It all started with a show stopping 11 course meal at Grant Achatz’s gastro palace NEXT in Chicago last month. The intense flavors and crazy modern pairings were the stuff of food porn fantasies. The innovation of the meal left my meat muddled mind (the meal was a steakhouse theme ) reeling. I wanted to take this idea home and reinterpret it on a smaller scale for an intimate group of high concept loving friends. I thought about spring runway trends and the correlations between food and fashion. Why not compose a meal entirely based upon spring trends? I contacted my friend Charlie Baggs, acclaimed chef and founder of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, who develops flavors, menus and products for an international array of brands and restaurants. I sat down with his team and tossed out some adjectives: “edgy”, “contrasts”, “global accents”, “elegance” and a creative firestorm erupted. For “global accents”, why not a colorful roasted beet salad with skordalia and a goat cheese mousee to kick things off? Then, for “edgy”, a toasted farro salad with tangy morel mushrooms, grilled ramps and a piece of dehydrated pancetta that resembled leather. For the “elegance” entrée, a veal tenderloin sous vide would be served with pickled radish and fiddlehead ferns beautifully arranged atop a red wine yogurt demi glaze. With the menu sorted out, I called my friend Alyssa Vitrano to compose drinks pairings. The mastermind of popular wine blog Grapefriend, Alyssa  has a cult following for sassy  narratives that fuse wine with pop culture “moments” that capture the royals drinking in New Zealand, the Oscars’ champagne orgy, the presidential trail  and shows like Scandal and Game of Thrones. Without hesitation, Alyssa booked a flight to Chicago and charted out a plan. A fruity Greek Rose (Kir Yianni Akakies) would enhance the “global accents” of the beets. A hoppy saison ale would bring out the earthiness of the grains. A lush Pinot Noir (Domaine Carneros Famous Gate) for the juicy and elegant entrée. Of course, the meal would be preceded by a bevy of bubbles.

spring party menu

Glamour is always the driving force behind my dinner parties. The key? Fabulous florals (thanks, Bukiety!) groovy place settings, romantic lighting and just a touch of quirk. I love homemade touches and asked my 8 year old to craft “bespoke” name cards for each guest with an artistic flourish hat captured his/her personality. A candlelit Buddha would preside  over the festivities.

Cocktail hour is key to set the tone for a dinner party. Must haves: Lots of champagne and a tableau of interesting nibbles that include  a cheese board, crudité and something unexpected like maple and bacon potato chips. If possible, invite a trumpet player to kick up the energy. Musician extraordinaire Stephen Burns of Fulcrum Point New Music Project tooted everyone into a grand mood.

The meal was sublime, a creative tour de force of food, fashion, music and wine. It was a lot of work but the payoff of spending time with great friends was well worth it. Viva the dinner party!

dinner party