3:00 a.m. and you wake up in a cold sweat. A sea of panic rolls over you. Whose idea was it for you to host this birthday party anyway? Of course you then remember you offered to do. I think your exact words were: “It’s no big deal.” And it’s not really a big deal is it? It’s not like you haven’t hosted parties before.

But a birthday party is different. There is an expectation that the day is going to be perfect (whatever that means) and guess whose shoulders that bad boy falls on? You got it champ – you.


So turn on the bedside lamp, take a deep breath, get a pad of paper and don’t freak out. Make a list – what you’re going to serve, when you’re going to make it and what you’re going to serve it on. And before you start dreaming about baked Alaska and flambéing steaks table-side, think again.


The key to a birthday party – any part in fact – is to do-ahead as much as you can. No one – your guests or you – wants you stuck in the kitchen. It makes you grumpy and they feel vaguely guilty. You miss all the good gossip and are tuckered out before the first bite of food.


So for this birthday party I did it all ahead – well practically. Giant couscous salad with artichoke hearts and black olives; roasted sweet potatoes and red onions with a cilantro oil; tossed salad and French bread. But every meal needs a secret weapon and mine was a honey, chile and thyme marinated pork tenderloin. I let it sit in the fridge all day so the flavors were there then popped that puppy on the grill.


The real secret was the honey. I got it from an amazing woman named Diane Ravens – an incredible beekeeper who lives in Ocoee, Tennessee at foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This is a woman who loves her bees and has been creating amazing honey for almost 20 years. I used her Sourwood honey which has an incredible taste to it – I’m talking spoon-it-out of-the-jar-and-eat it delicious. Using her Appalachian Bee honey reminded me that food doesn’t need to be fussy when you use the very best ingredients and trust me, her honey is the best. You can find out more about Diane, her bees and even order some super yummy honey at www.honeybeesrock.com.

Honey, chile & thyme pork tenderloin

Serves 8-10

2 ½ pounds pork tenderloin
¼ cup sourwood honey or other honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp mild chile molido (or half mild and half hot)
1 ½ Tbsp thyme leaves

Make the marinade by mixing together the honey, olive oil, chile and thyme leaves. Pour over the pork and ensure the pork is evenly coated. Store in a bowl or large plastic baggie. Place in the fridge and marinade for several hours or over night. Remove from the fridge about half an hour before grilling.

Heat the barbecue and remove the pork from the marinade. Sear the pork on all sides, reduce the heat and barbecue until cooked through. I like my pork pink in middle, about 15 minutes total. If you’re unsure, use a meat thermometer (the USDA recommends 145º). But please, please don’t over cook it!

Remove, let rest then slice and serve.