We teamed up with Sonos to throw a #PlaylistPotluck at Editorial Director Peter Meehan’s NYC apartment, where guests RSVP-ed by adding songs to the night’s soundtrack. Check out the playlist here, and read on for Peter’s tips for a night of entertaining.
Something you should know about me is that I am old and I have babies and the way I party has changed.
Long gone are the days in which my wife Hannah and I would occasionally cast aside our responsibilities—minimal to begin with—to spend all weekend, like, making a stridently authentic multi-course Moroccan meal out of Paula Wolfert’s Cous Cous and Other Good Food From Morocco and eating it on the floor. Now I write books like 101 Easy Asian Recipes. We have to do things in the morning.
So let’s get into how to party in a way that doesn’t ruin your life for days before and after but still seems credible and is most of all fun.
Fuck hot food and plated dinners, ok? That stuff is what restaurants are for. Similarly, you know those Instagrams of long tables lined up with matching plates and flowers and perfect light and stuff? What you’re not seeing are the nails chewed down to stubs, the fights that went into picking the menu, the balance on the trust fund that paid for it, or the cost of TaskRabbiting every last-minute thing. Fancy parties are for fancy people, and I’m not one of them.
The home zone is for doing it family style and for making sure as little of your menu needs to be hot to be good as possible—and that approximately 100 percent of that heating can happen in the oven.
Speaking of being fancy, I got to have a chef come over and cook at this party. Trying not to be too fancy, I asked Alex Raij to do it because she’s actually a friend. Alex and me and Hannah talked about dinner: we wanted it to be vegetarian-y and seafood-y. Also I didn’t want it to be overly themed—I think there’s a youthful tendency to try to make “authentic” menus, but Alex is an Argentian who cooks Basque food in New York City in the twenty-first century. I just wanted things to be easy and delicious.
The practical takeaways: empanadas are very great for this sort of situation. Maybe particularly her empandas. When we were planning for twenty guests, she proposed bringing thirty-five empanadas. I protested that there’d be too many. Was deeply wrong. My seven-year- old ate four of them before the party even started. Alex also brought a torta pasqualina, a big pastry torte of mortadella and eggs and greens. These sorts of things— savory, filling, and made ahead of time—are perfect party food.
Snacky toast things—okay, fine, the Spanish have words for them like pintxos and tapas—also work wonders. What you do is buy a nice fancy protein and pair it with good bread. We can all do that. Alex served uni with fresh tomato on garlic-rubbed toasts, which was as delicious as you would imagine, and lomo paired with vanilla butter, which sounded insane to me but ended up being pretty genius.
There were a bunch of smart salads, which we all ate because we are aging and vegetables are good to eat, and then this crazy tuna casserole-fideuà mashup dish that felt simultaneously cosmopolitan and homey and was ballast for all the wine we drank.
So, because I’m secretly a suburban dad inside, I thought, “I’ll get a couple bottles of champagne, a case of white, a case of red, and then I’ll be set.” Then I asked Jordan Salcito, a multifaceted wine genius who oversees wine for the Momofuku restaurants and has a wine label called Bellus and a fancy canned wine cooler called Ramona. She listened patiently to my idea and then completely discarded it. What I learned from what she sent:
Big Bottles are Better. For a party of this size—twenty or so folks, some drinking, some not—magnums make it around the room once, so everybody gets a glass-ish, but you’re not getting blisters on your fingers popping bottles. Plus even for fewer folks, they seem festive and say “party” in a way that standard bottles don’t. If most of your wine is en magnum it adds an element of fancy to your otherwise non-seated, non-plated dinner party that makes it feel special.
Better Wine is Better. I generally buy good wine but not terribly expensive wine, even though I like the nice stuff. But rather than set me up with boxes of everyday wine from good producers, Jordan set me up with hard-to- find bottles of significant pedigree made by people who all had cool backstories, stories that I could mumble to my friends while I filled their glasses. Even if you’re serving guests who might be one-or- two glass folks, the promise of the wines getting better with every bottle and each bottle having some little anecdote coming with it makes drinking all night more like a little adventure and less like endlessly revisiting the keg at a frat party.
Usually music at parties I throw is from my records. This has a control-freakish upside for me: at some point in time I thought the record was worth owning, so I like the music in general.
But at this party, which was a Playlist Potluck, we used a collaborative playlist on Spotify. There were immediate upsides: a couple days before the party, my friend Bradley put on a song called “Like a Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth For Christ Choir and I immediately put the album in regular personal rotation. At the party, though, people were adding things and I didn’t recognize them and didn’t know if I liked them. Am I the sort of person who plays Drake at my parties?
But then I looked around the room and I saw that people were, you know, enjoying themselves, and enjoying having control over the jukebox. And that was a good reminder that, as with the food and the wine, parties are about everybody having fun. As long as that stays central to the mission, the mission will be accomplished.