Resolution #2: Tales of a Supper Club
New Year’s Resolution #2: Try new recipes and host more dinner parties.
I already love to cook, and I cook a lot, but sometimes I get a little safe and predictable. Fish, pasta, stir-fry. Lather, rinse, repeat. Dinner parties push me to be bolder and more adventurous in the kitchen, and there is nothing better than enjoying a home-cooked, five-hour-plus feast (and many bottles of wine) with a group of friends.
Brian and I decided to get ambitious last weekend. We invited a bunch of people we know (and some we sort of know) over to our wee apartment for our very first Saturday night supper club. The concept is simple:
1. Send out an invitation to a bunch of people and accept the first 10 to 20 who can make it (we capped ours at 15 because there’s no way we could cram any more into our place), friends of friends and plus-ones more than welcome. Ask people to bring whatever they want to drink, a $20 donation and an empty belly.
2. Create a menu, preferably based on a theme (you know how we love themes). We were originally going to do a Carnival theme in time for Mardi Gras, but scheduling and procrastination got in the way, and it became a Lenten theme (Are you giving up something for Lent? Too bad! We’re probably serving it.).
3. Make the apartment presentable, cook like crazy, eat, drink and be merry!
I’ve been fascinated with supper clubs for a few years, after reading about underground versions in big cities and attending a delicious event thrown by The Ghetto Gourmet, a “wandering supper club” in San Francisco. I love the idea of taking a bunch of foodies– some friends and some strangers– and throwing them together at the same dinner table.
I had toyed with the idea of starting one here but always came up with excuses not to: we don’t really know that many people here, it sounds like a lot of work, what if no one wants to come, that sort of thing. Then Melia and Darren sent us a copy of Forking Fantastic! Put the Party Back in Dinner Party, written by two hilarious women who have been hosting Sunday night dinners twice a month for years in New York City. Their attitude is refreshingly unpretentious and approachable, their recipes and tips are great and their bottom-line message is: you can do this, so stop being a wuss and just give it a shot. That sealed the deal. We had to do this. Read this excerpt from their book and tell me you’re not inspired:
We do it because at every meal, our extended social community reknits itself in a fascinating way: The former priest turned calligraphy professor sits next to the design-school student; the hedge fund guy chats with the environmental activist. Neighbors drop by and meet people who live on the other side of the city. Sometimes they’re all crammed on a sofa together; sometimes they get to sprawl out in the yard and spot lightning bugs in the grass. But our “hungry kiddies” (as we’ve come to call them in our email invitations) always surprise us with their willingness to eat just about anything we throw at them and their enthusiasm for talking to whoever winds up sitting in the next chair. We know from experience: Some of the best friendships are forged around the dinner table– and in the kitchen.
Food, wine, community. These are the things that make me happiest. We had 10 people at our first supper club, and everyone had a blast (or they’re very good at faking it). The food was pretty darn good, the wine and mint juleps flowed generously and the guests got along swimmingly. It was a relaxed, decidedly un-fancy affair, with mismatched plates, plastic folding chairs and brown butcher paper in lieu of tablecloths. Martha Stewart would have had a heart attack, which means it was exactly my kind of party. I’m looking forward to making this a monthly affair, and I hope we’ll continue to have a fantastic mix of people and food.
Check out the complete menu and a few recipes here. Brian is going on a three-month deployment in a couple weeks, so we’ll have to wait a bit for another supper club event, but I’m already brainstorming ideas for the next theme. Suggestions?