Anna Watson Carl’s Cookbook Road Trip
There’s No Place Like Home
Never Let a Little Rain Stop You
It Takes a Village
The night before the third dinner, in Nashville, I ended up in the ER getting stitches in my leg (long story!) and wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk the next day. Fortunately, I had an incredible team of friends and family who stepped in and helped me pull off a multicourse Italian feast for 25 at the gorgeous Peter Nappi studio.
There’s Nothing Like a Home-Cooked Meal...
...And a little bourbon to connect total strangers.
Dinner No. 4 was held at Joy the Baker’s beautiful French Quarter apartment in New Orleans. The dinner was cozy and casual, with just seven women total. No one really knew each other at the beginning of the night, but four hours later, after a lot of laughs (and a few bourbon cocktails) we all felt like best friends.
Fabulous Dinner Parties Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune
At our Austin dinner party—held at the home of Jeanine Donofrio of the blog Love & Lemons—we created a simple tablescape using mixed and matched vintage plates and glasses, patterned napkins and a runner that Jeanine already had. We tied the look together with simple zinnia bouquets in old milk bottles, inexpensive candles in Mason jars and strung Christmas lights. The table looked beautiful and hardly cost anything.
There is No Force as Powerful as Community
Dinner No. 6, held at Neighbor’s Table in Dallas, was the only party where I wasn’t allowed to cook. My friend and co-host, Sarah Harmeyer, enlisted an army of helpers to shop, cook (recipes from my book), clean and set everything up. One of her friends, the talented Kris Drayovitch, created gorgeous bouquets of flowers for the table and hand-wrote menus and place cards. I was blown away by the love shown to me that night.
Detours are Often the Best Part of the Trip
My intern, Elise Inman (who accompanied me on the trip), encouraged me to take time to explore a little along the way. She read about Tucumcari, New Mexico—a tiny town of perfectly preserved 1950s–style motels and diners on Historic Route 66—and we rerouted our trip to spend the night there. This cute little inn was one of my favorite places we stayed.
Never be Afraid to Ask
More than anything else, this trip taught me that you have to ask for what you need. Volkswagen lent me a car to drive; Whole Foods Market sponsored all of the food and wine for the dinners; bloggers across the country cohosted parties with me and blogged about my project—all because I asked. It was absolutely incredible to see the doors that opened once I got over my fear of asking!
When Cooking for a Dinner Party, Keep it Simple
I cooked a different menu for each dinner party—altering it depending on the climate, the setting and what ingredients were in season—but in every case, I kept the dishes simple. For the Los Angeles dinner, I made these whole roast fish, stuffed with lemons and herbs; they are so easy to make, but look impressive.
Collaborating with Friends is the Best
For my final dinner, in Seattle, I collaborated with my friends stylist Jenn Elliott Blake and calligrapher Sally Balt. The three of us have worked together before, and make a great team: I cooked, Jenn did the flowers and styled the table, and Sally wrote menus and place cards. If I could create a career out of working with these girls, I absolutely would!