Monday, February 27, 2012

Preparing for a Dinner Party (or, a Party with Dinner)

February is generally my second least favorite month, beaten out only by the even colder and even gloomier January. But for the third year in a row Paul and I have tried to beat back the winter blues by hosting an annual themed dinner party.

It's not a dinner party in the traditional sense. There's no long table with place settings and formal courses. It's more a dinner party in the sense that we have a party and make dinner. We barely have enough seats, but there's plenty of plastic silverware, foam plates and Paul's food for all.

The first year we didn't know what to expect, so we hosted a relatively simple "brinner party" for about a dozen people, serving up sausage souffle, a frittata, miniature quiches and more.

Last year we had about twice as many guests and a menu of some of our comfort-food favorites. Dubbed "A Feast of Midwestern Delicacies," we (mostly Paul) made food like deep-dish pizza, Cincinnati-style chili, green bean casserole and buckeyes.

And so this year, we decided to take things a step further with a French dinner party, which we hosted this past Saturday. No matter that neither of us had quite mastered the art of French cooking. Unless reading "Julie and Julia" counts.

After three years of hosting these parties, I've learned that the most stressful part isn't what you would expect. It's not the cleaning -- that gets done, and soon the place is so crowded I doubt anyone notices the spots I missed anyway. Paul always makes plenty of food, and since guests tend to bring drinks, there's always lots in the fridge. No, the most stressful part is booking the oven. This year we made a list of dishes, the temperatures they cook at and for how long, before deciding the order in which they would be cooked.

But inevitably everything turns out fine, and everybody walks away happy and full. At least I hope. And after the oven gets turned off, we even get to enjoy ourselves, surrounded by some of the best New York friends we've collected over the past 4+ years. On Wednesday: photos and highlights of Saturday's festivities.

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