Looking for some fresh ideas for appetizers at your holiday get-togethers? Try these yummy recipes from local caterers.

CARAMELIZED ONION DIPCARAMELIZED ONION DIP

Recipe and Photo
Courtesy of Christine’s Catering

1 tbl. vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and black pepper

FruitcakePoor fruitcake. Long the butt of jokes about its density and impressive shelf life (some people make them a year ahead and “feed” the cake with liquor to preserve it and enhance its flavor), it’s possibly the most maligned of desserts. Originating in Roman times, fruitcake was outlawed in Europe in the early 18th century because it was considered too “sinfully rich.” Now, thanks in part to Johnny Carson’s claim that there is, in fact, only one fruit cake in all the world, being passed along from one grossed-out person to another, urban legends abound of some sweet old grandma/aunt/neighbor giving a fruit cake gift that’s then pitched out, re-gifted, or stored away and forgotten, holiday after holiday, too terrible to die.

But fruitcake can be delicious. Try these variations on traditional fruitcake from two accomplished Southern bakers, and you may find yourself eating it year-round — and even giving a gift that will shatter the recipients’ prejudices forever!

Getting a good value on vino brings out the spirit of the season.

Bliss 2008 Mendocino ChardonnayWinemaking techniques have really improved over the past few decades, so it’s fairly easy to avoid evil gut-rot that causes horrible headaches after a couple of glasses, but harder to avoid wines that are simply ordinary.

Most of the cost of a wine that retails for $10-$12 reflects the bottle, transport and mark-ups by the distributor and retailer. What’s left has to cover the wine itself, marketing the brand and the winery profit.

How these costs are allocated can vary considerably, and, if most goes into the wine, it will be very drinkable. If not, it can be distinctly ordinary. The wines selected here are all produced by family-run enterprises of varying size, which have an established commitment to their wines, and are perhaps less bottom-line focused than the multinationals.

$11.99-$12.99 Bliss 2008 Mendocino Chardonnay
Distributed by Grapevine. Lightly oaked and refreshingly fruity.
Sold at A Wine and Spirit Shop, Reilley’s and Rollers

At this year’s Taste of the Season, local chefs showcase their cuisine, cake bakers get competitive and a silent auction beckons bidders.

celebrity chef Robert Irvine will make an appearance this yearFor 20 years, the Hilton Head Island holiday season has kicked off with a tasty event. Taste of the Season offers a taste of the area’s best restaurants as well as auction items ranging from trips to the Caribbean to original artwork.

“For the 20th, we’re really putting the spotlight on the amazing array of phenomenal chefs and restaurants we have in our area,” said Charlie Clark, spokeswoman for the event’s host, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve learned over the years that chefs are an incredibly competitive group of people. They truly bring their ‘A’ game to this event and pull out all the stops to showcase their best cuisine.”

With hunting season underway, venison, dove and small game are on tables around the Lowcountry. Here's some recipes courtesy of wildgamerecipes.com:

Venison mushroom pot roast

4 pounds venison
3 tablespoons olive or cooking oil
3 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 box mushrooms
1 pint light cream
1 quart meat stock
Salt
Pepper

Whatever your plans for Halloween, don’t be a pumpkin! Cut up the night with some spooky spirits, bewitching brews and deadly drinks. If you stay home and concoct your own nightmares or head out for a night howling at the moon, Hilton Head’s bartenders have just the right recipes for you. Just make sure that you party
responsibly. No one wants to be a mummy for real!

A seasonal Southern rite of passage

I A seasonal Southern rite of passageused to joke with relatives up North that South Carolina only has two seasons: hot and not hot.

The truth is, seasons in the Lowcountry — yes, there really are four — are flled with subtleties, especially autumn, when it’s still possible to swim by day, and wear a cozy sweater at night.

remys1It’s midnight on Hilton Head Island, a place where even most grocery stores close by 10 p.m.?

Even though most bars and restaurants have started winding down for the night, the island still has many late-night offerings.

Check out this list for ways to extend an evening out with friends.

Background

Rosés – Wines for the SummerAfter being unfashionable for a while, rosé wines are increasing in popularity. In major markets, stores carrying perhaps five different wines a few years ago now offer more like 20.

The change is evident on the Island: Red Fish, for example, has a rack of rosés in a prominent position by the entrance, and most of the specialty stores carry several well-chosen selections. This is particularly welcome for the summer, when a rosé can be an ideal and versatile wine with enough different styles to work with most dishes.

All rosés are made from red wine grapes, and any of them can be used to make a rosé. The wines work particularly well with Mediterranean food, and that’s probably why the producers in southern France have such a long and established history. Many of these wines are made from a blend of grapes also characteristic of their red wines, and these same grapes are to be found in some of the best rosés from California.

LICKING OUR CHOPS HAS NEVER BEEN SO MUCH FUN.

Mmmm ... Barbecue

More than 900 people basked in a sweet hickory-smoked plume at historic Honey Horn Plantation last month, sinking their teeth into the best ribs, pulled pork, cornbread and side dishes the Lowcountry has to offer at the 13th annual Kiwanis Rib Burnoff.

“This is a good, southern, hometown, little festival right here,” said Eric Anthony of Barrier Island Barbecue, a griller for the Iron Pig team, the amateur team that won first place for ribs in both the blind tasting and the popular vote, first place in barbecue in the popular vote and the coveted Showmanship Award. “All the competitors know each other. We’re all friends up until 11:30, then from 1:30 until 4 o’clock we don’t talk to each other, and after that we’re all friends again.”