Monday, February 12, 2007

Taking Big Bites in Small Spaces

In all my time living in New York City I have never hosted a dinner party. Concededly, you might ask, how is that possible, you host your supper club every few months at your apartment? Well, there’s a slight distinction, it’s splitting hairs, but there is a distinction. In New York City catching up with friends has always involved a dinner, but never one that I have cooked. Perhaps constrained by space, proper cooking utensils or a table that seats the dinner party, my friends and I, like most New Yorkers, meet at restaurants to see each other and catch up on life events. But, at the same time, why wouldn’t we eat at restaurants? This is New York City – the restaurant capitol of the world.

Despite the allure of trying a new restaurant or enjoying a favorite dish at a favorite restaurant, I decided to forego the traditional New York City dining experience this weekend and opted to entertain at home. Casting all apartment insecurities aside, I committed to a dinner party for four over the weekend. The prep work for this dinner, which far exceeded just a trip the grocery store and liquor store, turned the ease of a home-cooked meal into a challenge: how to make a small New York City apartment conducive for a dinner party?

Having a dinner party in a small space is not easy. With little storage, New Yorkers become packrats, storing items in small crevices, on top of each other in closets, under the couch and bed and of course under anything that has a little space. For me, my apartment, although always clean, isn’t very neat. The apartment needed a complete makeover before I could begin making my dinner.

On Saturday, I scrubbed from top to bottom, threw out unnecessary items and shoved everything I had aimlessly lying around – including my vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, large stock pot, puffy winter jacket, handbags and books into my one closet, which was already experiencing an aneurism from what was already stuffed in there.

After a full day of organizing and shopping, I finally was able to think about cooking, which was the only thing I really wanted to do that day. Given the recent cold weather I decided to make my beef bourguignon again (hereinafter BB). Once again, I paid homage to Anthony Bourdain and bought some great tender meat at his restaurant, Les Halles. For a detailed description of my BB, please see Beef BourguignYum.

After all of this – cleaning, scrubbing, purging, organizing, decorating, buying and preparing – we were finally able to entertain. The BB was just as good as the first time I made it. It had a strong and powerful flavor that seemed to undermine the small space we were eating in. Sitting around my small coffee table in a space that is about the size of a suburban walk-in closet we were loving the food, the wine and most importantly the company. So despite all the constraints about dining-in, we were able to take and enjoy our big bites in a small space.

Until next time…

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