The plan was simple. Dinner for six at our house on Saturday. The menu was set, the flowers were in full bloom and the fridge was stocked with ingredients. Then, that day, an unexpected illness created two empty seats at the table. We were down to four.
I called my neighbor two doors down to invite her and her husband over last-minute, but as fate would have it, they were throwing a dinner party as well.
Suddenly, an impulsive notion hit me. What if we combined our friends and our food and had a spontaneous communal dinner party at our house? They and their guests could dine here and then afterwards, we could repair to their home for al fresco dessert in their sumptuous garden.
My neighbors, being good-natured and fun-loving souls, agreed. Plan B was a go. In three hours, eight people -- four of them total strangers -- would be at our doorstep. As I hung up the phone, a brief twinge of panic coursed through me. Would this really work?
The Divine Italian was galvanized into action. From the kitchen, I heard the opening strains of a culinary orchestra. A lush cacophony of chopping, slicing, dicing, blending, pulsing and grinding filled the air.
I added four more place settings to the table and sent out an urgent bulletin to every chair in the house that I was calling them in for immediate conscription.
Extra champagne glasses were set out, a doppelganger hors d'oeuvres tray was assembled and the house was subjected to an intense primping session.
I had just applied a last lashing of lipstick when, suddenly, the brass bird knocker announced our guests had arrived.
As soon as I opened the door and saw the smiling faces on my doorstep, I knew that this would be a night to remember. The spontaneous nature of the evening had us all in a state of heightened excitement. We ate, we drank, we chattered, we laughed and we toasted to strangers becoming fabulous new friends.
Sweet pea soup with mint and creme fraiche
Filet of halibut with salsa verde
Beef tenderloin with carmelized onions
Roasted acorn squash and new potatoes
Toward the end of the meal, I finally remembered to take a photo for posterity.
Afterwards, we hiked one hundred feet to the next house, sat outside in a sexy Shangri-La of a garden, feasted on an extravaganza of marzipan cake with raspberries and a whipped cream and fresh fruit tart straight from heaven, and lost ourselves in wee hour conviviality.
Oddly enough, feeling slightly on the delicate side this morning. I'm chalking it up to lack of sleep (because it couldn't possibly have been the Prosecco. Or the wine. Or my neighbor's legendary pomegranate martini.) I'm craving something fresh and straight-from-the-fields and check the fridge for some of the pea soup from last night, but it's all gone. In a massively kind act, Piero whips me up a fresh batch from scratch.
That, coupled with "Widow Barnaby" by Mrs. Fanny Trollope (funny! divine! j'adore!), comprises my recipe for a night and a day well-lived.