With winter setting in, it's only natural to want to crowd around the table for a warm, hearty repast. Happily, there's no shortage of opportunities to gather for a good meal as the holidays approach. Restaurants all over Rochester this December are getting creative with special seasonal menus and dining events that will work for date night or a family function. So take a break from the cookie-baking and stocking-stuffing and let someone else do the cooking.
Pultneyville Illumination Dinner at Owl House on the Lake
The Owl House's newly-opened branch at Pultneyville will host a dinner following the village's eighth annual Illumination event on Sunday, December 3. The dinner service, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., includes seasonal cocktails and modern comfort food dishes such as root vegetable gratin with crushed almonds and pepitas and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts. Gluten-free and vegan options are available upon request. Acoustic duo Chris and Cordelia will perform.
The Pultneyville Illumination itself begins at 4 p.m. and features local homes decked with holiday lights. The free event includes a concert by the Lake Effect Community Chorale, followed by caroling, a bonfire, hot drinks, and Christmas cookies. 4135 Mill Street, Williamson. Call 360-2920 for reservations. Entrees $15-$20.
Holiday Bash with Boxcar Donuts and the Great Blue Herons
For a more casual atmosphere, stop by Boxcar Donuts at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 15, for a holiday party with live music, food and drink specials, and decorations — including the ever-popular donut wall. The event will feature a special limited menu including 16 beers on draft, cocktails, and Boxcar specialties, like the classic chicken sandwich and Korean fried cauliflower. Live Music will be provided by Matt O'Brian and the Great Blue Herons, who are the drum and horn sections of Thunder Body. 127 Railroad Street, Suite #120. 270-5942. Entrees $8-$22.
Southern Tier Beer and Spirits Dinner at Label 7 Napa Eatery and Bar
Pittsford's Label 7 is teaming up with Southern Tier Brewing and Southern Tier Distilling for a winter dinner-and-drinks pairing on Thursday, December 14. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by a four-course meal of butternut squash soup, marinated chicken skewers with peanut sauce and grilled pineapple, stout-braised short rib, and a ginger carrot cake roll with cream cheese frosting. Each course will be paired with one of Southern Tier Brewing's seasonal craft brews or a cocktail made from one of Southern Tier Distilling's spirits. 50 State Street, Pittsford. 267-7500. Tickets $55 with tax and gratuity, available through Eventbrite.com.
Sunday Supper with Hearth and Cellar at Lento Restaurant
Rochester-area pop-up Hearth and Cellar will be hosted at Lento Restaurant at 6 p.m. on Sunday, December 3, serving a wintry four-course meal. The menu includes pumpkin latkes with cranberry-ginger sauce and whipped goat cheese, warm Brussels sprouts salad with dry-cured duck breast, braised beef with wine and garlic jus, and hazelnut pound cake with pear semifreddo. Vegetarian options are available and dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice. The dinner will include local beers as well as free samples of wines from Wineworx, a local company that teaches home winemaking. Diners are also welcome to bring their own wine for an additional $10 fee. 240 North Goodman Street. 271-3470. Tickets $40 through Eventbrite.com.
Christmas Eve Brunch at Joe Bean Coffee Roasters
Dinner isn't the only meal getting the holiday treatment. Joe Bean Coffee Roasters will be open for weekend brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a special menu. Included in the decadent lineup are gingered pear stuffed French toast with caramel sauce, sweet potato waffles with plum reduction, peppered potato hash with fried tofu, and savory scones with egg cream sauce. The bar is open until 4 p.m., if you feel like getting extra festive. 1344 University Avenue. 532-7942. Entrees $7-$11.
Can't get enough brunch? Joe Bean is also holding a Holiday Jazz Brunch on Saturday, December 16, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with singer and guitarist Katie Preston.