Dan’s Holidays in the Vines Countdown: Chef Steven Amaral

Chef Steven Amaral of North Fork Chocolate Company, Photo: Oliver Peterson
Chef Steven Amaral of North Fork Chocolate Company, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Dan’s Holidays in the Vines hosted by RG|NY in Riverhead promises to be an unforgettable, immersive evening showcasing world-class local wines paired with the one-of-a-kind culinary creations from a lineup of top local chefs like you’ve never seen before. From the first bite to the last sip, this is the ultimate way to kick off the holiday season on Saturday, November 30.

Chef Steven Amaral of North Fork Chocolate Company in Aquebogue will prepare a delightful dessert dish for this exciting holiday celebration. Amaral, a frequent Dan’s Taste of Summer participant, is thrilled to get the holiday season started.

Share some of your favorite holiday food traditions from growing up, and from your family today.
Our family would gather at our house early on Christmas Eve and cook together. It seems as though all of the handmade pasta, pignoli and other cookies, the sauce, the feast that took hours to cook only took a short time to disappear. Now we get on buses, planes and trains and celebrate in smaller groups, but the party and festiveness remains the same.

What is the one food or dish that defines the holiday season for you and why?
Momma Concetta’s Lasagna, aka “Italian Turkey.” It didn’t matter what holiday—the lasagna was always included.

What is the secret to creating the perfect food-and-chocolate pairing?
It is essential for me to always taste the wine and create a chocolate that is harmonious with the tasting notes of the wine.

You make a number of chocolates with local wines and other local ingredients. What has been the inspiration for this, and how do you bring the flavors together?
Initially, in the planning stages of our business, my partner, Ann, and I wanted to incorporate as many flavors as possible into our chocolates that embraced the amazing wines, spirits, beers and agricultural products that distinguish the East End as a region. And for bringing the flavors together, we have to taste an abundance of wine, spirits and beer for the ultimate flavor combinations. It’s part of the job description. Yes!

What is the best holiday gift you’ve ever received, and why?
Having my grandparents at the dining room table with the entire family, partying and playing cards after dinner. It’s the best because we knew they were special moments in time and would eventually fade away.

How do you enjoy the fall and winter season when you’re not in the kitchen?
Travel to warm places.

What do you love about the cooler-weather seasons and the holiday time of year here on the East End?
Hot chocolate, fireplace, my winter coat, family, festivities and especially the awesome crews out there that shovel us out!

What is your favorite holiday movie or TV special, and why?
Charlie Brown, Rudolph and I binge-watch the one with the leg lamp, A Christmas Story.

What is the best kind of holiday cookie?
Any home-baked cookie that is a gift. They are full of love.

You have a glass of your favorite wine in-hand. What is your toast for the holiday season and the new year?
All we need is love. Merry and happy!

Dan’s Holidays in the Vines hosted by RG|NY is Saturday, November 30, from 6 to 10 p.m. at RG|NY, 6025 Sound Avenue, Riverhead.

Individual tickets are $110. VIP tickets are $150 and include access to VIP area with exclusive pours and treats, meet-and-greet and book signing with Claudia Fleming, and VIP gift bag. For more information and to get your tickets now, visit HolidaysInTheVines.com.

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