A Festive Feast

The holidays are a time to splurge on a roast beef tenderloin dinner. Although the meat can be pricey, buy the whole tenderloin and you’ll get a holiday dinner plus benefits: a whole, trimmed tenderloin should yield a 3 to 3-1/2 pound center-cut roast to serve 5-6 guests, plus a couple of thick filet mignons for you and a friend. You’ll also have either beef tips or ground meat or both, depending on the tenderloin’s size. Serve roast with fresh steamed asparagus, oven-roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts sautéed with diced onion, sweet red pepper and bacon.

Gary: This is a wonderful opportunity for sharing special meals and wines with friends and family. To estimate your wine needs, figure on two 6-ounce glasses of dinner wine per person. You might not need that much, but unopened bottles of fine wine will easily last one year, some for many years. If you aren’t familiar with a wine’s taste, purchase a bottle several weeks in advance and enjoy it on a quiet evening, sipping and observing how long it takes to blossom after it is poured. This will prevent your serving an overly tannic, “closed” wine during dinner, and you can show it at its finest. You might also consider a fine sparkler as an apéritif, as it livens the mood, refreshes the palate, complements almost any appetizer and makes a special gathering even more singular.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes are the perfect side dish with the beef tenderloin roast. Russet or Idaho baking potatoes are the ticket here; their inherent starchiness yields fluffy mashed potatoes. Each potato is cut in half; serve 1 or 2 halves for each guest, depending on appetite. You may also want to pass a dish of softened butter. Leftovers reheat in the microwave the next day for a splendid meatless, albeit very rich, lunch.

4-6 russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried and pierced several times with fork

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk

4 TBS butter, divided

Salt and pepper, to taste


Bake potatoes directly on oven rack in 450°F oven, about 1 hour or until soft when pierced with a knife. Transfer to cooling rack. Let rest for 10 minutes. Wearing an oven mitt to hold potato, cut each in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh with a spoon and transfer to a medium bowl. Arrange potato shells on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray or covered with parchment paper.

With electric mixer, mash potato flesh with sour cream, buttermilk or milk, 2 TBS butter, salt and pepper. Spoon mashed potato mixture into each shell. Use remaining 2 TBS butter to press a small piece into each mashed potato mixture. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Return to oven and bake about 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serves 4 – 6

Gary: As the potatoes are a side dish they would not be paired with a wine but enjoyed along with the main course while drinking the wine that complements the tenderloin.


Apple, Cherry and Walnut Mixed Greens Salad with Goat Cheese

A salad of crisp peppery greens, Granny Smith apples, tart cherries and walnuts offsets the richness of beef tenderloin. The optional goat cheese is a creamy and inspiring counterpoint. If you own a spiral slicer, by all means, make this your latest spiral-cut creation. To toast walnuts, spread in a single layer in a baking sheet. Toast in 375°F oven about 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Watch closely, as walnuts burn easily. Cool.

1 cup dried cherries

2 medium Granny Smith apples

1 bag mixed greens, including radicchio and/or baby arugula

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

6 oz goat cheese at room temperature, optional


2 TBS cider vinegar

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

6 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

In small bowl, soak cherries in 1/2 cup boiling water about 10 minutes to soften and plump. Drain and pat dry. Using a mandoline slicer, grater, spiral slicer or sharp knife, cut apples into very thin slices.

Make vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk cider vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

In large serving bowl, toss greens with vinaigrette. Top with cherries, apples and walnuts. Crumble goat cheese over salad, if desired. Serve immediately.

Gary: With the acidity of the fruit and the vinaigrette, the astringency of the greens and the pungency of the goat cheese, a brightly fruited, high-acid white would be most delectable with this course. A fine Mosel or Rhine Riesling from a top producer is still an exceptional value for what you will spend, yet offers the yin/yang of a light sweetness and firm acidity to make a remarkable pairing. With the goat cheese, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are all wonderful choices that echo the aromas and flavors of the cheese. Why not look to the Old World classics or bring out a finer-than-average example from New Zealand? A fine dry sparkler or Champagne could make this a pairing to remember. Other wine choices that would be worthy of the gathering would be a fine Verdejo, Albariño or Gavi.

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