My First Ever Pop-Dinner: A Recap

Dude. I did it. I hosted my very first five course meal pop up dinner without any major catastrophes! And I also had the pleasure of having a best guinea pigs ever for the event. Below is the menu, the prep schedule (for those curious about how I broke up my day), and the stuff I learned.

The MENU:

To refresh your memory, the plan  was the following:

The Hits
Saturday, August 27 at 7:30pm
$30
The Cocktail: Watermelon Mojito
Pita served with a Trio of Mediterranean Dipping Sauces
White Bean Soup with Bacon, Thyme and Curried Brown Butter
Chimichurri Panzanella Salad
Banh Mi Tacos
Lavender Lemon Poundcake

 

I chose these particular recipes because I had made them before and I knew that they would turn out passably, if not phenomenally, even if I were in a crunch. In addition, I knew that I could prep a lot of it ahead of time, so I was like no worries. Until I actually had to do it and realized how much work it would be, lol.

The PREP:

Part of my prep was purchasing a full dinner set for 6, which is my ideal number at the moment. Thank god for Amazon Prime, because within two days of deciding to do this, I had bread and butter plates, salad plates, soup bowls, dinner plates, silverware, dessert ramekins, highball glasses for cocktails and new stemless wine glasses as well as placemats. (And if you’re wondering, you’re right, I didn’t really have any of this before and generally drank my wine out of a chipped cat mug. Sorry not sorry).

It’s certainly nice to have an actual set of dishes and I’m feeling rather proud of myself.

5PM FRIDAY – FARMERS MARKET AND HIKE I had really grand plans to do so much of the prep on Friday, but when I got off work at Friday at 5, I was already exhausted. I did make it to the Farmer’s Market and picked up the fresh produce for the salad and appetizers. By the time i got home it was 6:30pm and the pups needed a hike so that took an hour and was exactly what I needed to decompress and get going, especially with good conversation with my neighbor/friend Haley.

8PM FRIDAY – TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE: I was ready for bed, but Haley convinced me to get to the grocery store and pick up everything else I needed.

9PM FRIDAY – WINE: After the two trips to get everything from the car, the idea of frying up bacon was a no go. So Haley and I drank wine and talked about our boy problems.

6AM SATURDAY – CHORES: I woke up in a blind panic, bc my house was a mess, I didn’t have my flowers, nothing was prepped and Sophie and Bowie were tearing around the house destroying a rope toy. I walked them really quick

8AM SATURDAY – COFFEE AND FLOWER MARKET: I flew to the flower market, which is my weekly habit anyway.  For the flowers, I chose orange protea, yellow and orange dahlias, eucalyptus and rosemary as well as some yellow billy balls.

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9:30AM – NOON SATURDAY – FOOD PREP:  I got home and immediately seared the meat and bunged it into the crockpot with the Asian seasonings so it could cook for most of the day. I also fried up bacon and the mirepoix and added the beans and stock for the soup. Then I threw that in the over until I was ready to do the finishing touches. I made the cake batter, croutons and little toasts as well as marinated the chickpeas. Once I did that, I did my floral arranging, then hand-painted menus and placeholders for the table.

NOON – 2PM – REST/DOG WALK: Because our house was due for a good clean, I hired Handy to come and do it for me. That took so much stress off and the woman did an amazing job. I took the pups for another walk so they could nap while I worked and also to give them some extra weekend TLC. I also just vegged for a bit and read to muster some energy.

2PM – 5PM – CHOP CHOP: I made the bruschetta and threw it in a tupperware for the flavors to meld. I didn’t add the basil yet so it wouldn’t wilt. I blended the tapenade up and threw that in the fridge. I also chopped the tomatoes, the avocado, the cheese and made the chimichurri sauce for the salad. I finished the soup by emulsifying it and added the cream. I chopped cucumber for the tacos, made the sriracha mayo, and put the cake in the oven.

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5PM – 6:30PM – ODDS AND ENDS: I laid out the table, made a few of the dishes to photograph, laid out the dishes I needed and also took a shower.

6:30PM – 7:30PM – COCKTAIL PREP, CLEANUP: I muddled mint, sugar and limes into six glasses and juiced the watermelon. I mixed up them mixer and alcohol, and set everything out to be poured exactly when the guests arrived. I also assembled the bruschetta and tapenade. At first, I was going to do a communal serving plate, but I didn’t like how casual that would be, so I just made little toasts and served them on a platter. I wiped everything down, put out my prepped dishes and garnishes and waited.

7:30PM – 11:30PM – DINNER: As I said, I was lucky to have such a great first group. They were chatty and friendly, which allowed me to get things together in the kitchen. I was surprised with how everything flowed. While people drank the cocktail and had the apps, I assembled the salads. Then during the salad, I browned the butter and heated up the soup. During the soup, I assembled the tacos, etc. As I cleared the plates, I’d pop them in the dishwasher and so the counters were kept clear. The hardest part really was just keeping everyone’s glasses filled with wine.

THE EVALUATION:

  1. People loved the opening cocktail and said was a nice lubricant to get everyone talking and feeling comfortable with strangers.
  2. The olive tapenade, which I was worried about, was a sleeper hit. Even though I originally was going to serve it with pita, I ended up cutting a dip and just using toast for the bruschetta and tapenade. I feel like it classed up the appetizer.
  3. The chimichurri sauce was overall enjoyed, especially with the cheese to temper it, but guests warned about the polarizing flavor of cilantro. (Also I forgot to add the avo, so that went on the tacos instead.)
  4. The soup and the tacos were the favorites and were devoured.
  5. The cake went over well as well, especially with the fresh cream.
  6. Guests did say that even with the smaller portions, they were stuffed to the gills and thought the meal and wine and so on were under-priced for the value.
  7. In addition, they didn’t think it was weird that I didn’t have a spot at the table and thought it would be weirder if I was getting up and down all the time to serve. They thought my introductions of the courses as well as the few anecdotes I shared stimulated conversation.
  8. Sophie, who was surprisingly well behaved, also received rave reviews. Though having a dog around can be off-putting to some people, they thought she added to the overall warmth and coziness of the dinner.
  9. Guests suggested that I do themed dinners and that may generate more interest if the menus are directed at a very specific aesthetic.

Overall, the dinner was better than I expected. People tucked in, had a great conversation and I was so proud of how it turned out. I am exhausted for sure, but it was totally worth it and I’m so excited to do my next one!

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