If you read the New York Times, you will know that the dinner party is dead. But if you read the New York Post, you will know that the dinner party is alive and well, it’s just not your parents’ dinner party. And if you read the Atlantic Wire, you will know who is responsible for the resurgence of the dinner party—hipsters.
But are their dinner parties ironic? Christy Wampole has yet to weigh in. But I’m going to say, no. Hipster dinner parties are not ironic. And that is the last thing I will ever say about hipsters and irony. Today, anyway.
According to the Post, the new form that dinner parties take include “high-end dishes” because, as 23-year-old dinner party aficionado, Lauren Ratliff, puts it, “When my guests come over, they’ll be served what I would eat, which happens to be better than what 90 percent of people eat.” Well, then! Just what is on the menu chez Ratliff? “The evening started out with an appetizer of scallops in an herbed broth with baby radishes and ended with a dessert of caramelized roasted pineapple with creme fraiche.” That does sound delicious, actually.
So, why does the Times think the dinner party is a doomed tradition? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly for a newspaper that has only just discovered Brooklyn, it is because they interviewed people like Louise Grunwald and Judith Peabody who, while lovely people, I’m sure, are not perhaps the trendsetters that they used to be. I mean, when Grunwald laments, “It’s over. You may want the dinner party to come back, harkening back to another era. But it will never happen,” it’s kind of hard not to think to myself, well, maybe you’re just not getting invited to the newer version of the dinner party. The Times headline asks “Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?” and the answer, it seems, is clearly “old people.” And people who work at The Times. Sad, really, but that’s life, I guess. Relentless.
I mean, I can only speak anecdotally and my friends are not aging socialites and I have never hosted Nancy Reagan as one of the Times’ subjects has, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I haven’t noticed the dinner party’s death. On the contrary, the home dining scene is thriving. Just because people don’t send out handwritten invites anymore, it hardly means that no one gathers for a formal dinner. The Post points out that, “More New Yorkers are staying in and cooking. According to the 2013 Zagat Survey, city dwellers are cooking at home (6.7 times per week on average) more than eating out (6.4 times per week) — for the first time since Zagat started tracking the data seven years ago.” Which makes sense because, while the New York restaurant scene is amazing, there is nothing quite like gathering in someone’s home where you can listen to whatever music you want, not have to worry about the math involved with splitting a check, and have a cute, little dog running around.
As a big fan of dinner parties, I will now share with you my three big tips for throwing a successful dinner party that all your guests will remember and want to replicate:
1) Drinks: Get more alcohol than you think you’ll need. The worst thing that can happen would be that there will be leftover alcohol. Which, that’s never a bad thing, are you crazy? Full bar. Wine, beer, lots and lots of hard liquor. It’ll be great.
2) A Theme: This can be as simple as “Holiday” or as involved as replicating the feast at Satan’s Ball in “The Master and Margarita.” No specific food was mentioned at this ball, so you’d have to be inventive, but c’mon. “Feast at Satan’s Ball” is an AMAZING dinner party theme. Just do it.
3) Be Prepared: Don’t serve anything that needs to be cooked at the last minute. You want to relax, not be working. Plus, you’ll be drinking. So, you don’t want to be deep-frying pickles or something when you’re tipsy. That’s just an accident waiting to happen. Relax. Have fun. Eat and drink. Be young.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen