Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog 2010 Challenge #3: Luxury Dinner Party
I have dinner party phobia. Any event involving food sends me into conniption fits. I know from the moment I start pulling down pots and pans it's going to SUCK. No one will come. If they do, the food will taste like cat litter. People will get sick, or give me a look that says, “You're kidding, right?" Planning an event gets my heart racing, my hands clammy. The very thought of creating an invite list fills me with dread. It’s a lot like anticipating a root canal.
Last Christmas was supposed to be simple–just brunch with the family. All I had to do was fry eggs and make sure the house was clean. Two hours before the party? I was crumpled on the bathroom floor, paralyzed with anxiety. When my family arrived they found me wrapped in my bathrobe, flat on the couch. I faked flu. I guess it wasn't ALL faking. I really was sick. Dinner party plague.
In another fiesta fiasco, I spent weeks planning a barbecue, buying multicolored pitchers for sangria, festive tablecloths, party bowls. Everything was perfect to the last DETAIL. Two people showed up. I freaked out, inconsolable. Why did I even bother? No one showed because they knew the food would suck. They knew the party would suck. Hell, I sucked.
Why the anxiety? Momma was Martha Stewart before one existed. Growing up in the 1950's and majoring in Home Economics (yeah you heard right) gave her a step up onto the Betty Draper platform of housewifery. Dinners were elaborate affairs served by candlelight, much to the chagrin of my Dad, who always complained he couldn’t see a damn thing he was eating.
Momma experimented with exotic food when all you could buy at your local A&P was LaChoy. It’s no wonder when your Mom is making Baked Alaska from scratch on a Thursday and your friends are eating Nilla wafers for dessert you get it in your head food is an EVENT. Lighting, music, linens, all of it is of the utmost importance. One detail left out can RUIN an entire meal. No wonder I become apoplectic at the thought of planning dinner parties. Who wouldn’t?
Nevertheless, when my friend Melissa Brown asked me to host a party, I couldn’t say no. She’s a single mother of 3. Her youngest, Saralene, has CHARGE Syndrome, so her medical bills are astronomical. Melissa wanted to earn extra cash by having a jewelry trunk show. Could I host it? I knew I had to try. I needed a game plan. And some help.
Now there are two components to a dinner party: the dinner, and the party. I had to decide which fear to face. Maybe by focusing on just one I could avoid a straitjacket. Since the ultimate goal was to help Melissa, I decided to get as many people there as possible, ply them with luxurious food and drink, and let the chips fall where they may.
Having it at home was out. We live WAY out in the sticks. The chances of having everyone head to Hicksville for a shindig were slim and none. But, there was a cute jeans boutique in town. I spoke with Laura Van Camp, owner of jean theory, who immediately agreed to host this private event after hours.
DATE & TIME
Since Laura’s boutique is downtown, I picked Saturday from 5:30-7:30pm. We would hit ladies headed home after daytime errands, as well as ladies headed out for dinner. Keep it casual. Keep it light. Drop in when you can.
THEME & INVITATIONS
I needed a catchy theme, something girly. Thus was born “Baubles & Britches!” I called up Amy Eastlack, Empress-At-Large of SuzySaid Cville, a terrific resource for local ladies. She agreed to help organize. I was ecstatic. With her help, there was no way this party would suck. We created an evite, a Facebook event, every angle we could think of. As I already knew, there’s NOTHING worse than no one showing up.
Instead of choosing traditional dinner items, which might end up a major wardrobe malfunction, we chose a champagne tasting with luxurious cupcakes. A dessert party of ultra-girly indulgence. Since the venue was a local business, I’d keep the focus local for the menu as well.
I asked Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes to create gourmet cupcakes. They agreed, even giving me a discount when they heard the party’s purpose. Additionally, their fondant designer Tracy Remington said she’d create designer jean pockets and tiny fondant jewelry to embed in the cupcake icing. Baubles AND britches!
Pair that with fresh fruit from Relay Foods and local sparkling wine and suddenly, this party seemed like it might not be tragic. I actually got a little excited.
I’d be nervously circulating, pouring drinks and attempting small talk, so I begged my professional photographer friend Jacque Bentley to snap some photos. To my relief, she agreed. I took a deep breath. On party day, despite feeling nauseous, I showed up. Not in a bathrobe.
The party was awesome. Thirty ladies bought jewelry, tried on jeans, and made new friends. I saw women dropping raspberries into their champagne and total strangers bonding while trying on jeans. I knew we’d done okay. Never has sipping champagne and trying on clothes felt so good. I helped out a wonderful friend, and conquered my fear a tiny bit in the process.
I couldn’t have done this without Jacque, Amy, Laura, Heidi (my cheerleader), and of course, Melissa. I remain forever grateful. Without them and the generosity of local businesses, I’d still be a party-phobe. I learned it’s okay to delegate. You do NOT have to do it all. Contrary to popular belief, there is no Martha Stewart judge hovering over you with a report card.
With one successful party under my belt, I MAY just be able to tackle another someday. Heck, with enough champagne in me I can do almost anything...
"Baubles & Britches" Dinner Party Menu