I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I ended up in the life phase where a ‘mental’ night, means hosting a dinner party for ten.
I have started to set myself masochistic cooking challenges, live and exposed to an audience of my closest friends. This year’s Challenge Anneka was to (attempt) to recreate a life-changing seven course meal meal I had at New York’s The Stanton Social. And to seat ten guests around my six-seater kitchen table…
Seven of us all went to New York together last year. But most of the group arrived a night after me, sadly missing out on one of the greatest restaurant experiences I’ve ever had (gutted for them).
Maybe it was the quantity of the food – a constant flow of ‘small plates’ of American inspired dishes from a fabulous set menu of all my favourite foods (basically posh fast food). Or the ambiance – think mood lighting, floor to ceiling wine and a restaurant full of *real life NYC hipsters*. Or maybe it was because it was my first night in the city (and isn’t the first meal after you touch-down the best, whether it is simply steak frites in a random cafe in Nice or fresh ravioli in a square in Florence?). I was also jet-lagged and on a come down from dropping diazapam at some point over the Atlantic (I’m a crazy flyer).
Whatever happened, that meal at the Stanton, that night, was legendary. I so bummed out my friends who missed it regaling the experience, that it seemed only right to have a reunion where I would recreate that menu.
Oh the things you dream, in New York, with a face full of martini. Of course, back in London and working full time, it turned out to be harder in practice, than in theory. Firstly, the Stanton’s menu from that night last year had changed. And its not like they publish the idiots guide to their recipes online either, so I had to think back and google….
What we had:
- Starter: Cheese and Guacamole Quesadillas. Jamie Oliver’s recipe helped me out here. I think I had ‘hand pulled Chicken Arepas’ at the Stanton, but frankly, it was just too hard to contemplate working out even what they were. Never mind, the quesadillas were a hit and something I’d gladly make again. I also didn’t attempt to make the Stanton’s signature French onion soup dumplings, which go down in my memory as some of the most thrilling appetisers on earth. But thankfully there are other bloggers out there more adventurous than me posting great recipes for this online.
- First Course:’Old school meatballs’ on a bed of rigatoni (I stopped short of making basil and ricotta manicotti as per the Stanton’s menu. I mean, come on). To level with you I just bought the meatballs prepared from Ocado. But I did make a homemade tomato sauce, (another Jamie Oliver recipe). I was sooooo smug making this ahead on Tuesday, but fate had the last laugh when the dish flew at my head out of the fridge an hour before everyone arrived, almost knocking me out and spraying the walls of the kitchen as if there had been some kind of pomodora massacre
- Second course:
- 1. Flash fry steak with herb-dusted french fries. Pretty straight-forward. I made a slapdash marinade of red-wine vinegar, an old can of fosters beer and BBQ sauce (classy is as classy does…), with a healthy dose of celery salt on the fries (the secret ingredient to great fries I discovered after asking a waitress at TGI Fridays). The plan was to also make a chimichurri sauce, but I didn’t get that far. (But I did have all the right intentions with a great recipe lined up from the mother of American cooking Martha Stewart if you are so inclined).
- 2. Chicken n cheesy waffles.This was the ‘challenger’ and even required the purchase of a specialist waffle maker from Argos. My detective work led me to a recipe for balsamic chicken, to mimic the Stanton’s ‘balsamic spiked maple syrup’, along with Martha Stewart’s cheesy waffles. My chicken n waffles looked nothing like the Stanton’s version pictured at the top of this post, but I have definitely discovered a wonderful BBQ blackened chicken recipe for the summer.
- I also served sides of spinach and ginger and orange glazed carrots from the NY Times food section.
Desert:At the Stanton we had just baked cookies and donuts with chocolate dipping sauce. One of my deepest life regrets was having jet lag so bad I had to take myself back to the Waldorf and missed out on ever eating them. So I took the cheats way out and bought two boxes of Krispy Kremes for my guests, which went down well.
Obviously I had to also try out cookies – although I’m still on the look out for a perfect cookie recipe – it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, my cookies always rise up like bad scones….I even followed a recipe from Peyton and Byrne where you freeze the mixture and defrost on the evening. Oh well I’ll have to keep trying, how devastating.
I had so much fun recreating this meal for my friends. But if I had been making this on ‘Come dine with me’ that sarcastic narrator would have had a field day with my lack of organisation, quality of cooking and making my guests sit on outdoor chairs with spiderwebs underneath and a covered laundry basket….But thankfully I was being judged by some of my favourite people, who even gave me a round of applause (perhaps that’s what I subconsciously do these things for?! Let’s not analyse that…).
We ended the night as every ‘mental’ dinner party should, drinking all of the Prosecco available in my fridge (which tends to be a concerning amount) and playing rounds of my favourite game ever Heads Up.
I don’t think my meal was even close to The Stanton’s, which means, perhaps, one day, we will have to go back….