You may be curious as to what happens after you sign up for a dinner. What do I do with all the responses you give about what you enjoy eating? How do some survey answers become dinner? Well, let me explain: First, I carefully read your responses. I really want to build my menu around your dining experience. At my April dinner, here were some of the food preferences:
Guest A: Loves avocados, bbq, braised ribs, and asparagus. Does not eat seafood. Guest B: Loves pork belly, greens, and miso. Does not eat lamb. Allergic to nuts and peanuts. Guest C: Loathes oranges. Vegetarian.
(Your responses will have even more information about cherished dining experiences, eating practices, etc).
Next, I start browsing food sites and blogs just for inspiration. It helps me get a sense of what's in season, what foods are good for the climate, etc. I regularly go to Serious Eats, The Kitchn, and Food52 for ideas. Now I'm thinking okay: Avocados are starting to come into season. Asparagus is at its height. There are lots of spring greens to use. Spring garlic and peas would pair well with some of these items.
Then I start thinking of dishes--appetizers, salads, entrees. How can I incorporate some spring vegetables into an entree? Put it in a pasta primavera? Mmm too boring; maybe a risotto? If I already have greens there, what kind of salad do I make that's interesting for spring? How can I get pork belly or braised ribs in there? I brainstorm ways to match ingredients with interesting dishes and techniques.
Once I have a general idea: Okay, let's have pork belly and avocado in an appetizer, a nice radish salad to evoke spring without being droll, and vegetable risotto, I go consult my culinary library for specific techniques and gastronomic considerations.
Now with the specific methods of cooking and dishes pretty much set, I create my menu.
The day of the dinner, I get an early start. I need to begin cooking by noon, so I get up in the morning to get my ingredients on the day of. I do my best to source my produce seasonally and locally, so that means I head over to the farmer's market. I fill in the rest of the gaps from Trader Joe's, 99 Ranch, and Whole Foods.
Then I get to cooking. From around noon until everyone arrives around 5pm, I chop, slice, mix, sear, roast, braise, assemble, and plate. The night before, I've already drawn up an hour-by-hour gameplan of what I need to prep and cook in what order so that I can get those four dishes out ready to go at service time. By five, it looks like this:
Dinner is served. And this is just one particular example; each dinner is different, based on what you want, what's in season, and what I'm inspired to try. Your meal with be created especially for the party. Care to join me and try?