Written & styled by Jess Pucinnelli

If you were with us last week, I started a series to guide all you hosts out there when planning the pre-wedding festivities for a socially conscious couple. While a pretty party is fun, it can’t be the only thing. We have to have food too! I know cooking for a group can be intimidating especially if you’re trying to follow a conscious lifestyle– but trust me, the menu can definitely be uniquely beautiful, thoughtful, and of course delicious! Here’s a few of my go to tips for starting and completing your celebration…

Learn to embrace the cheese plate // Cheese plates are the ultimate double duty dish– they work beautifully for a starter/first course, and an elegant ending to a meal with or without a sweet accompaniment.

One of the best, and easiest, ways to be conscious here is to simply use local cheeses! A few favorites, from nearby my local California creameries are:

#1 Humboldt Fog, from Cypress Grove Chevre— A classic in and of itself, this delicious piquant, creamy goat cheese works well by itself, or paired with a little honey and fig jam.

#2 Aged Goat Gouda, from Central Coast Creamery. This aged goat is a bit crumbly, complex, and salty; a perfect cheeseboard addition.

#3 Point Reyes Blue, from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. This classic blue cheese has gained accolades nationwide for is creamy, funky perfection. A blue cheese is always a welcomed cheese board candidate.

#4 Last but not least, Mt. Tam, from Cowgirl Creamery. This classic California cheese, named after the majestic Mt. Tamalpais, is an earthy, buttery, triple cream, made from California Straus cows milk.

So now you’ve got the cheese selection down, what about add-ons? As for accompaniments, simply visit your local farmers market. In the fall, honey crisp apples and a few varieties of pears are perfect. Add in some marcona almonds, a seasonal fig preserve from a family owned business, or a fair-trade honey like this one from Bang Bang, and you’re ready to go.

Add a sweet seasonal treat // After all the work you’ve put into creating a beautiful evening, its worth it to end the meal with a little sweet indulgence— Depending on the season, I often opt for a hearty, yet simple fruit based dessert. Something like an apple cobbler, or persimmon crumble. Again, the farmers market will be your best friend. Simply scour for whatever is seasonal and looks beautiful. Talk to the farmers, they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. This Pear and chocolate tart is a perfect fall dessert, and uses local ingredients making it not only tasty, but a smart eco choice. It’s made with Sonora wheat flour from Kenter Canyon, and Bosc pears from Frog Hollow— as well as fair trade Askinosie Chocolate

Conscious Entertaining Chocolate Tart

Pro tip: When baking pies, tarts, or brownies, try baking them in a cast iron skillet, for a personal, and unique touch! Simply bake as usual and deliver the whole thing to the table, for a surprising and fun display. 

The hostess with the most chocolate pear tart

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 cup Sonora wheat flour (or other fair trade whole grain flour)

1/2 cup local unrefined honey

1/2 sugar

6 oz melted Askinosie (or other fair trade) 70% chocolate

3 large organic eggs

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 firm, ripe Bosc pears

1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons additional honey for serving


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch cast iron pan with butter; set aside.

Combine almond meal and flour, set aside. Cream butter with sugar in a stand mixer. Add eggs, then honey, vanilla, salt, cocoa and finally melted chocolate.  Add flour mixture and mix until combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan.

Peel, halve, and core pears; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rubbing them with lemon as you work (to prevent discoloration). Arrange slices on chocolate mixture, slightly overlapping, without pressing in.

Place pan in oven and bake until top is puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate mixture comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 30-45 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Briefly heat remaining 2 T honey in the microwave or on the stove until liquefied. Gently brush pears and let set, at least 20 minutes. Remove tart from pan, and serve.

Best kept secret: make sure to scour the Bang Bang blog by Chef Becky Reams for delicious and seasonally driven recipes and ideas.

Come back next week and I’ll be sharing a few of my go to gifting tips to make your party that much more complete.

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