDS Walk Austin at the newly renovated Republic Square on Sunday, October 29. The day of live music, food and entertainment will raise funds and awareness for 10 local HIV and AIDS advocacy organizations, including AIDS Services of Austin. Highlights of this year’s programming include a live performance by The Nightowls, a DJ set by 97.5 Pride Radio, a pre-walk yoga session hosted by Eastside Yoga and an after-party bar crawl. Interested walkers are encouraged to pledge their support and participation before the event at aidswalkaustin.org.

2015 WALK:  Paul Scott, Mayor Steve Adler, and Wade Davis

2015 WALK: Paul Scott, Mayor Steve Adler, and Wade Davis

“Over the last 30 years, we have taken the steps towards progress and a healthier future for our community,” said Paul Scott, chief executive officer of AIDS Services of Austin. “With the creation of life saving treatments and preventative medicines, we have the tools to build an HIV free generation. However, there is still no cure and until we reach our goal of zero new HIV transmissions, we will keep walking.”

The theme for this year’s AIDS Walk is “celebrating 30 years of sole,” which represents the great strides that HIV/AIDS services in Central Texas have taken over the past few decades. Through quality case management and helping clients access new medications and treatments, ASA has seen a 93 percent reduction in client deaths due to AIDS-related complications since the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1994. The community is invited to do something good for the “sole” and take steps towards raising support for a healthier future for friends and neighbors living with HIV.

AIDS Walk Austin attracts hundreds of people annually for an afternoon of celebration, solidarity and remembrance of those affected by HIV and AIDS. Registration and activities begin at 11:30 a.m. and last until 3:30 p.m. at Republic Square, located at 422 Guadalupe Street.

Participants can enjoy a number of festivities at the park, including food trucks, a live performance by the soul band The Nightowls, and pop ups by a variety of local vendors. In addition to live music, AIDS Walk Austin sponsor 97.5 Pride Radio will be playing music and hosting giveaways on site throughout the day. New to this year, the walk will kick off with a 30 minute stretch and yoga session led by Eastside Yoga instructors. Immediately following, the event will culminate in a 2.5-mile walk routing through downtown that goes past the Capitol.

The fun continues afterwards with a post-walk bar crawl on 4th street. Sellers Underground will create a specialty cocktail with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to ASA. Additional participating bars are to be announced. All bar crawl participants must be 21+.

ASA is the largest HIV and AIDS service organization in Central Texas working to enhance the health and well-being of the community and individuals affected by HIV and AIDS. Created by ASA, AIDS Walk Austin aims to raise funds to directly support education and prevention of HIV and AIDS, with 83 percent of funds raised going to services in Austin. ASA’s goal is to raise $240,000 at the walk this year, continuing the momentum from the 2016 walk that earned more than $241,000 for HIV and AIDS agencies across Austin.

Along with the 30th anniversary of the AIDS Walk, this year ASA is celebrating its 30th anniversary as an organization. The nonprofit recently announced the launch of its clinical capacity project in partnership with The Moody Foundation, which supports the renovation and capital needs of establishing a medical clinic serving HIV-positive and high-risk negative individuals. The medical clinic is planned to open Spring 2018.

Participants can register for the AIDS Walk as individuals or groups and will receive an AIDS Walk Austin t-shirt with an encouraged donation of $25 per person. Dogs on a leash are welcome to attend the walk. Volunteer opportunities are available, and interested groups or individuals can sign up at aidswalkaustin.org.

3 Ways to Upgrade Fall Entertaining

The transition from summer to fall – from lounging poolside to cozying up fireside – offers opportunities for a different take on entertaining your guests in unexpected ways. Whether it’s a simple dinner with a few friends or a big bash for a crowd, there are simple touches of glamour and charm that can take your hosting skills to a new level.

To help guide your vision for entertaining this autumn, top sommelier Chantelle Pabros and Spring Street Social Society’s hosting guru Amy Virginia Buchanan shared their favorite tips.

Soak in the Season

The bold colors of changing leaves and vivid sunsets mean fall is arriving. Let this backdrop serve as the perfect setting for a toast the next time you host friends. Before guests arrive, set up soft and colorful cotton-weave throw blankets so everyone can keep warm as they enjoy Mother Nature from the comfort of the backyard.

Pabros and Buchanan suggest incorporating shades of the season, including deep maroons, oranges and peaches, into a spread of finger foods. Visit your favorite local bakeshop and pick up items for a sweet station such as macarons and scones with filling like berries, butter, clotted cream and artisanal jams. As the sun sets, match the rose-colored sunset with the deep hue of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé.

Pairing Perfection

A dinner party is the ultimate opportunity to show off your hosting skills as well as your taste, with wine pairings to complement each course. Take your guests on a culinary journey featuring unexpected dishes that celebrate the season.

Buchanan suggests impressing your table with a delightfully classic main course such as Pollock en Papillote paired with Champagne Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus, which is made exclusively with grapes sourced from Grand Cru vineyards.

Lights, Cameras, Cheers

Pabros and Buchanan agree that a movie night is the perfect way to share laughs and memories without much effort or time. After a delicious meal, invite your friends to watch a classic movie. For this part of the evening, popcorn is an obvious snack of choice. Instead of one big bowl, try taping together newspaper cones or using take-out boxes to create individual servings. You can also put together a salt bar for toppings such as matcha salt, truffle salt and grated cheeses. To sweeten things up, Pabros suggests picking up a jar of salted caramel and drizzling over the popcorn.

“Try pairing it with Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française,” Pabros said. “The peachy, nutty, butterscotch notes of the Champagne pair well with the caramel-coated popcorn.”

Find more entertaining inspiration at Facebook.com/taittingerUSA.

Pollock en Papillote

Servings: 6

  • Parchment paper
  • Pollock
  • butter
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1          lemon, juiced
  • 1          lemon, sliced
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • sage
  • 4-8       cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1          handful shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • dash of white wine
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Fold piece of parchment paper in half and cut out heart shape about the size of the fish with four-inch border around edges. Sit fish center of half heart, closest to crease.
  3. Butter center of fish.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper over fish.
  5. Sprinkle lemon juice over fish. Place lemon slices on top center of fish.
  6. Place springs of rosemary, thyme and sage along edges of fish.
  7. Place tomatoes and mushrooms on top of and alongside fish.
  8. Drizzle olive oil over fish.
  9. Starting at top of half heart, seal parchment by folding edges over themselves. When there are about 2 inches left before parchment pouch is sealed, pour wine in opening. Once filled, fold and twist pointed end to close pouch.
  10. Bake pouch on baking sheet12 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Pair with Champagne Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus. (Family Features)

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Inspirational Tips for Autumn Outdoor Entertaining

The days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler and kids are back in school. You’ve said goodbye to summer socials, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your apron and stow the patio furniture. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for outdoor entertaining, and with a few smart tips you’ll fall in love with hosting fall gatherings.

Extend the fun feeling of summer entertaining into the autumn months by taking a few simple steps to create a memorable experience.

Switch up dishes: The cool dishes of summer should be swapped with savory recipes that feature hearty ingredients. A roast or slow-cooker meal is the perfect option. Visit the farmers market and feature local fresh harvest foods. In addition to standard drinks like water and soda, offer a signature warm beverage, such as spicy hot apple cider.

Enjoy the night: Autumn evenings are spectacular, with cool temperatures and star-studded skies. Serve dinner al fresco and then ask guests to stay to gather around the bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Add an element of entertainment and guests will enjoy themselves all night.

Make movie magic: To really wow guests, host an outdoor movie experience day or night. The LG ProBeam smart TV laser projector has an HD picture of up to 120 inches with impressive visibility, sharp contrast and rich blacks, even when there is abundant ambient light. Plus, with the award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, you can stream your favorite services just like on a smart TV, creating a seamless viewing (and hosting) experience.

Set up superior sound: Whether you’re setting the mood with some music or enhancing the movie-viewing experience, a high-quality speaker makes entertaining easy. The LG LOUDR FH6 is a 600W Bluetooth speaker system that can fill your room (or backyard) with booming audio. Plus, with the Karaoke Creator feature, you can suppress the vocal frequencies of any song to turn it into a karaoke track, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Mind the weather: Fall weather can change drastically throughout a day. Encourage guests to dress in layers so that attire for daylight fun can transition into warmer wear for evening hours. What’s more, keep a couple extra jackets on hand just in case people forget and need a light coat.

Create a cozy atmosphere: Whether you’re watching a movie, star gazing or sitting around the bonfire, help guests stay warm by setting out a variety of throw blankets and outdoor pillows. Nothing encourages guests to cozy up and stay longer than a big blanket, a fun flick and a mug of something warm.

Light the night: Cloudy days or early evening hours don’t have to ruin your good time. Add a soft glow and an element of safety by adding string lights to railings and pathways. For kids attending the party, bracelet and necklace glow lights are always a big hit. For bonfire and movie spaces, add a basket of flashlights guests can use as needed.

Perfect parting gifts: If you decide to offer favors when guests depart, embrace the fall feeling and consider goodies they can savor later while reminiscing about your party. Mini apple or pumpkin pies are cute and creative. Caramel apples are a tasty autumn delight. A container featuring a variety of tea will keep them warm all season long.

Once you try autumn entertaining it might become your favorite time of year to host friends and family. With these tips, everyone is guaranteed to have a splendid time. (BPT)