October 23, 2010

How to have a Secret Supper Club (small scale)

Blog, boy did our family have big fun hosting our first Secret Supper Club.  What's a Secret Supper Club, you ask?  Well, technically it's like having a one-night, private restaurant in your home, where foodies gather to sample a single menu of culinary delights.  They may be friends or friends of friends, but typically an SSC includes more like 25-50 diners.  We went small scale for ours, including our family of four plus the awesome boyfriends.  But what we lacked in size, we made up for in ambiance.

To get the ambiance of our SSC, you could start by launching this recording of Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly with Me."  That'll give you the fun, jazzy, slightly elegant, 60's-style vibe we strove for at Magic House for the occasion.  Hit it, Mr. Chairman!

Our first floor was decked out in classic autumnal/Halloween decorations, and I tweaked the lighting to go for a nightclub atmosphere.  (It worked...Manzi commented, "It looks like Blu [hip downtown club] in here!")  Manzi provided tunes from her old standards CD collection, so we enjoying the musical stylings of Dean Martin and Bobby Darin along with Frank.  For your SSC, pick any era/theme that works for you and your guests!  (I'd like to go for Big Band next time.)

Completely optional for your Secret Supper Club:  cats.

We kept to the theme with the bar service, as I offered specialty drinks for the night chosen from AMC's "Mad Men," classic 60s drinks.  Here's the menu:

And the bar prepped for business:

Theme-oriented clothing was an option for guests (I don't mean "clothing was optional," Blog...SSC is not that kind of a get-together).  I wore a cocktail dress and Manzi went for a 60's mod look. 

Katie looked sharp as always...

...and the guys (as guys will do) were more casual but still nice.  For your SSC, you can leave the style vs. comfort option up to your guests too.

Our dining table comfortably seats six so that was the perfect number for our party.  You may want to go with china and white linens for a more traditional supper club look, or seasonal like we did with our autumnal colors.

Of course first and foremost, Secret Supper Club is about great food.  You don't have to, but we made our SSC pot luck style, because we have a lot of great cooks in our family.  The execution and serving of the meal can be made more enjoyable (we confirmed) if (1) people prep as much in advance as possible, and (2) you serve by courses, which means not too many people in the kitchen at once.  It's also nice to spread the meal out over the evening:  ours took about three hours from start to finish.

Up first was Nate, who prepared the most delectable and unreal appetizer:  tuna tostadas.  He lightly seared some sushi-quality tuna, and served it sliced thin on corn tortilla pieces, topped with black bean and mango salsa, roasted red pepper sauce, and avocado vinagrette.  Absolutely divine, Blog.  We each enjoyed two or three pieces while enjoying our cocktails in the living room.

The next course, eaten at the table, was Katie's pumpkin bacon soup.  She made this delectable, creamy concoction with the perfect combination of subtle autumnal seasonings, a little kick of cayenne, and the best bacon in Wisconsin, Nueske's. 

Words cannot describe the deliciousness of this soup, Blog...I would love to have a bathtub full.  Nevertheless, note that smaller servings are key to a Secret Supper Club that won't leave you gorged and logey!

The main course included:  My salad (a copycat of the chop salad at Maggiano's, with bleu cheese, prosciutto, red onion, a nummy vinagrette, and homemade garlic croutons)....

...Manzi's brie orzo (creamy, rich, and scrumptious)....and a chicken stir fry with orange teriyaki flavors that was technically Chris's dish but prepared by Katie in the kitchen (so, so tasty with that sauce).

After a bit of clean up, we retired to the living room again for coffee and dessert, that being Davie's contribution of chocolate tiramisu.  The tiramisu connaisseurs among us (myself included) thought it was the best version they had ever tasted.  Davie used a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, which we tweaked slightly, replacing the marsala with half creme de cacoa, half Starbucks coffee liqueur, and replacing the espresso with very strong coffee in the Highlander Grogg flavor from Berres Brothers.  So, so, SO delish!

Add to the evening our hysterical conversation in response to Chris's prompt, "If you could put any musical act onto a plane that was going to crash, who would you choose?", and you have the picture of a perfect Secret Supper Club.  Needless to say, we had some very opposing opinions of ABBA, Phil Collins, and the Eagles.

So, Blog, you may be wondering how, in essence, a Secret Supper Club differs from a dinner party.  My answer:  it's all in how you look at it!  The whole point is to look at it as a very special occasion, and do a few little things to make it so.  I'll tell you, the fact that four of the evening's dishes made our Favorite Foods Ever List (the appetizer, the soup, the orzo and the tiramisu) didn't hurt. 

And what made it the most special was that special people made it and enjoyed it together!

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