How-to: The Potluck Dinner Party

Dinner parties can be daunting to most, but not so much for my circle of friends, we have mastered the potluck party.

Gone are the days of trying to impress, we like to make it easy on ourselves.

But first, the exception.

This was a little party for 6, I was thrilled to be there. This was on  Johnny’s side of the friendship circle. They’re younger and haven’t embraced the potluck schematic.

Our hosts worked entirely too hard.

I don’t mind, I really love being a guest.

Look at this beautiful table. It was so very nice to be pampered.

It was also delicious.

This is how we do our pot luck dinner parties:

We start a text thread with the intended guests.

We decide on a date.

Everyone gets an assignment or volunteers their latest food obsession.

 The host does the main entree, and usually something else. It’s important to take control of the menu, and curate the offerings. It really ups the deliciousness.

In my situation, with a catering kitchen at my fingertips, I usually do  the main, dessert, and my new thing, I make some bread.

These are sweet potato rolls from “Beard on Bread.” Tasty and oh, so easy. I actually had to make them twice. I use my oven as a proofer and I heated it but forgot to turn it off and went to the Farmer’s Market. I came back to a voluminous mass of half cooked dough. Oopsies.

We set the table, fill some water pitchers for the table, and try to remove all the dog hair from the sofa. (Try being the operative word.)

 My friend Gary does personal menus, and it’s super fun. This was a potluck brunch with a crazy delicious mushroom quiche as a centerpiece.

You can see the menus on the plate, so cute.

This is a delightful EXTRA, not a requirement.

Community contributions were smoked salmon and the fixings, vegan potato pancakes with fresh applesauce (I made those), tofu scramble and homegrown cara cara sliced fruit salad. There was also bacon, because brunch.

Gary makes the most delicious puntarelle salad, I can’t get enough. So we had that too, I would have been happy with just that!

I also brought my perfect caneles and imperfect thumbprint cookies.

What’s so delightful about keeping it casual?

Several things.

Your friends will help with dishes, and the dishes they brought will leave with them. (less to wash!)

Guests take care of themselves. They’ll move through the house as if they own the joint, getting their own beverages helping bus the table and making sure everyone tries their offering.

I love when guests take ownership of their culinary prowess, kitchen pride.

So do it, have your friends over for supper.

Assign them their part of the menu, and sweep up the dog hair.

We had our Silverlake posse over last night, we’ve been friends for over thirty years.

We laughed and laughed, talked about the state of the nation, future plans and of course, a little bit about the kids.

We all ended the night with full hearts and bellies and grateful for our time together.

When’s your next pot puck party?

How-to Happy Hour

My mother and her neighbors in Seattle, have a Happy-Hour every night at her house. She has her old-fashioneds, they bring their own booze, and she offers a little cheese and crackers. Sometimes they bring snacks, too. They hang for an hour or two, and then return to their homes for supper.

It’s a beautiful thing, and one that renders me forever grateful. Chef Ma is ninety, and it’s comforting to know her neighbors are with her daily, in all kinds of spirits!

In 2016, I started a monthly happy-hour here on Mccollum Street in her honor.

I’m happy to say it’s been a huge success.

It has substantially raised our vibration on the block!

For starters, we all know each other now, and we do stuff together, like check out the new local restaurants up on Sunset Blvd.

We walk!

After two years of hosting solely at Cottage Cook, I stopped.

Nobody noticed till March. First it was my Johnny.

Him: ” When’s the next Happy Hour?”

Me:  “I’m not doing it anymore.”

Him: “Why?”

Me: ” I’ don’t feel like it, it makes you grumpy, nobody helps and why bother?”

Him, with a bit of a whine: ” but I like the results.”

Me: shrug.

Then the neighbors started piling on. Asking me what happened, are we ever gonna do it again? Can they help? Suddenly there was a gaggle of neighbors outside on my corner trying desperately to resurrect the ritual. (Maybe I swooned a tad)

Someone suggested rotating houses and that was all I needed.

So I hosted in March (they are always the third Friday) and put out a sign up sheet.

And just like that, Happy hour was re-instated.

The week before, I deliver the flag and the lawn sign to the host.

I also do a print out of the schedule with hosting addresses and circulate it to the entire neighborhood. Many neighbors do not come, but the ones that do show up with gusto, libations, snacks and stories. These are the folks that are responsible for up-leveling our community vibe.

Last year we came together and cooked for a neighbor who needed us. She wasn’t a regular happy-hour attendee, but we all knew her and wanted to help.

Every three weeks for several months, we got together in my home kitchen and stocked her fridge with family favorites to make her life a little easier.

Neighbor (and now friend) Dana, got to show off her skills. I loved her labels that came so easily for her. The just fell out of her talented hands like magic.

So last November, I put out the sign-up sheet again. I made the flyers. I hosted November and December  so I could  encourage sign-ups.

A couple of regulars missed the sign-ups and several new hosts stepped in!

We’ve expanded two blocks in either direction, and just this past Friday we had a rousing good time at a new house on a new block.

Turns out, every hosts worries about the same thing.

Do I have enough food? Do I have enough booze? Will anyone come?

And you know what? It works out every time.

We all meet new people (and dogs)  in the neighborhood, and spread love.

Every single time, it’s a beautiful thing.