One of the things I was determined to include when I created my life list back in 2010 was hosting a grown-up dinner party. This might seem sort of a simple thing to add to a list that's supposed to represent awesome things you are unlikely to get an opportunity to do in day-to-day life, but the truth is that since Marcus and I became parents, hosting an adults-only dinner party felt almost impossible, like make-believe. I mean, Alex is generally with us for any meals we have at home, and the only time Marcus and I have adult-only meals is when we get a babysitter, and go out for a date night. And while this isn't a bad thing (Alex generally makes delightful dinner company), I remember when I was a kid, my mom and dad would have these really fancy dinner parties, and my sister and I would be at the top of the stairs, peeking over the banister, watching all the grownups with their glasses of wine and delicate canapés, thinking it all looked so elegant and grown-up, and dreaming about when we could do it ourselves.
Alex needed to have memories like this. So hosting a grown-up dinner party made the list.
Last February, when I went to La Crema's winery and vineyards, I happened to mention this life list item to Aimee, the wonderful woman who took me all over Sonoma. "At some point, I just want to have a dinner party with great food, great wine, no kids -- just a really lovely, intimate evening with close friends."
"Yeah?" Aimee thought for a moment. "You know, we could help you with that."
I raised an eyebrow. "Can you?"
"Sure. Tell you what: you throw the party, we'll supply the wine."
And because I'm a very smart woman, I did not wait for more than half a second before saying, "Deal."
"One thing," continued Aimee, "is there any chance you can wait until May to hold your party? I mean, obviously, we'll help you whenever, but in May, La Crema is releasing our new varietal -- in addition to our pinot noirs and chardonnays, we're now making a pinot gris. We're really excited about it, and if you'd be open to it, it would be great for you to try it at your party."
Since they were being kind enough to provide the wine for my little event, I could hardly refuse this request. And so we waited, and this past weekend, I finally had my dinner party.
I will admit that once the decision had been made that this was actually going to happen, the pressure was on: who should we invite? How could I be sure that whoever I invited got on with each other?
And what the hell food goes well with pinot gris, anyway?
So first things first: Marcus and I talked, and we decided to invite three other couples: our dear friends Trish and Carl, Matt and Jodi, and Katherine Center and her charming husband, Gordon. These folks didn't know each other very well, so in a way, it was somewhat of a risk getting them together, but I've mentioned before that Trish and Carl are close enough to be family, and the others are people we adore deeply, but often lament we don't see them nearly as often as we'd like. So we left it to faith that since we have such strong feelings for all of these people, they would love each other as much as we love them.
Then it was time to fret about the food: and after really working myself up trying to figure out what we should cook, we decided at the last minute that perhaps we should go ahead and spring for a caterer. To be clear, this is not something we're in the habit of doing (who did we think we were, Kardashians?), but we managed to find someone who has a great reputation and cost surprisingly less than I imagined it would be, given that it was such a small party. The caterer and I quickly settled on a menu, and I emailed it to Aimee, who chose and sent several wines to pair with the foods we were having -- featuring, of course, the new pinot gris.
Once this was all settled, we busted out our wedding crystal (it goes well with our IKEA "china"), put together a playlist, and away we went.
The party, I'm thrilled to say, was a resounding success. Gary, the caterer, was amazing -- the meal was positively delicious, and honestly, it was such a relief to not have to think about food preparation, and instead really enjoy the company of my friends. And speaking of my friends, they all seemed to love each other: there was never -- not once! -- a lull in the conversation, and Alex (who was spending time with her babysitter) said that it was fun to hear us all laughing uproariously all night long in the other room. The next day, Trish and I spoke on the phone: "It was so great," she enthused. "Everyone, each person, had a story, and we got to hear them all. Everyone was so funny, and so quick, and we all connected. And the amazing thing? We didn't even talk about our kids until the end of the evening -- there was so many other things to talk about. It was so ... entertaining."
It really was.
But here's what I learned: while yes, I'm so pleased that the dinner went well, and I'm feeling pretty awesome that I managed to achieve something really meaningful from my life list, there's more. There's something about breaking bread with people you love, in the comfort of a home (as opposed to a restaurant), and away from daily responsibilities and routines, that is deeply restorative and bonding. And while we often beat ourselves up for working too hard, or not incorporating enough quality time with our families and friends on a daily basis, it's times like these -- when we actually create events or celebrations with good, good people -- that deepen friendships, and bring joy and gratitude. This time, Marcus and I created the event with the help of a caterer and gifts from an awesome winemaker, but of course, you don't need all of that. I remember equally fulfilling dinners at home with friends that in the past, frankly, that involved nothing more than good music, a few judiciously-placed lit candles and a bucket of chicken. Nonetheless, no matter how we do it, I think we owe it to ourselves -- and our friends and family, people who are important to us -- to create these events, these moments of joy, even if (or maybe even especially if) we do it only occasionally. It's what, I think, that in our twilight years we'll remember fondly as evidence of living a good life.
And of course, having really good wine during these times definitely helps.
Songs: In preparation for the party, I spent quite some time putting together a playlist that I thought would help everyone feel at ease, go well with conversation and would have a song or two that I knew each of the folks who I knew well would respond to. The entire list had about 40 songs on it, but I chose 14 of my favourites to share with you here.
Click on the image below to hear what our dinner party sounded like.
Thanks so much to the awesome folks at La Crema Wines, who gave us some of their amazing wines (including their brand new pinot gris) for our fancy (or as Alex says, "FAHNsay") grown-up dinner party. (For the record, while I love their chardonnays and the pinot noirs, I've always been a pinot gris fan, and La Crema's is, no lie, a new favourite.) This post is part of La Crema's Make Your Moment campaign: La Crema celebrates the deliberate decision to create something fantastic, and invites everyone everywhere to create meaningful moments each day (something that I'm obviously very fond of doing).
You can learn more about La Crema, their wines and the Make Your Moment campaign here.