Young New Yorkers are ditching the potluck for elaborate dinner parties
- Last Updated: 2:08 PM, December 5, 2012
- Posted: 11:20 PM, December 4, 2012
What's the secret to a memorable New York dinner party? For Paul Wagtouicz, 39, and his boyfriend Noah Fecks, 38, it’s carefully choosing 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.”
“We do one issue a week,” says Wagtouicz, who works as a food photographer and estimates it will take him and Fecks more than 15 years to get through every issue.
Gone are the days when one might simply boil some pasta, whip up a basic tomato sauce, heat some bread, invite pals over and call it a feast. 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.
“A dinner party might need to be a little bit more thoughtful than it used to,” cautions Geoff Bartakovics, founder and CEO of the daily food-and-drink-culture newsletter Tasting Table. “These days everyone is watching food television, subscribing to magazines and eating at great fancy-casual restaurants,” he says. “They simply know more. So I think you do need to try a little harder.”
Web producer Laura Ratliff, 23, certainly puts some effort into it when she and her boyfriend host dinner parties with high-end dishes, often ones they’ve had eating out.
“When my guests come over, they’ll be served what I would eat, which happens to be better than what 90 percent of people eat,” she boasts. “The last party, we did five courses — we went a little all-out with it.”
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.
The rise of such high-maintenance dinner parties is part of a larger trend: More New Yorkers are staying in and cooking. According to the 2013 Zagat Survey, city dwellers are cooking at home (6.7 times per week on average) more than eating out (6.4 times per week) — for the first time since Zagat started tracking the data seven years ago.
Of course, that’s partly due to economics, but it also seems to reflect a desire for a more intimate dining experience, says Noah Karesh of Feastly, an online service that helps connect dinner-party experts with wannabe hosts.