A Cozy December Birthday
Having a December birthday in New York always means having to be prepared for snow. When I woke up this year on the day of my 26th birthday party I was surprised to see that the foretasted snowstorm had actually taken form, and the city had been blanketed in powder while I slept. My initial instinct was to go back to sleep and enjoy the calmness that comes from the first snow of the year, but then I realized I had 14 people arriving at my apartment at 7:00 pm for a dinner party that I hadn't even yet to begin to prepare for.
However, unlike the themed dinners that I usually host, which I spend days planning and preparing for, I wanted this one to reflect the lazy and comfortable feeling that one has on a snow day. Rather than attempt an ambitious new recipe like I so often do, I brought out all of my favorite and easy to make comfort dishes. My menu included: bruschetta, caprese salad and garlic bread, meatballs and spaghetti, chicken parm and mashed potatoes. Dessert consisted of a beautiful chocolate cake that was actually homemade by an amazing friend. Usually when I have a seated dinner party I attempt to keep the ambiance a bit more formal by serving everything in courses, but as it was my birthday, I wanted to be able to relax so I set all of the food out at once and just let the meal flow as one continuous course, allowing for the dinner to move slowly, and to be focused more on the people and the conversation than the food.
In terms of logistics, I made an important change to my table structure that made a world of difference to the meal. In prior years I used only two separate tables to create one long table. This allowed for everyone to sit around the table, however the narrow space made it impossible to have multiple dishes out at once. On this occasion I added a third table to the set up which I positioned alongside the narrow table (as they had approximately the same dimensions). This extra width provided a great deal of extra space and allowed for all dishes to sit more than comfortably on the table at the same time, which saved me from having to come up with creative ways to make space in my shelving unit as I had previously done.
Though people find it absurd that I would rather cook for 14 people than go out to a restaurant for my birthday, to me on a cold December evening there is nothing I want more than to be cozy with my close friends over a good meal. Though I love dining at restaurants, there is something to be said about eating in an environment where you're not rushed, friends can come and go as needed, and no one has to fuss over the bill at the end. Additionally, as the space is small, everyone is forced to sit close to one another on either my bench seating or couch, which creates quick friendships between guests who might not have known one another prior to the meal, and grants me my ultimate birthday wish which just to spend some good quality time with those who are most important to me.