It's been 20 years since I attended my first adult dinner party. It was my senior year in college, and after receiving the Silver Palate Cookbook as a gift from someone, one of my friends felt that hosting a dinner party would be fun (and certainly a lot better than eating from the cafeteria meal plan we had at the dorms). I think his model was the yuppie couple du jour: Michael and Hope from "30 Something." The plan was that our host would attempt to make Chicken Marbella, and guests would bring bottles of cheap wine and candles to help set the mood.‚ We were so grown up. The food may have been just o.k. and the wine passable, but it was the comraderie and the conversation I remember the most.‚ Some people would hook-up after a long, fumƒ© blanc-filled night of reverie.‚ Everyone chipped in for clean-up and the whole night might have cost each of us $10.
Fast-forward two decades; the idea of the dinner party isn't lost, it's just become a lot tastier.‚ There are dozens of talented chefs hanging out in Chicago; many of them have left dead-end restaurant jobs or just felt their creativity was being stifled, standing on their feet for 15 hours a day, chopping vegetables into a fine brunoise. Some of these chefs have started their own businesses, and others have resurrected the private, invitation-only dinner club.‚ The only difference is that they're not cooking out of books by Sheila Lukins anymore and they're charging for their work (the BYOB policy, however, still stands).