Thanksgiving table settings have gone edible, and it's all about the herbs.
If the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie aren't enough, or even if they are, consider adding wrapped sprigs of aromatic herbs as a favor on each plate and dressing the table with arrangements of vegetables and more herbs.
Putting herbs to service on festive tables is gaining popularity at special occasions from weddings to holiday feasts. And for Thanksgiving, they can add an appropriately earthy note that is not only visual but aromatic.
The idea appeals to Nitsa Knoll, director of hospitality for Jordan Winery, a bit of France in the Alexander Valley with its Loire-style chateau.
Thanksgiving tables usually are vibrant with gourds, mini pumpkins, pomegranates and persimmons. But Knoll is experimenting with a different palette.
"Usually we decorate with sweet things that tie into the dessert. But here, I've made the focal point more of the entree, things you might find on the plate," she said. She pointed to a centerpiece with edibles such as kale, artichokes and thyme, punctuated with creamy white hydrangeas. It's a soft look that is easy on the eyes, pretty but not so eye-popping it upstages the feast.
November at Jordan Winery is a transitional month, a quiet time for the staff to power down and catch a collective breath after the flurry of harvest and the fun of Halloween, said John Jordan. He is CEO of the winery his parents, Tom and Sally, founded in 1972, the year he was born.
The heart of the winery is a chateau inspired by the architecture his parents fell in love with in France. In autumn the building is almost completely covered in Boston Ivy that puts on a kaleidoscopic show, changing from deep green to bright red to orange and then yellow before floating to the ground in a golden heap.
Knoll and her husband, Todd, Jordan's executive chef, collaborate on special events and help with entertaining winery guests. In the past they have made Thanksgiving dinner for the Jordan family, preparing enough to bring home to their own family gathering.
For a savory centerpiece, Knoll has selected beautiful cool weather edibles such as purple and green artichokes, ivory roses, kale and hydrangeas. For accent filler, she has added some Grevillea and small Brussels spouts that are popped onto skewers and tucked into the oasis.
Knoll recommends adding in fresh herbs such as African basil just before your guests arrive. Choose a bowl rather than a tall vase and keep the arrangement short, she said, so guests have a clear view across the table.
She ties the herbal theme to each plate by wrapping sprigs of lemon thyme, Greek oregano and rosemary in wired jute ribbon, which has an earthy, almost burlap look and is easily available at supply stores like Sequoia Floral in Santa Rosa. With wired ribbon you don't need pins or a glue gun.
These individual sprigs make beautiful place settings and serve as little favors to take home and use in turkey soup or other Thanksgiving leftovers. You'll want to do this the day of the event since most herbs will quickly wilt.
Knoll also suggests dressing up the table with 2- to 4-inch pots of living herbs such as purple sage and lemon thyme planted in potting soil. For a winery table setting, she found inexpensive pots at Michael's that have the vintage look of old mercury glass. You can group them around the table and then give them to guests.