Cozy up for tantalizing bites and sexy sips.

This February edition of Invite is coming in red-hot. Turn up the heat this month with outdoor seating for two and a sexy, fresh blackberry smash sip, perfect for Valentine’s night. Follow it up with a good vodka and bay beef bourguignon, bathed in red wine and thickened with cognac gravy. Then spoon out a divine magenta-hued huckleberry cobbler made in a cast-iron skillet. We’re going all out and transforming the porch or entry into a midwinter, outdoor haven at home. Bundle up, because a delicious dinner is about to be served.

Monica Hart.


Go under cover, and create an intimate outdoor seating situation at home, just in time for Valentine’s Day — or any day. I don’t know about you, but some nights I just need to get out of the house, even if it’s just out the front door. Comfy collapsible seating, cozy down pillows, warm throws, and an infrared heater turn this outdoor space into a mini outdoor haven. Add candles and small window boxes and jars filled with tulips for a hint of spring, and turn a vintage French farm crate into a lovely makeshift serving piece. I love the look of a favorite cast-iron French oven pot swaddled in a wool scarf.

Vodka and Bay Beef Bourguignon



  • 1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons Ketel One vodka
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for sautéing and roasting)
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 rainbow carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 rainbow carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1 small orange
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced; reserve fronds
  • 1 small leek, washed, trimmed, with white parts sliced
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • Fresh thyme
  • 1 bottle good red wine (750 ml.)
  • Cognac
  • Fresh mint


1. Marinate the cubed tenderloin in the vodka, olive oil, bay leaves, and 1 of the crushed gar-lic clove. Refrigerate for several hours or over-night. (Discard bay and garlic before cooking.)

2. Sauté the bacon in a large stovetop pot until nearly crisp. Remove the bacon pieces from the pot, and set aside. Reserve the bacon drippings.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, combine the halved carrots, remaining olive oil, zest, and juice of the small orange. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, allowing the carrots to begin to caramelize (approximately 15 minutes).

4. Heat olive oil in a pot on medium-high. Sear the marinated tenderloin, in 3 batches. Set aside. Reserve the tenderloin drippings for the gravy.

5. To the pot, drizzled with more olive oil, add the remaining chopped garlic cloves, the sliced carrots, mushrooms, fennel, leeks, chili pepper, and shallots. Sauté until almost tender.

6. Add 1 tablespoon chopped parsley to the veggies plus the leaves from 3 fresh thyme stems.

7. Add the wine and a nice splash of Cognac to the pot, and simmer for 25–30 minutes.

8. Add the gravy to the pot to thicken the soup. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

9. Return the cooked bacon and tenderloin to the pot, and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

10. Top the soup with the roasted carrots and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, torn mint, and reserved fennel fronds.

11. Serve in big bowls, garnished with parsley and mint.



  • 2 cups truffle bouillon stock
  • 1 small yellow onion, halved
  • 2 teaspoons veal demi-glace
  • 1 tablespoon
  • Cognac
  • Drippings from sautéed bacon and beef
  • 1 tablespoon butter2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a small saucepan, simmer together the stock and the onion for 10 minutes. Discard the onion. Add the veal demi-glace to the stock until dissolved. Set aside. Heat the reserved bacon and meat drippings, plus 1 tablespoon butter, in a separate saucepan. Add flour to pan, and stir constantly until a roux is formed. Add the stock, a little at a time, cooking for several minutes to create your gravy.

Blackberry Smash with Fresh Mint

Makes 1 cocktail

This very vermillion-red and sexy sip is my new go-to cocktail for Valentine’s Day. Muddled fresh blackberries create intoxicating color. It’s spiked with lemon- and lime-infused vodka and a splash of Cointreau, then sweetened with earthy agave and brightened with fresh mint.


  • 5 fresh blackberries
  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 ounces Ketel One Citroen vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce agave syrup
  • 1 lemon peel


In a cocktail shaker, muddle together: 4 blackberries, 3 torn mint leaves, vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and agave. Fill the shaker with ice; shake well. Rim a glass lightly with the oil from the lemon peel. Pour in the cocktail. Garnish with a fresh blackberry and mint leaf, and toss in the peel.

Skillet Wild Huckleberry Cobbler

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


  • 8 ounces frozen wild huckle-berries
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pure Irish butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup vanilla bean sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange


In a bowl, sweeten the huckleberries with the reserved sugar. Place the butter in the skillet, and melt in the oven. Pull from the oven as soon as it’s melted. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and sugar. Combine the milk, vanilla, and orange zest. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the skillet of melted butter. Spoon the huckleberries in the center of the batter, leaving a 1-inch border. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly hot and the crust is golden. Cool a bit before serving.

is a 425 contributor.
Find Out First
Learn about Eastside food,
fashion, home design, and more.
no thanks

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Receive exclusive subscriber content and access to special contests, discounts, and giveaways!