351. Heinen’s Holiday Entertaining with Style


Heinen's manager Mark Vrcatnik with his department managers - Photographed by Julie Linnekin

It’s true that there’s no place like home for the holidays, but be sure to stop at Heinen’s grocery store on your way. Whether you’re a gracious host or a grateful guest, they have just what you need, all in one place. From gift-worthy produce to scene-stealing main courses, Heinen’s is ready to help you celebrate the holiday season in style.

Heinen's manager Mark Vrcatnik with his department managers - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Heinen’s manager Mark Vrtacnik (in back row, third from left), with the Barrington store’s department managers – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

We stopped in last week to talk with the Heinen’s department managers and get their best tips on how to help our holiday tables shine. We were so impressed to see that, while many stores fall into disarray amid the holiday chaos, Heinen’s just keeps getting better. Our heads are spinning with all the items on our to-do lists (and we’re guessing yours are too), so it was a treat to spend time in a place where beauty and organization rule.

Mary Zickler with her floral creations - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Mary Zickler with her floral creations – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Festive florals and gorgeous produce displays greeted us when we walked into the store, setting the holiday mood. Heinen’s florals are always a cut above, and they’ve outdone themselves with their holiday selection.

Floral manager Mary Zickler just set up these clear glass vases filled with winterberries and topped with a floating candle – so simple and pretty, and just $12.99. Mary says they’ll last for two to three weeks. Wouldn’t they look wonderful grouped as a centerpiece, or in a row on a table runner? 

These vases filled with winterberries and candles would make a perfect centerpiece - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
These vases filled with winterberries and candles would make a perfect centerpiece – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

And the poinsettias in keepsake music boxes, with a place to insert your own photo, make a great gift at $21.99.

Post - Heinens Poinsettias in a Photo Frame Box
Heinen’s giftable poinsettias in a photo frame music box – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

One of the best things about Heinen’s is that helpful employees like Produce Manager Ken McKeel are always available and happy to answer questions. If you’re trying some new vegetable recipes this holiday, Ken can lead you to the freshest produce picks. Heinen’s proudly carries Melissa’s, which Ken describes as “distributors of the highest-quality specialty produce,” so you can count on finding fruits and veggies you’re proud to prepare and serve.

Some of the most popular holiday items in Heinen’s produce department are custom gift baskets, which can be ready in half an hour or less. Whether for a corporate thank-you gift or as a personal appreciation, these beautiful baskets will make the recipient’s day. Just call Heinen’s and ask for Ken – he’ll get to work right away.

Produce manager Ken McKeel shows off some of Heinen's holiday samplers - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Produce manager Ken McKeel shows off some of Heinen’s holiday samplers – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

When you’re not sure what to bring, or just need to have some treats on hand, you can’t go wrong with these samplers.

Choose from delicious combinations of chocolate-covered pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit in presentable packages. Or splurge on these delectable Two Brothers French Truffles ($15.99 for a gift-wrapped tower of three boxes), available for a limited time.

Two Brothers French Truffles at Heinen's - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Two Brothers French Truffles at Heinen’s – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Right now, Ken’s busy shifting citrus into the spotlight as we enter the start of its season, which will last until stone fruit season begins toward spring. Cara cara oranges, a beautiful red-fleshed navel variety, are now arriving from California, and blood oranges, with their even deeper red, come in this week. Blood oranges are extremely high in antioxidants – a healthy indulgence that that can be a delicious glaze on roasted brussels sprouts. Ken’s especially looking forward to the arrival, this week, of beautifully boxed clementines. These perfectly gift-able sweeties will be warmly received by anyone on your list.

Citrus is in the spotlight right now at Heinen's - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Citrus is in the spotlight right now at Heinen’s – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Just beyond the produce section, the deli beckons with artfully displayed meats and cheeses. Vie Squires manages the deli, bakery, and prepared foods departments, and she’s your go-to gal when you need a full menu in a hurry. Last-minute gathering? Give Vie a call.  She’ll save the day with a custom deli tray – and she’ll make sure to pair it with fresh-baked deli rolls for your guests to enjoy.

Let Heinen's assemble a deli tray for your guests showcasing their delicious meats and cheeses - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Let Heinen’s assemble a deli tray for your guests showcasing their delicious meats and cheeses – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

As we spoke with Vie, Paul Dietzen and his son, David Deitzen, arrived from the Body Shop of Barrington to pick up a large catering order. They have a lovely holiday tradition of spreading holiday cheer to their Barrington-area clients by dropping by with lunch and treats to thank them for their business over the course of the year. “Everybody just gathers around, and gets to eat well,” Paul says.

Paul and David were delighted when Vie wheeled out carts stacked with box after box of scrumptious-looking food. “This is our first year ordering from Heinen’s, and this looks great.” Several employees helped them to their car, then they were off to play lunchtime Santa.

Vie Squires and deli department colleagues bring out Paul Dietzen's catering order - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Vie Squires and deli department colleagues bring out Paul Dietzen’s catering order – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

After taking care of her customers, Vie rejoined us to show off the bakery’s special collection of holiday sugarplums.

Many of the cakes and cookies are from Servatii’s Pastry Shop in the Cincinnati area, where they were first carried by Heinen’s Ohio stores. The fifty-year-old German bakery makes traditional assorted cookies and cakes with the highest-quality ingredients, so they taste as good as they look.

An assortment of holiday cookies from Servatii's Bakery - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
An assortment of holiday cookies from Servatii’s Bakery – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Customer Ronda Wery was in the store picking up a sampling of desserts and florals to dress up a dessert party she was hosting. “I’m going the simple route, with some berries to decorate a chocolate cake, and the cookie assortment. Then I bought some greens to tuck in among the desserts.”

You have to try the Lemon Cranberry tree cake, the Ginger House cake, and the Chocolate Star with Ganache – they’re sinfully good, and would look beautiful on a holiday table. Santa’s beard, made of whipped cream frosting, is as light and fluffy as it looks, and the petit fours are perfect for a dessert sampler.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: perhaps we should have dinner before dessert (though it seems anything goes during the holidays, doesn’t it?).

Whether you need easy appetizers or something more substantial, Vie has the answers here, too. Mini beef tenderloin sandwiches, turkey meatballs with cranberries, “pig” wings in Two Brothers’ barbecue sauce, and satays featuring several different meats will ensure that your guests stay satisfied while they mingle.

Prepared appetizer's will delight your guests - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Prepared appetizer’s will delight your guests – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

For prepared main dishes, Heinen’s does not disappoint. The fully cooked pork crown roast is just stunning, stuffed with crouton dressing.

Heinen's pork crown roast stuffed with crouton dressing - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Heinen’s pork crown roast stuffed with crouton dressing – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Spiral-sliced hams and rib roasts are sure to feed a crowd, and Heinen’s has all the sides–like orzo with spinach and tomatoes, or roasted root vegetables–you need to round out your holiday meal. “Most customers who are coming in aren’t sure what they want, so we’ve been putting their holiday menus together,” Vie says. “So far, the most popular item is the mini beef tenderloin sandwiches, which are $5.29 per sandwich.”

Or, if you’re planning to cook but need a time-saver, try the pork tenderloins prepared two ways: one is stuffed with apricot and fennel, then wrapped in bacon; the other is stuffed with a mixture of blue and cream cheeses and rosemary, then bacon-wrapped. Yum…

Pork tenderloin, prepared two ways - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Pork tenderloin, prepared two ways – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Vie then handed us off to Theresa Clark, who manages the wine, beer, and cheese departments. When we asked Theresa what should star on our cheese plates this holiday season, she didn’t hesitate:

“This blue cheese from Rogue River Creamery is released once a year, and it’s very hard to get your hands on. It’s a raw-milk cheese, wrapped in syrah grape leaves soaked in pear brandy, then left to age in a cave for approximately nine months. The flavor profile of this cheese is just unbelievable.”

When you hustle in for your Rogue River blue cheese, be sure to thank Theresa for her diligence in getting so much from her vendor – it took a lot of persistence! She’ll have lots of other suggestions for ways to round out your cheese plates this holiday season.

Theresa Clark recommends pairing the Rogue River blue cheese - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Theresa Clark recommends pairing the Rogue River blue cheese with Raincoast Crisps – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Theresa and Heinen’s Beer Lead, Scott Oliver, are happy to make suggestions for your beer and wine selections as well. If you’re going with the Rogue River cheese (and how could you not?), they recommend a sweet dessert wine, like Warre’s Otima 10. A port that has been aged in oak cases for ten years, Otima has a smooth texture, with notes of honey and fruit.

Or, for an unexpected twist, try pairing it with port barrel-aged Scotch Silly, a Scotch ale. “It’s something a little different, with caramel undertones. They wanted to make it a little sweeter, so they aged it in port barrels for six months. That sweetness would be perfect with the Rogue River blue.”

Port-barrel-aged Scotch Silly and Warre's Otima 10 would be perfect pairings for the Rogue River blue cheese - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Port-barrel-aged Scotch Silly and Warre’s Otima 10 would be perfect pairings for the Rogue River blue cheese – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Scott also recommends his personal favorite holiday brew, the Sand Creek Cranberry Special Ale, made just over the border in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. “And our biggest local ale is actually called Fistmas, from Chicago’s own Revolution Brewing. Usually when it’s called a Christmas ale, it’s spiced with cinnamon or nutmeg, or both.”

Fistmas holiday ale at Heinen's - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Fistmas holiday ale at Heinen’s – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

And, though many of us look for wine pairings, Scott says the holiday beers are another great option. “They’re usually black ales, and they’re perfect because they go well with turkey, ham, and they’re actually pretty perfect with fruitcake and brownies too.”

Scott Oliver, Heinen's Beer Lead, shows off Sand Creek Cranberry Ale - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Scott Oliver, Heinen’s Beer Lead, shows off Sand Creek Cranberry Ale – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Heinen’s is also offering an excellent wine at a phenomenal price this season: the Fairhills Mendoza Vineyard’s Gran Reserva Malbec 2010, a 92-point wine from Argentina.

Normally $89.99 per bottle, Heinen’s is selling this holiday crowd pleaser for just $19.99 while it lasts. Theresa expects just one more pallet, though, so hurry!

Mendoza Malbec is a phenomenal deal this holiday season - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Mendoza Vineyards’ 2010 Malbec is a phenomenal deal this holiday season – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

When you’re basket’s filled to the brim with holiday goodies, head on up toward the front of the store.

On your way, you’ll find an unusual display of Veuve Cliquot Brut champagne. Grocery manager Adam Ripley says the space-age containers are made of potato starch and are 100% biodegradable. The best part? They’re natural chillers, and keep your champagne chilled for two hours. Grab one for $44.99, and you’ll have a gift and an icebreaker, all in one. Cheers!

Veuve Cliquot in a special eco-friendly 2-hour chiller - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Veuve Cliquot in a special eco-friendly 2-hour chiller – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Heinen’s looks forward to helping you make this holiday season your most memorable one yet. Stop in soon, and let them plan your holiday feast. And for even more great ideas, be sure to visit Heinen’s Holiday Entertaining Guide. It’s chock full of great suggestions and recipes for stress-free celebrations.

Heinen’s grocery is located at, 500 N. Hough Street, between E. Main Street and Route 14 (next to Meatheads) in Barrington, Illinois.  They’re open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit Heinens.com.

Heinen's Grocery Store in Barrington, Illinois
Heinen’s Grocery Store in Barrington, Illinois

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