By Annie Brace-Lavoie

Over are the days of formal white-tie New Year’s Eve celebrations that undoubtedly leave the host stuck in the kitchen while their guests celebrate without them. Why not get everyone involved and host a New Year’s potluck instead?

The beautiful thing about a potluck dinner is being able to embrace the chaos of a non-themed dinner. Mixing different cultures and recipes that your guests create can result in some incredibly vibrant meals. By making sure everyone has a clear role in the menu, you can guarantee there will be a wide range of food, and by splitting up the meal between friends, every dish will get the care and attention it deserves. Most importantly though, it’s about ringing in the new year with the people you love most while eating great food. There’s no need to take it too seriously.


By Glenda Williams

When deciding what to bring to a potluck affair or giving a hostess gift, you can never go wrong with wine. After all, who doesn’t love receiving a nice bottle of wine? I usually employ a very different mindset when considering what wine to bring to a potluck than I do when giving a bottle as a gift.

Potlucks: a chaos of flavours mingling on one plate — so wrong yet so right. You should avoid bold, full bodied wines and focus on ‘safe bets.’ Sparkling wines are safe and versatile; not only are they food friendly, they can cut through rich fatty dishes (staple of most potlucks) and they add a celebratory feel to the event. If you would prefer a still wine rather than the lively effervescent of a sparkling wine, consider a rosé or Pinot Noir. Here are a few recommendations for sharing:

  • Ruffino Prosecco, Italy, $19.99
  • Yellowglen Pink Sparkling, Australia, $14.99
  • Yvecourt Bordeaux Rosé, France, $14.79
  • Blomidon Estate Rosé, Nova Scotia, $17.99
  • Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir, Chile, $14.99
  • When it comes to gift giving, you can’t go wrong with wine. An easy rule of thumb: give a bottle you love and tell the host why you selected the wine. Whether it is your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon, a trendy region or a label that caught your eye, share the story. Your host will appreciate the thought you put into the selection. Here are a few of my go-to wines for gift giving:
  • Schug Sonoma Chardonnay, USA, $31.99
  • Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro, Italy, $29.99
  • L’Acadie Vineyards Cuvée Rosé, Nova Scotia, $27.79
  • Te Pa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $21.99


Homemade takes on a new meaning in the spirits’ world. We now have a goldmine (and silver and bronze) of locally produced distillates. Numerous Nova Scotia spirits have won medals at spirits’ competitions around the world this year. This holiday season, by gifting a local spirit, you can present a gift that’s not only homemade, but also world class.

  • Glenora Fiddler’s Choice Whisky, 750 ml, $59.97
  • Caldera Hurricane 5 Whisky, 750 ml, $33.99
  • Fortress Amber Rum, 750 ml, $39.99


Nova Scotia has been gifted with a surge of local craft beer selections this year, and every craft beer enthusiast will welcome being presented with a few seasonal selections. A number of our local breweries also sell wares paraphernalia, such as branded glasses and T-shirts that will complement your gift.

  • Spindrift Abyss Schwarzbier, 473 ml, $3.99
  • Boxing Rock Darkness Cascadian Ale, 6 x 341 ml, $14.49
  • Nine Locks Dirty Blonde, 4 x 473 ml, $15.40


Winter Vegetable & Black Rice Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

  • Serves 6
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 1 hour


  • 1/2 cups wild black rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 beets, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 head of Radicchio, roughly chopped
  • Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
  • 2 to 3 Mandarins or clementines
  • Buttermilk dressing

Directions: Rinse the rice, a couple of times, to remove the surface starches and prevent it from clumping. Put the rice, water and salt in a pot and bring up to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 35 minutes, checking periodically. Once cooked, let stand off the heat with the cover on, then use a fork to fluff the rice. Spread the rice out on a baking sheet and let cool. Place the cooled rice on a serving platter. Toss all vegetables together and spread on top of the rice. Meanwhile make the buttermilk dressing. Serve the dressing on the side until you are ready to serve or allow guests to serve themselves.

Buttermilk Dressing: Whisk 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, zest of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives and 2 cloves minced garlic together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be made a day ahead.

  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


Moroccan Lamb Meatballs

  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Prep time: Less than 1 hour
  • Total time: More than 1 hour


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes

Directions: In a bowl, combine lamb, beef, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, parsley, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, pepper and salt. Mix well and form into balls. In a large pan, sear all the meatballs in a small amount of vegetable oil. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and put off to the side. In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and remaining spices. Cook until softened, then add your garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the wine and cook for a couple minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once it begins to simmer, add the meatballs back into the pot to finish cooking, approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with herbed yogurt sauce.

Herbed Yogurt Sauce: In a small bowl combine 1 1/2 cups thick Greek yogurt, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 handful of finely chopped mint leaves and 1 clove garlic (minced). Season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve over warm meatballs, or let guests serve themselves.

  • Makes 2 cups
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


Whole Fish with Salsa Verde

  • Serves 8 to 10
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than one hour


  • 1/ 2 bunch parsley, leaves picked,
  • roughly chopped, stems reserved
  • 1/ 2 bunch cilantro, leaves picked,
  • roughly chopped, stems reserved
  • 1/ 2 bunch mint, leaves picked and
  • roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 salted anchovy filets (bought in jar),
  • finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 5 lb fresh fish, whole*
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, sliced into thin wheels,
  • seeds removed
  • Parsley stems
  • Cilantro stems

Directions: Start by making the Salsa Verde. Place parsley, cilantro, mint, garlic, anchovies, red wine vinegar, capers, lemon zest and olive oil in a food processor and pulse a few times until the Salsa Verde has come together slightly but is still chunky. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse both the inside and outside of your fish and pat it completely dry with paper towel. Rub the outside skin of the fish with olive oil and season both the inside and outside of the fish with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the lemon wedges and reserved herb stems, and place fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake fish for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the fish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Place on a platter and dress over fish once you are ready to serve.

* We used perch, but select whichever fish is freshest and available to you at time of purchase. Ask the fish monger at your local grocery store for advice.

Patate Dauphinoise

  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups half and half cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 6 large Yukon potatoes,
  • sliced very thinly*
  • 1 cup gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a sauce pan combine the butter, garlic, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and bring up to a simmer. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of potatoes and then cover with a layer of cream. Continue layering until you have used all of your cream and potatoes. Cover your dish with tin foil and cook for 45 min to 1 hour until potatoes are tender. Remove the foil, cover with both cheeses and broil until melted and starting to colour. Let cool before serving. This recipe can be made a day ahead. Bring to room temperature before reheating.

* Slices should be about 1/8-inch thick. It’s best to use a mandolin but can also be done using a very sharp knife.

Did you know? Potatoes in its many forms makes a great pairing to sparkling wines, such as Champagne. French Fries and potato chips, in particular, are great matches to sparkling wines as the saltiness of the chips makes the wine’s fruit flavours come to the fore and accentuates the wine’s effervescent nature.


  • Use leftover elements from Christmas celebrations in your decorations; think about things like that crate of clementines or that bowl of whole nuts. Even the leaves off holly branches mixed in with your decorations can add a little colour.
  • Have some crackers and cheese and slices of fruit (fresh or dried) that you can place out on the table for guest to nibble on.
  • Plan a large table set up as a buffet with stacks of plates and napkins for guests to help themselves.
  • Make name tags for the dishes on display to help describe them to your guests.
  • Plan well ahead of time with your guests so that everyone has a clear role helping with the menu: salad, meat, fi sh etc. The last thing you need is six lasagnas!
  • Try to include one healthy option to break up what can be a very indulgent meal.
  • Choose recipes that won’t have you running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Simple is better, and ideally choose something that can be made a day ahead and reheated or fi red directly in the oven for a short amount of time at the host’s home.
  • Don’t forget to bring a hostess gift. Choose a bottle of wine, beer or spirit that refl ects the personality of the host.

img_0670Clementine, Almond, Rosemary Cake

  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Prep Time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total Time: Less than 3 hours


  • 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter,
  • softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 3/4 cups* white sugar
  • 5 clementines, zest only
  • 9 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups* almonds, ground
  • 1 1/4 cups* all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 rosemary sprigs,
  • finely chopped
  • 1 pinch of salt

Cream cheese frosting

Directions: Preheat your oven to 350°F. With an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and zest until it has become fl uffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated before adding the next one. In another bowl, mix together the remaining almonds, fl our, rosemary, baking powder and salt. Fold your dry mixture to your wet mixture bit by bit until just combined. Divide your batter evenly between two cake pans and bake for 45 minutes or until they spring back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out dry. Once removed from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the cake pans and cooling fully fully on a wire rack. Once fully cooled, cut each cake horizontally to make 4 equal sized cakes. To assemble, place one cake on your serving platter and top with cream cheese icing, then continue with the other layers.

Optional: keep some extra sprigs of rosemary and clementine to segment for garnish. You can even use some sliced almonds for decoration.

* If you prefer to weigh your dry ingredients, use 550 grams white sugar, 400 grams ground almonds and 150 grams of all-purpose flour.

Cream Cheese Frosting: With an electric mixer, blend 1 cup cream cheese and 1 cup butter. Carefully mix in 1 cup icing sugar, and once combined, add the zest and juice of 2 clementines.

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