How to Throw the Perfect Summer Party
The plan was to have the party on our lawn to take advantage of summer’s final days: the warmth, the local produce, the peepers, the stars.
Our friend and event planner, McKenna Young, covered old picnic tables with cloths and used dropper bottles for vases.
Earlier in the day, Alex and a bunch of his friends went and picked flowers from our local farm, where all-you-can-pick flowers are included in the summer’s CSA.
We wanted to support as many local farmers and businesses as we could. So, instead of doing a big bar with all kinds of liquors whose ingredients and makers we didn't really know, we kept things simple: beer from Montauk Brewing Co. and sparkling wine from Sparkling Pointe in Southold. After dinner, we served coffee from North Fork Roasting Co.
Tall friends strung lights across the lawn for warmth and pizzazz.
My father, Sasson Soffer, was a monumental sculptor. Many of his pieces are in our yard, which added to the significance of having our party at home, among the things we know and love the most.
Last year, Alex built an outdoor pizza oven, which has become as much a part of our culinary routine as our social one. Vegetables, chicken, stews, fish and pies are made instantly delicious by the 900-degree heat. Turns out, you can caramelize almost anything, and it will taste better for it.
An hour before the party was set to begin, the sky went suddenly dark; there were flash flood alerts popping up on our phones. Everyone pitched in to set up for a last-minute storm. Alex looks like the picture of calm, but he is scrambling to put on the sides of the tent so we could move everything inside before it was too late.
Safely inside, we served beer, sparkling wine, and vodka lemonade infused with local lavender and honey.
We knew the chef, Megan Huylo, from our local farm, Amber Waves. She was often around, giving advice on what to do with an abundance of eggplant or Lambs’ Quarters. Needless to say, we couldn’t imagine anyone better to cater our party. Her staff, apprentices from the farm, know and care as much about the ingredients as anyone possibly could. When the weather changed, they gamely set up in our garage and began plating.
Chilled sweet corn bisque was made with local corn from Sep’s Farm on the North Fork and vegan cashew cream, and we garnished it with local microkale from Good Water Farms.
A salad appetizer used apples from Briermere Farms, Kaleidscope Kale (a hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts) from Bhumi Farms, walnuts, light-as-air goat cheese from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, and was plated in easy-to-eat endive.
Tartlets were the perfect combination of earthy and sweet. Green Thumb oven-roasted beets were mized with goat cheese and set in a hazelnut, lemon zest and Amagansett Sea Salt crust.
We told people not to fill up too quickly, but we couldn’t keep them away from the cheese plates, which we sourced from Mecox Bay Dairy and Carissa’s Breads’ sourdough and beer bread. At the end of the night, I found two spoons in the honey jars from Mary Woltz’s bees in Bridgehampton—and wasn’t the least bit surprised. I got a spoon myself and went to town.
Chef Hyulo hones her knife in the garage as Farmer Frank of Bhumi Farms has a down moment between roasting proteins in the outdoor wood-fired oven.
Chef Hyulo’s notes reveal just how much work goes into planning an event. Even simple food requires a whole lot of oversight and meticulous planning.
After appetizers, dinner was served family-style: everything at once. We didn’t want to deal with the fussiness of being served and we didn’t have room for a buffet table. We wanted people to interact as they ate, and passing bowls and plates seemed like the way to do it. I kept hoping there would be leftovers of this take on pesto risotto, which used Amber Waves’ wheatberries, cream, butter, and Iacinato kale and garlic scape pesto. But no dice.
Local chickens from Iacono Farm were brined for 24 hours in buttermilk, mesquite, salt and cooking liquid reserved from the wheatberries. They were roasted in the outdoor oven and plated alongside Peruvian mustard sauce using tons of local garlic and parsley. The final product was as juicy and sweet as any chicken I’ve ever tasted.
Yellowfin Tuna from our local CSF, Dock to Dish, was salt rubbed, flash-seared and plated with a roasted red pepper and olive compound butter and Good Water Farms arugula microgreens. I’m not a red meat-eater, but a lot of our friends are—and I worried that they’d be unsatisfied without it. This, they said, did the trick.
We barely spoke during dinner. We shoveled.
We had this crazy idea to have a men’s table and a women’s table, which turned out to be a real hit, too. Whoever said that men have bigger appetites than women have not met my friends.
It rained like it hadn’t rained in months—which, ultimately, made the experience all the more cozy. It felt like our dear friends really were brought together—and there was nothing to do but eat and drink and be merry within inches of each other.
Somehow, we had room for dessert. Carissa’s Breads’ key lime pie used whole wheat flour and egg whites from Amber Waves and was so bright and light that it almost felt cleansing. Almost.
Chef Hyulo made two crisps: plum anise and ginger peach, using stone fruit from from Briermere. She topped them with homemade Joe & Liza’s ice cream from our favorite burger place, Bay Burger.
Keep your friends close and their dinners closer, said Scout Finch the lady dog.
The only time I stopped eating was to listen to our friends’ speeches, which were as delicious as anything I’d ever heard. “I’m keeping this short and sweet,” said one, “not because I don’t have a lot to say but because I don’t want anyone to eat my dessert.”