With Jill Donenfeld & Tiana Tenet, co-Founders of The Culinistas
I remember the first time I threw a dinner party – one where I actually followed recipes and attempted a *tablescape*. I was in my late 20s and had my first solo apartment that actually had room for a couch AND a (small) dining table that we were able to squeeze 7 people around. I used my oven for the first time. We ate a lot of food, drank a lot of wine, had a lot of laughs and everyone lingered into the wee hours of the morning as the dinner party gods intended. (This was before we all had kids, natch.) It was a hit! I loved every single second of it and my love of entertaining friends has only grown from there. But, I had also spent basically all day shopping, cleaning/decorating, prepping and cooking for the party, and then a good part of the next morning cleaning up (in my cozy (aka crappy) little apartment without a dishwasher). Throwing a dinner party requires a lot of time and work by the cook/host – you have to plan the menu, shop for and prep the food, and then stage the cooking of everything so that it is completed at the right time in the right order at the right temperature, ideally not turning your kitchen into a disaster in the process. I actually enjoy cooking generally, but all the prep and monitoring and serving can prevent you from really relaxing and enjoying quality time with your guests. At least it does for me (maybe that’s just because I’m still not very good at it yet). But fast forward nearly a decade, add in 3 kids under 6, a full-time job, and everyone’s increasingly-hectic schedules, and the time and effort required to execute a dinner party with friends is a hurdle that I just don’t have the energy to leap as much as I wish I did. And when I do, I’m running around trying to make sure everything turns out well and at the right time, and before I know it it’s all over and I feel like I didn’t get enough quality time with anyone.
Now imagine hosting a dinner party at your home another way: Your guests arrive to a delicious array of appetizers and a refreshing signature cocktail. You get to greet and chat with everyone while enjoying said apps and drinks, before sitting down at the table for more sumptuous fare fresh out of your kitchen, cooked from fresh groceries someone else shopped for and prepared in accordance with a menu you designed together. Top it all off with a mouthwatering dessert and lingering great conversation across the table with wonderful friends. Meanwhile, your kitchen is being transformed back into an immaculate space (that looks 100% better than its usual state) and any delicious leftovers are neatly stored in your refrigerator. This is what it feels like to throw a dinner party with the help of The Culinistas (and why I look so happy in the picture above!). In addition to their weekly in-home meal prep and postnatal nutrition offerings (which I wrote about here), their chefs are also available for dinner parties and special occasions. All I had to do was set the table, arrange some flowers, throw on some music, and enjoy being pampered right alongside my guests. Heaven!
I created the tablescape above with gorgeous blooms from Farmgirl Flowers. ↑
Arabella loves a party and wanted to help me greet every guest. 🙂 ↓
She also needed to sample the hors d’oeurves – the most delicious lamb meatballs with herb sauce.
She decided her pajamas weren’t festive enough so added a tutu – a brilliant move met with rave reviews.
She provided a little entertainment while we sipped on drinks. Jokes + coffee table yoga = always a crowd pleaser!
I got to enjoy catching up with my friends while, in the kitchen, magic was happening. Our menu:
Fennel Chard Salad – swiss chard, apple, kohlrabi, fennel, goat cheese, lemon, sumac, cayenne, onion powder
Sea Bass with Shaved Carrots – sea bass, carrot, orange, tarragon, pistachio, garlic, sumac
Cucumber Tabbouleh – cucumber, sugar snap pea, red quinoa, parsley, scallion, lemon, urfa, sumac
Herb Roasted Cauliflower – cauliflower, ras el hanout, basil, chive, cilantro, mint
And with that, dinner was ready! We made our way over to the table and Jill and Tiana helped serve up their delicious fare, sharing a bit about what we were eating and answering our questions about their business and services. Then they left us to enjoy the amazing food and each other’s company.
For dessert, we had Banana Walnut Bread – banana, walnut, coconut sugar, flour, egg, butter, baking soda (The Culinistas always tell you all the ingredients in the foods they prepare which I love knowing!) topped with creme fraiche. I also *may* have had this for breakfast the following two mornings. It just went so well with my morning coffee.
Dessert went fast, the last of the wine was poured, a few more laughs and hugs were had, and everyone headed home. I then went into the kitchen to start cleaning . . . WAIT, NO I DIDN’T BECAUSE IT WAS ALREADY DONE! The only battle I had left to fight was getting Bella to put down the leftover meatballs and finally go to bed. We sauntered off to her room together with full tummies, happy hearts, and a delightfully clean kitchen. I’m already looking forward to summer and recreating this party on our building’s roof deck!
*A huge thank you to The Culinistas for sponsoring this wonderful evening and post. All photos by Sylvie Rosokoff.