Harvest moon dinner party provides celestial celebration

Whether it’s dramatic clouds in the morning, the rolling fog of late afternoon or the stars dazzling the night sky, the heavens are a source of endless awe and inspiration. A dinner party that celebrates celestial bodies is the perfect addition to any September calendar. 

This September, the harvest moon – that great big, glorious and orange full moon that appears each harvest season – arrives in the night sky on a Friday. Which means Sept. 29 is the ideal evening for an outdoor dinner. If waiting until the end of the month doesn’t appeal, not to worry. I love hosting outdoor dinner parties all through early autumn. With the sun setting earlier than it had at the peak of summer, we can enjoy that stunning lightshow of the sun giving way to the moon as we toast the season’s change and welcome back the light jackets and jumpers that have sat unused.

I like to keep my dinner parties smallish. This suits the petite size of my yard, but also ensures an intimate evening. For a fete that will focus on the romance of the moon, I’ll have just six diners. 

Even with a limited guest list, I enjoy sending a special invite created on Canva and texted out to guests. Doing so lets them know all the details and sets a celebratory tone. Afterall, a dinner party for the sole purpose of luxuriating in the moon’s glow is something to get excited about. 

My harvest moon dinner party menu has guests sipping moon-themed cocktails upon arrival, employs casual outdoor cooking and features plenty of laid-back appreciation of the night sky. 

Plus, I’ll get to take advantage of the outdoor dining space I set up over summer. It will be an evening of merriment and moongazing my guests won’t soon forget. 

Harvest Moon Cocktail 

Having grown up in Sonoma County – famous for its apples well before its viticulture acclaim – I’m always delighted when the first locally grown apples appear at markets. Along with celebrating the start to apple season, the Harvest Moon Cocktail provides just the right creamy, orange hue to match the harvest moon. It’s a cocktail that would be welcome at any autumn gathering.

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon 
  • 1 ounce apple cider 
  • 1/2 ounce Monin cinnamon syrup 
  • 1/4 ounce Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters 
  • Garnish: apple slice

Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake well. Strain into chilled coupe glass and garnish with slice of apple. You can also serve over ice in a mason jar and top off with club soda to make the drink long. 

Grilled Clams and Sausages 

Clams are in season and I couldn’t be happier. I love them over linguini or in a chowder, but perhaps my favorite way to enjoy fresh clams is grilled and tossed with a flavorful butter. Grill up some Andouille sausage along with the clams and you have a tasty outdoor meal. 

  • 4 pounds fresh littleneck clams, scrubbed 
  • 4 Andouille sausages 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning 
  • 1/2 teaspoon grey salt 
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds 
  • Chopped parsley for serving 

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Place sausages on grill and cook 1-2 minutes per side. Once you have grill marks on sausage, move to indirect heat and continue to cook 10 minutes. 

Use shallow bowl to mix butter. Add softened butter, Old Bay, salt and celery seeds. Mix well to combine and set aside. 

Remove sausage from grill, cover and set aside while you grill clams. Place clams on grill in direct heat and cook roughly 2 minutes. You will know they are done when the clam shells open. Discard any clams that don’t open. 

Place cooked clams in large bowl and toss with butter. Cover with foil and set aside. 

Cut sausages into bite-sized pieces. Gently toss sausages and clams together. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. 

Simple sides 

We’ll have our clams and sausage with grilled corn on the cob, a simple green salad and a basket of sliced Manresa Levain, which is ideal for dunking in the spicy butter. 

For dessert, keep things delicious and simple by offering a handheld and store-bought treat. Giant chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies from Little Sky Bakery or a selection of cupcakes from Sweet Diplomacy Bakery would both make for an excellent sweet ending to a stellar evening. 

For a perfectly themed playlist, check out my Teac Mor Vineyards Fall Tasting on Spotify at tinyurl.com/teacmorplaylist. 

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)


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