You’ve probably heard of a progressive dinner, a supper club, and/or a pub crawl, but in my neighborhood we now have our own version of a combination of all three: the Suppacrawl.
A few months back, during what I am sure was a riveting conversation at our neighborhood book club, remarks were made that a few of us grew up using the word supper instead of dinner. No doubt owing to my tendency to slip into a Boston accent when chatting casually, particularly over a glass of wine, we laughed at my memories of the evening peals that rang out “Suppah!” all over my neighborhood. In a fit of good cheer inspired by the camaraderie of my smart and sassy book club neighbors, I suggested that it might be fun to invite the husbands and wander from house to house for a little bit of dinner and drink. A wee wassailing, if you will.
Seriously, I don’t know what came over me. While I love these neighbors, short of short-order cook, bartender, or in-house responsible adult, I don’t normally volunteer my husband’s time, and never his bodily participation, in my harebrained social schemes. But now, I’d done it. I really put myself, and him, out there on that one, because, much to my surprise, the rest of ladies loved the idea! Since my oldest provides babysitting services for four of the six book club mothers, it was quickly decided that she would babysit all of her charges at a neighbor’s home, and we, the parents, would be free to rove from home to home en masse.
Thus, the suppacrawl was born.
Having six couples ready to do the ‘crawl, I divided the meal into six parts: amuse-bouche and aperitif, appetizer, soup or salad, the entrée and wine, the cheese course, and dessert and after dinner drink. I then assigned each course to a different couple and hyperlinked to suggestions (or explanations when necessary). A week before the event, I sent out the seriously strict schedule and let the rest take shape by itself.
Overall, I’d considered it a fabulous success.
I was greeted at the first house by gentle jeers regarding the breakneck pace I had set for the evening. Knowing human nature, particularly human nature under the influence of alcohol, I needed to make certain that we had time limits to keep us moving, and so, I flung it right back at all the would-be scofflaws and delinquents and stuck to my guns – or watch, as the case may be. Shortly thereafter, we were each presented with a Cassis drink. I enjoyed a Kir Royale for the first time and was delighted by its sweet, dark, bubbliness and particularly, by the toast (to me, of course). The amuse-bouche, smoked mozzarella in phyllo with fig and honey, not only amused our mouths, but also a majority of the party who had never heard the term for the chef’s choice dinner starter!
After twenty minutes, we sent out the next couple and slowly moved toward their home at the 25 minute mark for appetizers. Authentic Greek appetizers. Yum. I heartily enjoyed the buttery spanakopita and some minty meatballs (can’t for the life of me remember the Greek name) with Greek yogurt, dill, and cucumber dip and some red wine before moving to the next stop: soup. At the third home, the smart hostess offered large glasses of water with our meals in addition to wine. (Knowing that she had Aquavit as a leftover from our Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book club meeting, I tried to score some of that, too, but thought better of it when our host actually brought it out for me.) We were presented with the most beautiful butternut squash bisque and crostini with fontina cheese. It was delicious, perfectly warm, and in keeping with the fall theme. Again—yum. Then Stephen took off to attend to our entrée: Frenched lamb rib chops, risotto with morels and parmesan, and grilled asparagus.
I gave the party strict time instructions and followed him by a few minutes. I actually ran down then up our street in a leather skirt and ballet flats – I was going for this Laura Petrie/retro housewife look in my grandmother’s too-small, fur-collared wool coat. Trouble was, with the exception of the leopard print ballet flats, I was totally in black. Not the brightest choice for walking around the streets alone at night. As I heard a car approach, I actually took a picture of the street so my camera’s flash would at least signal that someone was in the hollow! Happily for me, disaster was averted. I wish I could say the same about the risotto.
Knowing that he had at least an hour and fifteen minutes between the time we left our house until the time he needed to serve, my husband had quite a challenge in keeping the food warm, without further cooking. While the lamb was reddish-pink and absolutely delicious, the risotto, rather than its usual creamy goodness, was a dried out stack of individual Arborio rice grains. This was particularly sad for one of our neighbors who is a vegetarian and so got only dried-out risotto and asparagus as her entrée. Her husband didn’t mind, though – he got her extra lamb chops and sent her own her way to prep the cheese course.
I assigned this neighbor the cheese course because at every book club, she and I fight over who’s going to sit nearer the cheese. Of course, I always win—or lose—depending on your point of view of the role of cheese in your diet. As it turns out, she couldn’t handle the cheese course and reportedly dropped her prepared platter on the floor before we got there. Luckily, she had enough time and leftover cheese to provide us with my favorite taste combination, tomato, basil, and mozzarella – at least, that what she told us. At five doors away, this was the furthest neighborhood house (although, if we included driveway length, the one serving soup would have probably won that honor). Here, we got to relax and mill about enjoying the wine and cheese prior to heading out for the last course: dessert.
It must be said at this point, that I had been eating according to the principles of the Whole 30 until four days prior to this event (like its strict time-table, its scheduling date was no accident). During the first five courses, I had already eaten phyllo dough—twice, bread, rice, and lots of cheese, and wasn’t going to toe the line at the red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting! [insert slow sigh of sweet satisfaction here] The welcoming smell of coffee when we entered the dessert house almost lured me into some decaf, but the hostess offered me some Godiva chocolate liqueur, and that was that.
The evening, scheduled to end at 9:30, ended at 11PM as I suspected it would. In addition to a really fun time, I learned a thing or two I’d like to share with you:
1) Seventeen year-olds can develop a sense of pride by opening wine bottles with a waiter’s corkscrew.
2) A neighborhood event is sure to become a trending topic of conversation among the neighborhood kids, even if they are not involved.
3) Never underestimate the potential enthusiasm you can generate for a crazy idea.
4) Risotto does not keep creamy and warm, easily.
5) Always sit at the kids’ table: oddly, the wine is better there.
6) Unless you are a commando, don’t wear all black when traveling at night. (No matter how cute you think you look!)
7) Kir Royale and Godiva chocolate liqueur will go on my cocktail list.
8) Cold, clean water can taste like a treat.
9) Always schedule the couple with no children at home, to host dessert.
10) My neighbors are terrific, and my husband is the best.
11) Build it and they will come. And eat it.