1. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
Two weeks ago. It was a last minute affair. We called up a collection of old friends from different parts of our lives. There were 10 of us and then our kids. We started with oysters, then I made a massive seafood stew--lobster, mussels, Pollack, squid and razor clams with chick peas and aioli. We served a salad with radicchio, arugula, pomegranate seeds, Gorgonzola and toasted sunflower seeds. A friend provided the finishing touch, an amazing homemade chocolate-nut tart. I know it was a great party because we were at the table into the wee hours.
2. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
One August evening, I invited 20 people to dinner at our little house on Cape Cod after shopping at the farmer’s market. I filled a picnic table with platters of vegetables: roasted beets with mint and ricotta salata, wilted greens with garlic and chilis, sliced tomatoes with olive oil and basil, grilled corn with herb butter; grilled squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, potato salad with figs and celery; grilled butterflied leg of lamb marinated in pomegranate molasses, orange, oregano and coriander seeds; grilled bread, onions and garlic yogurt; and for dessert, simply raspberries and cream.
Everyone was happily sipping margaritas and mojitos out on the porch when I heard screams. One of the posts that held up the porch was groaning under the weight of our guests and had started to give way. After getting everyone off the porch and cleaning up the few pieces of broken pottery, we moved the party indoors. People are still talking about the dinner seven years later…the drama of the evening made the food that much better.
3. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
I always drink wine with meals. That said, in the summer I sometimes preface wine with a margarita or mojito, but only if made from scratch; in cold weather, a really good scotch, say a MacCallen 18. I’ve recently started to appreciate good beer since my son and husband have begun brewing IPA at our house. There's nothing like something cold and hoppy to take care of thirst and hunger after working out. But at heart I'm a wine drinker. Wine makes me happy. It is, I believe, an integral part of a meal and therefore of life!
4. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
I listen to a lot of African, Brazilian and Cuban music. They bring life and texture to the party without demanding a seat at the table.
5. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?
We always depend on nuts and olives to start; then pasta, maybe carbonara; a big salad; cheese, dried fruit and squares of really good chocolate. With the possible exception of guanciale, for the carbonara, everything else is stuff we have on hand.
6. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
My husband Ken is a fabulous cook so as often as not, we share the cooking. Sometimes I’m in charge, sometimes he’s in charge.
7. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
Ken can make sourdough bread, but lately our schedules mean that we buy bread from a couple of artisan bakers we know. We buy those yummy Spanish olive oil cookie/crackers and I love to serve them with fresh figs, Greek yogurt with honey and some toasted walnuts. I had a fancy ice cream machine, but never made ice cream as well as our local ice cream shops so I gave up. I love really good Italian dried pasta and all the fantastic pickles that are now available. I never make desserts so I might get a nice soft ripening cheese.
8. What do you like to serve for dessert?
I adore tarts. My favorite thing is Ken's apple galette.
9. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
The Dalai Lama. I cooked for him once and was dying to be at the table with him to listen. Or Jamie Oliver. He says out loud the things we’ve all been thinking. Or Julia Child--I miss her, and she started saying the right things about cooking and eating 50 years ago.
[Photo: Courtesy of YC Media]