About 6 months ago we started hosting dinners in our home through EatWith, a global community that connects guests with welcoming hosts to eat meals in the hosts home. It’s kind of like AirBnb, but for eating. These are also much more than meals you would have if you went to a restaurant, these are experiences.
Every meal we’ve hosted has been amazing. We’ve done mostly Shabbat dinners for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is the night of the week that we typically have people over, and I cook for two days regardless. Secondly, we love to share our traditions about Shabbat. Our meals have been mixes of friends and strangers, locals and tourists, and a mix of different beliefs and religions.
We put a lot into these meals. How we frame them on the website, how the flow of the evening looks, who should meet or sit next to whom, and of course, the menu. I spend so many hours putting together a menu, and then editing it until it feels perfect. Since I have this blog space now I wanted to share the menus and the experience of welcoming a group of perfect strangers into our home for an intimate dinner. It’s really very awesome.
This month’s “Shabbat Table Astoria” was unique in that all our eight guests worked for the same company in Sweden and were in New York City for a work event. None of them were Jewish, but all were very excited to hear about our traditions and participate.
When I plan a menu it tends to be very vegetarian friendly with only one meat dish and plenty of seasonal produce featured throughout. I serve family style, so dishes get passed and everything is homemade. This was the menu:
Two loaves of homemade challah, one plain and one za’atar
White bean herb dip with sage, parsley, mint and lemon
Roasted tomato tart with caramelized onions, topped with fresh basil
Mixed baby kale salad with a pomegranate vinaigretteFor the Main:
Herbed and lemon roasted chicken
Roasted sweet potatoes and grapes with rosemary in honey balsamic reduction
Zucchini, corn, and cilantro frittata
Grilled portobello mushrooms with chimichurri sauce
Lemon olive oil cake
Chocolate chip cookie sandwich
The menu is designed for a dinner party. It keeps in mind when the stove needs to be used and at what temp, what can be prepared in advance and warmed up in the oven last minute, and what can be served at room temperature. For instance the frittata’s ingredients were prepared in advanced, re-heated in the pan, and the eggs were added while Ari was carving chickens because to cook the eggs and cut up the bird take about the same amount of time. Plus you get hot frittata.
When hosting and cooking a meal for complete strangers there’s a balance that I’m still learning how to master. When you host you need to be available to your guests, make sure everyone is comfortable, and that food, drink, and conversation are flowing.
Sometimes that means compromising on other things, like plating. That’s not to say that I don’t work super hard to make sure my food looks beautiful but when I’m shuttling between two rooms and trying to keep a balance they often don’t end up as picture perfect as I would like. But they are family style and rustic.
It also means that I forget to snap photos of all my food. Ari holding chickens was actually shot by Clay Williams for EatWith months ago. Plus the lighting in our apartment by night is so eh..what I’m trying to say is: forgive me!