The Second-Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Part 1 of 3)

Congratulations: you survived the 2013-2014 winter! While I am certain that we all appreciated this past winter wonderland that was rife with fun outings and creative possibilities, I think it is safe to say that we are all ready to take advantage of the warmer weather. Summer brings with it the unfettered canvas upon which to paint your picture-perfect evening. In other words, speaking simply and sans-metaphor – it’s time to party, and any excuse is valid.

I am a firm believer in “fetes for all occasions”, and summer provides an expansive selection of “holidays” to support my celebratory tendencies. However, if you are more of the ‘reasonable-type’ and prefer to have a gathering for ‘a more legitimate purpose’, chances are you have a birthday, baby shower, conference, meeting, etc. that it couldn’t hurt to have a theme in place for menu inspiration. No matter how you might celebration-self-identify, in order to get you started, we have picked out a few of our favorite “national holidays”*, along with a little history lesson and our recommended Creative Cuisine pairing, for your considerate review. So open the windows, grab your Black Cherry Iced Tea, prop your feet up, and soak up the sun while you peruse – it’s the second-most-wonderful time of the year!

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Okay, so “National” is used loosely in regards to many of these “holidays”, as there is no congressional documentation to indicate an official designation, but they are referenced through multiple internet sources, and therefore considered valid-enough in my book.

Wednesday, July 9 – National Sugar Cookie Day

The word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekje”, meaning “small or little cake”. It is believed that the cookie dates back to 7th century Persia with the rise in popularity of sugar use in baking. The modern sugar cookie, as we know it today, can trace its ancestry back to Nazareth, Pennsylvania circa the mid-1700s with the creation (and later designation as the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) of the Nazareth Sugar Cookie by Protestant settlers from Germany. Celebrate their origin traditionally with heavy appetizers including displays of Mini Grilled Beer Basted Bratwurst, Soft Pretzels with Dips, Bierocks, Saurkraut Balls, Bacon Wrapped Pretzels, Fried Mac and Cheese Bites, Potato Latkes, and a Charcuterie Board. Complete the day with a Sugar Cookie Decorating Station.

Sunday, July 13 – National French Fry Day

Though the country of origin remains debated, with claims from both Belgium and France, the term “French fries” grew in popularity during World War I and remains our terminology of preference to this day. Though the name is misleading, “French fries” are an American dish, with other countries referring to them in other ways such as papas fritas in Spain, chips in the United Kingdom, frites in France, and Vlammse frieten (Flemish fries) in Belgium. Recommended selection: Made to Order Hand Cut French Fries served with your combination of Ketchup, Malt Vinegar, Wasabi Mayonnaise, Seasoned Salt and grated Parmesan Cheese.

Monday, July 14 – Bastille Day

Purely coincidentally (well, probably purposely), but not to be overshadowed, Bastille Day follows National French Fry Day on the American calendar. Bastille Day is the English-given name for France’s La Fête Nationale, or ‘The National Celebration’, which commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1798. Regardless of your affiliation or lack thereof with France, this was also a momentous occasion for the world in terms of the decline of monarchies and the rise of democracies. Commemorate history dans le style français – Serve your guests butler-passed Beef Tenderloin Gougere with Horseradish Cream, Brie and Raspberry Phyllo Rolls and Crab Filled Mushroom Caps complemented with displays of Roquefort Grapes and Oven Baked Brie en Croute with Fruited Glaze. Recommended dinner courses: French Onion Soup, Salade Verte in the form of a Tossed Green Salad with Paris Dressing, Sliced French Baguette with Whipped Herb Butter, and the traditional Coq Au Vin accented with Green Beans Amandine and Potato Gratin. Complete the evening with Individually-Plated Assorted Dark Chocolate Truffles and Miniature Crème Brûlée. Bon appetit, mes amis!

Wednesday, July 16 – Fresh Spinach Day

Not to be confused with National Spinach Day which takes place on March 26, Fresh Spinach Day is dedicated in honor of the uncooked version of this leafy green. So often portrayed in media as being undesirable in flavor, this perspective of spinach was eventually exemplified in the idiom “I say it’s spinach” in the 20th century to indicate that something is “rubbish” or “nonsense”. Well, I say that’s spinach, because there are an abundance of delicious spinach dishes that beg to differ. Treat your guests and your vegetable-of-honor right with a menu dedicated to all the benefits spinach has to offer. Start with our hot, Fresh Spinach & Artichoke Fondue served with warm tortilla chips, displayed Spinach and Feta Filled Mushroom Caps, and Beef Tenderloin & Artichoke Crostini, with Spinach Salad with Strawberries & Feta Cheese with housemade Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette, Spinach and Feta Cheese Chicken Roulade, and Wild Mushroom Risotto. Go green for dessert with Grasshopper Brownies.

But wait, there’s more! You may have noticed, being the savvy reader that you are, we included the clause “Part 1 of 3” in the title. Good eye, and good news: this was just the tip of the iceberg, with more on the way next week including National Junk Food Day and National Milk Chocolate Day – ah, the stuff dreams are made of. It really is the second-most-wonderful time of the year. If you happen to miss your favorite day, just remember – it’s never too late to celebrate, and there are more occasions around the corner. And, if all else fails, July is also National Hot Dog Month AND National Ice Cream Month – easy fall backs with Made to Order Coneys or Mini Hot Dogs and DIY Gelato Bar, Mini Ice Cream Floats, or a Made to Order Specialty Ice Cream Sundae Bar. See you next week!

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