Dinner Party Letterpress Invitations
Nearly a century has come and gone since the Roaring Twenties — the era of Prohibition and secret indulgences, when some of the most influential decisions of modern time were made during private parties in the dining room, not the war room. Today, what was once old is new again with the reintroduction of the modern speakeasy and supper club.
I believe it’s part of our nature to immediately want what was once prohibited. To have what is perceived to be unaccessible. This very notion drew me into my first experience at a speakeasy one night many years ago in New York City. Hearing about a private party with food and drinks that could not be had anywhere else no matter what price, made me want to get an invitation to attend even more so. Part of the allure of private dining clubs and speakeasies are that chefs and mixologists treat their guests as test subjects, seeing how far they can push the limits of the conventional while still providing a stimulating event for all of the senses.
Historically speaking, as recently as sixty years ago the thought of a supper club brought to mind strong social implications — a destination where people got together to share food, drink, and quite possibly a dance or two. The main goal was to really make a night of things by getting away from one’s stressful routine and simply relax away.
The concept evolved throughout the years, ranging from early fondue parties to simplistic fish fries, and moving on to full-blown catered dinners paired with fine wines and artisanal cocktails, the key ingredient always being secrecy.
At present, the supper club is evolving more into a forward-thinking culinary entity for the underground. As diners tire of a normal restaurant encounter, they now are at the helm,
taking it upon themselves to create a revolving premise and location for each event only to be revealed to a select few who are fortunate enough to receive an invite. The menu is shrouded in just as much privacy, often not being revealed until service. The reason for this omission usually stems from the heavy influence farm-to-table dining has within the culture, looking toward the local markets to write out the menus for us. In this way, not even the cook really knows what’s going to be prepared until the day of each dinner, pending what’s fresh and seasonally available.
Those who keep up on the latest inclinations may already be aware of, and quite possibly be participating in, private dinners throughout the Central Florida corridor. This phenomenon has all but bypassed our town. As a community, we can encourage great change to our dining landscape if we show there is significant interest.
Look at your favorite restaurant’s menu next time you visit. Most likely it doesn’t change all that often. That’s because “regulars” get into a comfort zone of ordering certain menu items,
thus causing the proprietors to stick to a staple of options. Believe me, this happens all over the country. It’s safer this way. I will bet you that past the dining room, buried deep in the kitchen, is a forward-thinking cook, aching to get a chance to let his or her creativity fly — creativity which is not satisfied simply by making up the occasional special. Cooks who still have a deep passion for cooking also have a strong desire to create. These instinctively go hand in hand.
As food appreciation grows and becomes completely mainstream, a person like this might not even be in the restaurant industry. To clarify, more and more we are seeing people who are not employed within or by the service industry, yet they have a growing knowledge of food and would love to share their most likely self-taught skills with a larger audience. These kinds of people are causing the resurgence of supper clubs. Do you find yourself watching food-based television on a regular basis, picking up little tricks of the trade every now and then? If so, you might just fit the mold as the next generation of dinner host.
From time to time we have our friends over for an impromptu meal or simply a glass of wine and some good conversation. Most likely the meal consists of dishes we are comfortable making any day of the week with little to no preparation required. What if on certain occasions, we made things more spectacular, grander — something of a night to remember for all invited? Maybe even make a meal that can’t be found on any menu, one that would make any chef downtown jealous that they didn’t think of it first. A new, secret supper club conceptualized in the comfort of your home perhaps?
Not everyone can devote as much time as is needed to produce a large-scale traveling circus of gastronomical proportions. But we sure can try our best with what we’ve got! The following is a guide to the basics of a starting a small secret supper club that you and your friends can enjoy.