Posts in Literary Dinner Party
Browsers Cookbook Book Club | Spring 2018 Edition
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

For the first time in nearly a year we were able to attend this together (you can see that one right over here) and it was just as amazing as ever. 

If you aren't familiar, our favorite local bookstore, Browsers, in Olympia, WA, hosts a quarterly cookbook book club, and we were welcomed in to attend and style the event. The concept is simple: once a season they pick a cookbook, and members make a dish and bring it to share. A dinner party ensues as everyone sits down to enjoy a meal and conversation together in the loft space above the bookstore. It's such a great idea, and proves books don't have to be high literature to be a connecting force. This was their spring event, and members were to cook from either Delancey or A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. 

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For this event we wanted to keep the vibe springy and cozy, while still maintaining a modern aesthetic to match the feel of Wizenberg's books, and to reflect the season. We cut up some bunches of eucalptus from Trader Joe's and wove them around various candles in a color palette of sage, rose gold, and white. We also evenly spaced flower arrangements from Fleurae along the length of the table for a good dose riotous springtime color. The table was set, the wine was opened, and all that was left was to wait for guests to arrive. 

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We have to admire the complete transformation this space has undergone since the last time we were here. The bookstore did some major renovations and reimagined the entire loft space as well as the retail space directly below it to update their safety standards and to modernize the look. Those months of construction were well worth the time, because it is absolutely stunning now; we can hardly believe it's the same space!

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With the arrival of all sixteen guests bearing various bowls and platters of delicious things, the evening really got started. Everyone was invited to load up their plates and sit down for good food and even better conversation. Every time we've attended, we've noticed there is always this warm, buzzing energy as people connect and laugh together. It always feels like a whole table full of friends even though most people were meeting each other for the first time. We were especially excited to get to meet our instagram friend Krysta in real life!

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It took hours for the conversation to wind down and the food to disappear from the tables. Half empty bottles of wine and guttering candles were strewn along the table as everyone filtered out and another wonderful event came to a close. Thank you, Browser's for hosting this event and allowing us to take part in it!

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VENDORS

Styling | The Ardent Biblio

Venue | Browsers 

Flowers | Fleurae

Pottery | Mariella Luz

Literary Dinner | Platters & Boards
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*this book was gifted to us by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but we loved it so much we decided to dinner party it! Also, some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support.

We love our elaborate literary dinner parties, but sometimes the best evenings are spent with something we put together on a whim. We often decide to have dinner together on a weeknight where we throw together a casual meal and let the kids play while we watch TV, chat, and relax with a drink. Simple, effective, and fun for everyone. 

Recently, we were gifted a review copy of Platters and Boards by the publisher, and as I sifted through it at my kitchen table one afternoon, I was completely inspired by how effortlessly we could pull together a weeknight meal from it. We had already agreed to meet for dinner the next night, so we decided to give it a shot.

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Luckily, it ended up being a gorgeous evening, so we decided to soak up the nice weather and set up outside. My trusty white tablecloth was draped over my patio table, a summery table runner brought in some texture, and flowering succulents placed in colorful vases added interest. Some scattered candles, plants, and pretty objects pulled from various corners of my house, plus my favorite drink tray helped fill in our casual decor with minimal effort.

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Drinks are always on the menu for our weeknight dinners together, and a warm evening called for my all time favorite summer cocktail: Moscow Mules. Three ingredients mixed in pretty copper mugs yields the most simple and refreshing concoction. The trick is plenty of lime and a spicy brand of ginger beer, especially if you're going to mix it on the stiff side. Trust me, when it comes to this cocktail, there's nothing worse than a watery one.

 

Michaela's Moscow Mules

  • 2 oz vodka
  • half a lime
  • ginger beer 
  • ice

Fill copper mugs with ice. Add vodka, squeeze in lime, and top with ginger beer to taste. Give it a stir, and cheers!

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For dinner, we pulled together a few platters and boards (hah, get it!) to cover the major food groups and keep it interesting. We made the white bean hummus dip from the cookbook and paired it with tons of our favorite fresh veggies, topped the book's recipe for crostini with our beloved Trader Joe's bruschetta (find it in the fresh section!), and loaded a big cutting board with plenty of meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, caprese skewers, truffled potato chips, marinated artichoke hearts, and spicy pickled vegetables. Pretty much the tastiest motley of all our favorite things. 

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Table laden and fresh drinks in hand, we sat down to just relax, snack, and talk. We set the kids up on a picnic blanket on the deck and let them load up plates with whatever caught their eye. We could hear them giggling and playing games amongst themselves while we took turns entertaining the baby and flipping through the cookbook, earmarking recipes we'd like to try for future dinners this summer.

We've been friends for 7 years now, and our conversations winds and flows from what we've been reading, to that adorable thing our kids said the other day, to general life stuff. One of the best things about dinner parties remains that they bring us together in a real way. A pretty setting and good food to enjoy with your best friend and suddenly you forget your phone and your hard day, and just relax into the moment. There's just a particular brand of magic that comes with these literary dinners, whether they're on the simpler side or more elaborate, and that's why we love to do them. 

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Really though, this style of eating completely suits warmer weather when the idea of turning on the oven sounds like torture. It lets you pull whatever you have in your fridge and build a meal with minimal prep or effort, and the results are frankly just straight up fun to eat.

The book encourages riffing on their ideas with your own tastes and gives practical tips for how to build an attractive, balanced board, which was honestly the most useful section for me. It also does a wonderful job showcasing how easily boards can be adapted to any kind of meal, which I hadn't really considered before. Like a brunch board? Um, yes please. 

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As usual, we completely lost track of time, and before we knew it my strings of solar lights winked on, and the evening was growing darker. Our kids ran and chased in the gathering dusk, and our candles burned lower as we reluctantly cleared up and headed back inside to say our goodbyes. Dinners like this will probably become a staple around here; it was honestly just too easy and enjoyable to not repeat!

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Have you ever considered doing a dinner party in this style? Would you? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Literary Dinner | My Kitchen Year

This was another of Anne's recommendations to us on our episode of What Should I Read Next! In My Kitchen Year, Reichl chronicles her experiences in the year following the demise of Gourmet magazine, of which she was the editor. This cookbook/memoir is a good mix of accessible and aspirational; she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. There's also a strong focus on seasons, farmer's markets, and using seasonal produce to produce phenomenal food. Soooooo of course the first place we went was our local farmer's market! 

We make a habit of having a kid-free morning together on the weekends while our husbands are home, so we met up early at a coffee shop around the corner from the market to get some caffeine, breakfast, and quiet time to pour over the book. An hour later we had some solid inspiration for what we might make for our dinner, and the market was officially open. 

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The rhubarb was too beautiful to pass up! Reichl's recipe for compote looked easy enough and would be the perfect sweet-tart topping for fresh vanilla ice cream, so of course we picked up a pound of it.

The next day it was time to put our produce into action and pull off a seasonal spring dinner for our families. In typical PNW fashion, the weather careened wildly between misty rain and brilliant sunshine, and though we were hoping for a warm, rich golden hour, what we actually got was a mild, but cloudy evening. 

Reichl talks a lot about adding simple touches to elevate a meal's setting, and of staying true to your own style and not making anything stressful. Taking her advice, we simply pulled Rikki's picnic table over to her garden, and topped it with some basic flower arrangements and candles I had on hand. The milk bottle vases are from a local farm and previously contained half-and-half, while the addition of a few rose gold accents created a cohesive feel. A basket of fresh produce, simple dinner plates, some striped napkins, and a few blankets dropped on the benches to add some cozy finished everything off.

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What's a spring meal without some fresh drinks? We muddled fresh mint and blueberries in a cocktail glass then topped it with vodka and sparkling lemonade to cheers the changing of the season. Easy, effective, and wonderfully refreshing to sip on while we prepped food and chatted about the book. 

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We used recipes directly from the book and kept things simple: grilled chicken dunked in vinaigrette, roasted potatoes, perfectly al dente asparagus, and a salad topped with hard boiled eggs from Rikki's chickens. Everything went into serving bowls and found it's way out onto the table. 

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We popped open the prettiest bottle of rosé, passed the food around, and set the kids up next to us on a picnic blanket while they giggled and played games amongst themselves. The adults gathered at the table and settled in to enjoy the meal, pulling blankets onto laps as the evening cooled and darkened, while the conversation never slowed. 

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As expected, the rhubarb was indeed the perfect tangy, not-too-sweet topping for the rich sweetness of vanilla ice cream (thanks, Ruth!). Even the kids devoured it, to our surprise! By the time the candles were guttering out, it was bedtime for our little ones, and we reluctantly cleared up and parted ways. A definite success for our first outdoor meal of the season!

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Thank you Anne, for this phenomenal recommendation, we thoroughly enjoyed it!