Culinary personality and author Natasha Feldman took over the Gjusta patio in Venice last week to celebrate the launch of her new book, The Dinner Party Project, a no-stress guide to cooking for friends.
With some expert backup from Gjusta chef Jenn Sills, the sunset dinner kicked off with a snack station featuring Lady & Larder cheese boards, rosemary almonds, marinated olives with sundried tomato and feta, radishes with fennel honey butter, and Tash’s Athena’s Dip Situation with Gjusta pita, alongside Botanist French 75 cocktails.
Dishes from the book included Bee Sting Pizza with pepperoni, pomodoro, calabrian chili crisp, honey, and fennel pollen, and Drunk Veggie with wine-drunk onions, mushrooms, fontina, fresh mozzarella, and whipped herb ricotta.
The family style main courses of cacio e pepe mac and cheese, juicy smoked brisket and rotisserie chicken were accompanied by smashed potatoes with tzatziki ranch, charred lemon broccolini and an Italian chopped salad. For dessert, guests who still had room lined up at the ice cream sundae bar.
“What’s nice about the break from dinner parties as a result of the pandemic, is that we are able to redefine what entertaining is,” the L.A.-based chef told L.A. Weekly during dinner. “We were all still prescribing to this mid ‘90s idea that everything has to be perfect and it was incredibly judgey. Now is a good time for us to assess why we are gathering and what’s important to us and find a dinner party that works for you personally.”
The playful debut book is an accumulation of private chef work, catering, cooking demonstrations and food styling, inspired by her Eastern European heritage. In addition to recipes, there are tips on how to become a dinner partier and the basics of creating a successful dinner party. Her four basic steps include: pick your peeps, pick your place, pick your menu and pick your style. Feldman says there’s a version of dinner parties and hosting to fit everyone — the key is to let go of that pre-pandemic idea of what entertaining should be.
“You should be a guest at your own party and not in the kitchen the whole time, because everyone’s vibe is feeding off of you,” she says. “If you’re all stressed, nobody’s going to have a good time. There are ways to alleviate that. Maybe you order all the food and just make a salad or cocktail. There are flowcharts in the book to help you pick what you’re going to make depending on how lazy you’re feeling. The overarching idea is that everyone can do it, no matter how big or small your space is, to make it feel festive and special.”
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