When I was young I remember my parents hosting dinner parties for their friends. I also remember them cooking fancy meals for each other. I will never forget them eating escargot and feeling totally freaked out as a five-year-old watching them eat it. I just always thought this is what adults did with their friends.
Although there is a revitalization amongst twenty and thirty-somethings now in regard to hosting dinner parties and cooking gourmet meals, I think it can seem a little overwhelming for many people. Recently a group of friends and I have found a creative and fun way to cook and enjoy regular gourmet meals plus enjoy the fun of a dinner party.
Last fall a group of 8 of us (4 couples) decided to start what we call Fancy Food Club. We also refer to it as Fancy Dinner Club or Snobby Dinner Club. The premise of ours is that we’d meet every 5 weeks and we would rotate who would host each time. We recently finished one full rotation of hosting.
Before I tell you about the most recent dinner, I’ll explain FFC a bit further and give options to make this concept work for you.
For starters, we are lucky enough to have many friends who love to cook really great meals. My husband and I actually have enough friends to create several of these clubs. This is why I’m so glad I have other outlets to cook like the occasional small dinner party we host or the monthly Food Swap. If you only know of a few other people in your area who love to cook, don’t worry because it’s actually better to keep the group a bit small.
How to make your own Fancy Food Club:
-Find a group of friends who want to do this with you, and won’t flake out. I know that may sound mean, but it would be a bummer if you have people bail on you and you have to swap people out midway through.
-Keep the group size manageable. If you are lucky enough to have a large group of fancy food loving friends, it may be best to split into a few smaller clubs based on other factors such as food preferences/restrictions, compatible schedules, etc.
-Decide if the members will each have a night to host and cook or if there will be a common meeting place with rotating cooks. Don’t let your super small house or apartment keep you from preparing a great meal for friends! See if you can fit folding tables and chairs in your space, and if you can’t you should check if one of the other members will let you use their place when it’s your turn to cook.
-Pick a schedule that works for everyone. Also, check to see if you should keep it on a set day and time or if you need to remain a little flexible.
-What are the rules for the food? This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s best to keep eating choices and food restrictions in mind when planning this part. Also, decide what “fancy” means for you and your friends. If everyone but you expects traditional French cooking at each dinner, but that’s a bit much for you, make sure you speak up.
Don’t forget, you can do entire themes with these clubs too. Some ideas are: local food only, historical recipes, celebrity chef recipes, strictly seasonal, a different ethnicity at each dinner, and the list goes on!
-Will you allow members in who don’t cook but are willing to contribute in other ways? You may have a friend with an amazing home to host or who is willing to provide all the drinks and even help with setup and cleanup but seriously hates cooking. As long as they aren’t just looking to mooch off a good meal, it might not be bad to add them to the mix.
So far with our full rotation of four dinners we have enjoyed such dishes as butternut squash filled wontons, cassoulet, Moroccan lamb kebobs, and most recently a full spread of tropical-themed courses. Each dinner has been unique, fun, and absolutely delicious.
Our friends Lea and Sam hosted the most recent dinner and some of their children even assisted in serving us and clearing the table! When we arrived they had a cheese and cracker spread as well as bottles of wine and a full martini bar. We actually had a lot of fun using the Mixology app to come up with different martini creations, while Lea and Sam kept busy in the kitchen.
Here is what they served:
-slow roasted pork chops
-kebabs loaded with shrimp, pineapple, mushrooms, and red onion
-a cold dish of honeydew melon, fried shrimp, sugar glazed walnuts, coconut, and a cream sauce on top (recipe below)
-amazingly tart key lime pie
Fried Shrimp with Melon, Candied Walnuts, and Coconut
1 large honeydew melon, balled
2 cups walnut halves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup of heavy cream
1 pound of the biggest shrimp you can afford
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup rice flour (or whole wheat flour )
1. Ball the melon, set aside.
2. Candy the walnuts: Mix the walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in a frying pan over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes.
3. Combine melon balls with the heavy cream and candied walnuts. Set aside to allow flavors to develop.
3. Frying the shrimp: Combine the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, coconut flakes, and flour in a bowl to make the batter. Dredge the shrimp to pan or deep fry; both are delicious.
4. As soon as the shrimp is fried and drained, mix with melon/cream/walnuts and serve ASAP. It has the best flavor when the hot shrimp is paired with the cool ingredients, and keeps the shrimp from getting soggy.
Now just decide who can be in your FFC and get cooking! If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m curious if you already do anything like this with your friends or if you think you’d want to start your own.