Bread & Wine Book Review/ Dinner Party!

bekah General, Recipes 2 Comments

If you know me, you definitely know these three things: I adore chocolate, I love listening to people’s stories, and I’m the hugest fan of Shauna Niequist; her books, her writing, her wit, and now, her recipes.

When we lived in Atascadero, Em was one of the first people I met and it was friendship at first sight. She inspired me to the “idea” of running, accompanied me on many adventures, one of my favorites being blackberry-picking where I’m sure we ate way more than we actually took home, and she was always there when I was in a decorating pinch. It was Em who introduced me to Shauna’s books and I am forever grateful. When I opened Cold Tangerines, I vividly remember drawing a huge breath in and slowly breathing it out as I read. Never before had an author pulled at inner chords and put words to my thoughts and feelings.

If you haven’t yet read anything by Shauna, a little about her: Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek ans is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron and Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life- friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.


{photography credit ~ Hadley McCall}

And so Shauna has remained at the top of my favorite author list. Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy of her newest book, Bread & Wine with the commitment to blog about it. And what the heck- why not make a dinner party of it? So I called Beth, a dear friend and fellow Shauna fan, and asked if she’d want to co-host with me. Days after our copies arrived, we poured wine and exchanged our favorite Bread & Wine quotes, almost whispering them as secrets -knowing we’d chanced to glimpse at Shauna’s written words and recipes before the rest of the world- and planned a much-anticipated dinner party menu from Shauna’s recipes, thankful that everyone was eager to contribute by making an appetizer, side dish or dessert, or bringing champagne or wine.


One of the reasons I most respect and am inspired by Shauna’s writing, is her intentionality for gathering people she loves around her kitchen table, pushing pause, and simply enjoying good food and beautiful friendships. Bread & Wine is brilliant not only for the sentimental stories behind Shauna’s beloved recipes, but more for what those recipes represent- the time preparing, praying, and anticipating who those recipes will feed, and slowing down enough to open her home and live transparently. I devoured and savored every page of Bread & Wine~ it’s one I’ll return to often for sweet reminders and delicious recipes!

table (2)



Dinner parties are like mini-vacations. It’s an occasion to get more dressed up than usual and enter another world, even if it is someone else’s kitchen. It’s a break from the everyday, from the routine. Dinner parties are not the celebration of the party itself, but the people who attend. It’s not about the having the nicest china or largest home. It’s not about pouring the most expensive wine or serving a complex meal. It’s about opening the door, overlooking the stains on the carpet and uncleaned base boards, and creating intentional space for people to feel loved and safe. For this reason, I love hosting dinner parties; providing an escape, a mini-vacation and on this specific night, coming together as friends; as moms, teachers, singers, writers, ministry workers, professors, artists, and celebrating the beauty of being together.


True confession about the Bread & Wine Dinner Party. I wasn’t nervous about the embarrassing outdoor benches brought inside to accommodate seating. It wasn’t the fact that I don’t have a surplus of counter space to prep or 10 matching champagne glasses. It was the anxiety that rose when my husband announced he had a work meeting that night {he’s a middle school pastor} meaning he’d be unavailable to put the boys down while Beth and I did last-minute preps and champagne pours. How could I simultaneously slice the grilled tenderloin while attempting baths and prayers and wrangling two boys to bed? And just like that, I made mention to Beth, to which she assured that she’d be over early to help set up, so I could get the boys to bed in time for our 7:30pm dinner party. That’s what I love about dear friends. Beth put me at ease, setting the table and memorizing every inch of my kitchen and cupboards, while I maintained the evening routine of baths and books. She read Tanner a story as I grilled {yes, I stood at the bbq and turned that tenderloin and felt very liberated while doing so}.


And wouldn’t you know, as Hadley arrived, then Keri, followed by Em, here comes Tanner and Ty running down the hall, shaking their booties and giggling hysterically. I felt it. That flush of embarrassment, the deep breath in- what will they think? This isn’t going to plan! Get back in bed! – then breath out. It’s okay, this is life, it’s just friends over for dinner. I walked them down the hall  and tucked them back into their beds for the first time that evening. At one point I caught myself shutting the door and sternly scolding, only to step outside of the situation and see that they were simply being two boys who were curious about their mommy’s friends. They wanted to join the fun and be involved. They were just being… oh, to even write it– kids! I’m reminded when I start to put appearance before people, how ugly my heart becomes. Suddenly it’s not about the conversation and connection, it’s about controlling my kids and the false show of perfection. And 9 times out of 10, the only person noticing is me.

In Bread & Wine, Shauna says this, and it appropriately echoed throughout the evening: “It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories. It happens when we leave the office and get a sitter and skip our workouts every so often to celebrate a birthday or an accomplishment or a wedding or a birth, when we break out of the normal clockwork of daily life and pop the champagne on a cold, gray Wednesday for no other reason than the fact that the faces we love are gathered around our table.”

And despite the interruptions, the night was a hit ~ enjoying appetizers and sipping chilled champagne!



 Beth made Bacon Wrapped Dates. I assure you there were no leftovers. A bite of heaven is what these little morsels are!


Angelina made Mini Mac N Cheese, the perfect bite-size appetizer.

Always a planner, she had even done a trial run to make sure they turned out fine. They were better than fine!

mac and cheese


For the main course, Em put together the gorgeous Green Well’s Michigan Harvest Salad. The caramelized onions and crunchy grapes brought to life amazing flavors when tossed with Maple vinaigrette dressing. We all agreed it could have been a meal in itself.


Kira bought a skillet for the fun occasion and baked puffy, salty Goat Cheese Biscuits. De-lish!

The following week she made another batch for her family.


After showing the BBQ who’s boss, Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin was sliced.

An extra glaze drizzle before serving adds just the right sweetness to the tender meat.


This framed Winnie-the-Pooh quote greeted each person at their table seating, a gift to remember the night.



For hours we ate, poured another glass of wine, dished more salad,  and shared life around the table. We talked of what God is doing in our lives; stretching us as moms and the juggle of careers. Working in ministry, job searches, marriage… there was no topic untouched.



Debbie, our mentor mom and wise soul, blessed us with her honest words- the pull of raising two sons to follow God and the reality of releasing them to jobs that could potentially keep them in the U.S. or call them overseas.


And then came dessert, the most important part of the meal if you ask me!

Hadley made Blueberry Crisp and served it warm with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Before the party she threatened to keep it for herself. It’s that good!


Keri filled small ramekins with Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse. With only three ingredients, she too sampled while she made and informed me it may not make it to the party! Women and their desserts! Topped with freshly whipped cream, this mousse is a must-make for any event!


As the evening came to a close, we washed dishes and licked spoons and finished glasses. We dried platters and told one more story, and before we knew it, it was midnight and a new day.

On the way out, everyone grabbed a bag of Breakfast Cookies for the next morning, a reminder that good things don’t have to end!


I’ve since made this recipe for Emily’s family and for our boys on a lazy Saturday morning. There’s something about mashing the bananas and watching the brown vanilla swirl into the yellow mixture that brings sanity to the seemingly chaotic. It’s my new go-to, unwind recipe.

It was the perfectly imperfect dinner party ~ made up of imperfect people, each with our own story. And for an evening, we took a min-vacation to the kitchen to laugh, sip, savor, and share hearts.

One of my favorite quotes from Bread & Wine is this, “You don’t always know what’s going to come of it, but you put the time in anyway, and then, after a long, long time, you realize the great clarity why you put the time in: for the night, for these hours around the table, for the complexity and richness of flavors that are so lovely and unexpected you’re still thinking about them the next day.”

And the next day brought these words from Em: “Just thinking about our dinner last night and wanted to say thank you for hosting such a special night!  The food was delicious and your hospitality was so warm and welcoming.  Thanks for creating such a special time for us to be together.  Loved being with you guys and loved all of the thoughtfulness and special details you put into the night. And can’t wait to read Shauna’s new book!”

Hadley said, “Good morning ladies! I just want to tell you all how much fun I had last night! It was such a blessing to be able to spend time with all of you, while enjoying some AMAZING food!! Seriously, well done everyone! Bekah and Beth, than you so much for hosting!! All the little details were perfect! Morning definitely came too soon today, but it was totally worth it! Love you all!”

And from Kira: “Thank you so so much for opening your home and hosting such a beautiful dinner. The details were so thoughtful from the picture frames to the breakfast cookies to go 🙂 The environment was so comfortable for all of us to talk and share what’s on our hearts. Can’t wait to get together again!”

Bread & Wine can be purchased at Amazon here. Do yourself a favor and order it today. Then offer someone a mini vacation- open your home, make dinner, listen to their heart and feed their soul.


Comments 2

  1. Okay, confession: this post made me cry. 🙂 You can’t even imagine how much it means to me to know that a group of women gathered around the table & shared these recipes that we’ve loved around our table for so many years. What a beautiful post. Thank you, Bekah! XO

    1. Post

      Well, you were the inspiration! Thanks Shauna! Next time you’re in town, come join us for girls night dinner 🙂 XO

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