Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bright Idea: A Fall Dinner Party

Like many current trends, I am heavily influenced by the AMC TV series Mad Men. It's not only one of the single best things on TV at the moment, it's causing this retrospective (zing!) transformation on pop-culture lately. From fashion to home design to etiquette, this show is reviving the 1960's- and I'm totally falling for it. Head over heels.

After watching Joan describe to her husband how Emily Post says to set a table ("You'll be at the head, and I am at the other end and it's boy-girl-boy-girl...I won't have your boss's wife thinking your wife doesn't know how to set a table.") I realized I desperately wanted to master the art of a dinner party.  Hospitality is a synonym for love in my book.

However, dinner parties are relatively hard on the wallet and I don't have a kitchen large enough to accommodate the task of cooking for more than a few (read: 1.5) people at once. How would I host a gathering of my closest friends?

While discussing the dilemma of wanting to throw a celebration of food and friends without independent wealth and a chef's kitchen, my friend Sarah had a brilliant idea. Why not share the load and thus share the fun? Suddenly, despite budgets, we had something in the works. In the words of Betty Draper, "Only boring people are bored."

The plan:
  • Find a menu that featured the flavors of fall and a wine pairing guide.
  • Invite foodie friends to select their course and commit to two bottles of wine to compliment their meal.
  • Secure a location and a date for the party.
The Menu (adapted from The Girl and the Fig cookbook):
  • Goat cheese stuffed figs with Gin martinis.
  • Artisan cheese course.
  • Heirloom tomato salad.
  • Chicken breasts with tarragon mustard sauce and Haricots vert.
  • Rosemary creme brulee.
The Scene:
  • Cocktail dress attire.
  • Frank Sinatra on vinyl.
  • Candles, cloth napkins and harvest themed centerpieces.
The Outcome:
  • One of my favorite nights to date

This night was an amazing success. I knew my friends loved to celebrate, but I did not realize how much. The night began with cocktails on the patio under a brightly festooned tree. Prom-style photos inevitably took place. But when you have so many beautiful people buffed-up and camera ready in one place, you really have no choice but to document it.

We dined for hours, with each course presented by the couple who prepared it. We wined as well, no glass was left empty-- though the frequency of refills varied per person. We toasted to the things we wanted to celebrate in each other, and we roasted the things that were 'ripe for parody.'

The pocketbook does not need to be deep for one to live richly.

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