Hipsters Saved the Dinner Party
The New York Post's Sara Stewart reports that our mourning of the dinner party came too soon. It's not dead at all; it just changed locations, and its cast of roving characters.
Remember that article from The New York Times Styles section, oh, say, a week ago, in which Guy Trebay bemoaned the likely death of the dinner party and all of its formalized elegance and civility? Ah, well, the New York Post's Sara Stewart now reports that our mourning of the dinner party came too soon. It's not dead at all. It just changed locations and its cast of roving characters. We had a feeling people were still eating dinner ... in groups ... at their homes ... and so on.
But here's how we do dinner parties now, according to Stewart's piece. You might not recognize them! If you are Paul Wagtouicz and Noah Fecks, you choose recipes "from one of the 815 issues of Gourmet magazine they’ve collected — that’s every one ever published, from 1941 to 2009 — cooking multiple courses from scratch to perfection and serving them by candlelight in their Alphabet City 'micro-studio.'” They will be having dinner parties for "more than 15 years to get through every issue." Dinner parties, therefore, are not simpler and more slovenly. They are fancier. They are restaurant-worthy. They are Gourmet. Vintage-Gourmet.
After all, as Stewart writes, "If you’re going to compete with the awesome, ever-multiplying culinary hot spots in New York where your friends could be eating — but aren’t because they came all the way over to your place, a major slog from the subway station on a chilly night — you’d better be prepared to dazzle them with a gourmet meal, perfectly mixed cocktails and heady themes and conceits." Your friends, you know, are hard to impress, the McKayla Maroneys of dining. They all have the Food Network on their TVs, those of them with TVs, anyway. They weren't born yesterday! Thus, the dinner party is not only not dead: The ante has been upped. Five courses instead of merely three. High-end dishes. Recipes ripped from the pages of now-defunct magazines. Um, this, in one case:
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. They went so far as to move their furniture out of the living room to fit a rented dinner table.
More people are eating at home because of the economy, perhaps, but also, more people are just eating at home, for a "more intimate dining experience." And really, let's cut to the chase: It's about hipsters, that hipster hybrid, foodie-hipsters (fipsters? fooipsters? hoopsters?). That's who saved the dinner party. Want proof? Vintage issues of Gourmet magazine! Also, in the illustrative photo of Stewart's piece, Noah Fecks is wearing what appears to be a modified trucker cap, scandalously tilted ever so slightly askew atop his head, which also features a beard and dark-framed glasses. There you have it. And this, from another Noah, Noah Karesh of online dinner-party service Feastly: "We have this whole movement away from the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, like with pop-up [restaurants] and food trucks. People want to feel closer to their food. And restaurants can lack a sense of dynamic-ness, a sense of authenticity.” Authenticity and food trucks? Mmmhmm.
If you still don't believe me, consider the dinner party proclivities of Brooklynite Jess Kantor, who has named her regular gourmet gathering with her friends “Chez Bushwick"—just steps from Très Brooklyn! At a recent dinner, this one offsite in the country, there was hand-kneaded fire-baked bread, fire-roasted fish, kale. It was, said Kantor, "the most epic dinner party.” Alive and well, thank God.