Creating a special environment for a party is one of the most exciting things a host or hostess can do for guests.  I loved that “ahh” moment when guests arrived and got their first glimpse of the table filled with fabulous food in this lovely vineyard setting. Who can resist celebrating with the vivid colors of bittersweet, rustic pears, brilliant yellow chrysanthemums and crimson leaves. These sights and scents of autumn delight the senses and set the stage for an evening to remember.

One of the easiest and most decadent ways to dress up appetizers, salads and desserts is with a simple balsamic glaze.  For our garden party we took fresh figs and stuffed them with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey-balsamic reduction.  Delicious!  So simple, too.

Fig and Goat Cheese Bites with Honey-Balsamic Reduction

1 pint fresh figs

4 ounces goat cheese

1/2 cup finely chopped and toasted walnuts

4 tablespoons local honey

1 cup aged balsamic

Gently slice the tips off the figs and cut an X into them without cutting all the way through the bottom.  In a small bowl, combine goat cheese with walnuts and stuff a little into each fig.

For the balsamic reduction:  bring vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn down heat to low.  It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to thicken and reduce.  When it coats a spoon, it will be thick enough. Drizzle over figs and enjoy!!!

, A Fall Gathering in the Garden, Author Pat Branning, Author Pat Branning