Last night I read an article published in the New York Times in 2000 by William Grimes called “Dinner for 7: What Could Be Easier,” describing an elaborate dinner party he hosted that year. I recognized my own process several times in the article, like when Grimes is “float[ing] in a dreamlike state” contemplating dishes like Thomas Keller’s foie gras au torchon before settling on something (a little) less elaborate. I always have this impulse before I throw a party, and in fact I call it the “Thomas Keller moment,” when I’m planning to make his confit of pork belly before I tally up the amount of time it would take to make it … the four other courses I’m planning.
The following especially struck a chord with my mood at the moment:
The dinner-party instinct is irrational. More often than not, entertaining involves blood, sweat and tears. It can be a one-way ticket to recrimination and regret. For the guests, of course, it’s a sweet deal. They bring a bottle wine or a bouquet and, presto!, they’re inside the velvet rope, ready for a stress-free evening of food and wine. For the hosts, the point can seem more obscure, especially an hour before the guests arrive, and more especially an hour after they leave
But still the urge strikes, again and again.
Can you tell I’m struggling with the menu and planning for a dinner I’m having in two days? I primarily blame the weather. After a blissfully cool summer the temperature jumped up to 101 degrees today, and I’m finding it dreadfully hard to motivate to run around from store to store or stand over the stove making stock. Right now I’m waiting for sunset–or at least until it drops below 90 degrees–before I head to the kitchen to make the pastry cream that’s going into dessert.
Honestly, I’m looking forward to the party–or at least I will be when the heat wave breaks tomorrow and I shake myself out of this heat-induced lethargy–but I must confess to a serious case of hostess envy after reading this article. In addition to dedicating what seems like days shopping and prepping, Grimes buys the following:
- Rabbit from D’Artagnan
- Venison, black truffles, and mushrooms from Urbani
- A selection of fine Alsatian wines
- Additional wine glasses and a pizza stone
- Flowers for two different arrangements
This is, of course, in addition to various meat from the butcher and vegetables and other ingredients from an expensive grocer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Perhaps if I entertained less often, I could afford to bust out with the truffles new stemware for a party, but as it is, I have to consider every expense. But rest assured, when I win the lottery, I’m putting in a huge order with Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and chilling an ocean of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.