Many years ago, a friend introduced us to the concept of having a “Gourmet Group.” Our friend’s group has been meeting half a dozen times per year for more than twenty years! Their culinary adventures and the rich friendships that have grown out of their shared cooking has always been very inspiring to Greg and me. Over the years we have tried to set up something similar for ourselves with mixed results. In the last year, however, we have found the right friends and the right format.
A Gourmet Group is basically an updated take on an old classic: the dinner party. In fact, it is pretty much an American version of a low-key French dinner party. In this model, a host plans a theme and a menu complete with recipes. Everyone in the group selects which dishes they will cook and brings them prepared the night of the party. Somewhere between a high-end dinner party and a low-key potluck, a Gourmet Group is a gorgeous blend of fussy food and relaxed guests.
Greg and I are serious introverts and naturally prefer not to have too many social commitments. Gourmet, however, is one of those things that doesn’t feel like a social commitment, it feels like a celebration of who we are and the friends whom we deeply love. Gourmet takes our friendships and amplifies them by bringing us together in a common adventure.
In our Gourmet Group, we generally host (for reasons specific to our particular group), so we take care of the food that has to be served hot as well as the primary protein. Each of our guests bring two dishes to contribute to the table from the recipe choices we supplied. Because our friends stay overnight, they also bring food for the relaxed Sunday brunch.
In our particular situation, we try to make it a weekend event. This way, we can go to church together, have a long and lazy dinner, stay up late and play “Settlers of Catan,” and spend Sabbath together. It is so important to us that this be about fellowship at least as much as it is about the food. We are serious about the food, but we are even more serious about having meaningful time for friendship.
The rest is pretty simple: gather, pray, toast, snack on appetizers, enjoy a beautiful meal, load the dishwasher, stay up way too late playing games, then head to bed happy and full. I wrote a related post here which explains how I prepare our home for this kind of a weekend. I also wrote a post here that explains my secret ingredient for success: a recovery day.
In case you are wondering: yes, our children are present. In this season of life, our children are old enough to taste everything that is served and then eat a pizza in another room while they watch a movie. After their movie is done, we all come together to pray before the kids go to bed. It helps that we chose Gourmet friends who are generous and loving with our children. It also helps that we have trained our children to know what their role is in our office of hospitality. I can’t wait to see how the dynamic evolves when our friends begin having children!
Here is a peek into our harvest themed dinner last month:
Fig and Fennel Caponata – Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) Foolproof
Caramelized Bacon – Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) Foolproof
Pork Loin with Port and Fig Sauce – Giada De Laurentiis
Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Creme Fraiche – Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty
Bumped Up Brussel Sprouts – Guy Fieri
Salted Caramel Brownies – Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) Foolproof
On Sunday we had a more low key menu. Some of our recipes here:
The quiches are from Costco. The white bread is just a baguette with store bought fig compote.
In addition to our brats, hot dogs, beer and left overs, Hattie made these delightful Salted Carmel Thumbprint Turtle cookies.