Today we continue our two-part Q&A with the ladies behind the great book Forking Fantastic! Put The Party Back In Dinner Party. Co-author Tamara Reynolds (isn't her headshot awesome?) shares her favorite simple dessert ideas, love of Sabra hummus, and why seasonal produce is the best menu inspiration. Thanks, Tamara! (Click here for part one of the interview with Zora O'Neill)
1. Name, occupation, and city
Tamara Reynolds, freelance cook, food writer, hostess of the Sunday Night Dinner in Astoria, and co author of Forking Fantastic! Put The Party Back In Dinner Party.
2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
The other night I had my upstairs neighbor and her visiting family over for dinner. It was a very casual thing; mushroom risotto, braised artichokes, salad, and peas with romaine lettuce and mint, but it felt so good to cook some spring food (finally!!). We ran out of wine and just as we were about to go into the liquor cabinet for after dinner libations, my husband came home from a very long workday. Probably the best end for a Monday night!
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
My God. One best? I seriously cannot play that game. What I can say is that any dinner that has started with "I just had to cook dinner because these artichokes/figs/asparagus/ramps/melons/etc were so beautiful" always turns out well. I am often inspired by seasonal produce.
4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
They all have their place--- beer is especially refreshing on a hot day outside, or with very spicy food, cocktails are an excellent aperitif that prime your tastebuds, but for dinner, wine is always my choice. It is not just a drink, it is a food-- made from grapes! And when paired well it can enhance your dinner- bringing out sympathetic flavors, etc. So much more than just a thirst quencher!
5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
I want to listen to music that matches my mood. Or puts me into the mood I want to be in. Karl often takes a couple of songs or artists that I suggest and makes a playlist-- he is especially adept at that. Peter owns a bunch of 70's Ethiopian pop on vinyl that I love to listen to when I am at his and Zora's house. It always sounds so good late at night.
6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?
I would probably ride my bike to the produce stand and butcher down the street. Maybe chicken thighs braised in olive oil, wine, garlic and olives over some saffron rice and a salad? Some other vegetable that is in season? Mmm, that sounds good!
7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
I usually cook everything myself, although I love to cook with close friends. There is something very intimate about cooking with someone else- especially in small NYC kitchens. Karl is especially great at dessert; when he is around, I love to have him tackle desserts I want to eat but don't have the patience to make.
8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
I tend to make everything from scratch except Sabra hummus. Zora and I joke that it is the equivalent of crack. They do such a good job with it, truly I have no improvement to offer. Otherwise, I enjoy the challenge of making things from scratch. Plus, then there is no doubt of what it contains-- I made it.
9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
I have gotten on a kick lately of serving fruit over greek yogurt. It is easy, and I always have both items around. Crepes are always an easy last minute thing, requiring only flour, milk, sugar, and butter. Browned butter over a crepe is pretty damned good no matter what the season.
10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
You know, as corny as it sounds, I would LOVE to feed Thomas Jefferson. He was a farmer, a vintner, wine aficionado, inventor, statesman, scholar.... all of my favorite qualities! Seriously, I think he would be a fabulous guest- he could bring wine he made, vegetables from his garden, maybe some little invention that would make my life better, and then talk about France, books, ideas, and the creation of the US. That is a dinner party I want to go to!
[Photo credit: Patrick Harbron]