Supper clubs: No longer underground

Issue: 
April 2012

Wisteria Lane would be proud. Neighborhoods across America are finding themselves again, and a big part of their newfound community interactions revolves around food.

Supper clubs are making neighborhoods a more delicious place while upping the ante in the culinary department.

What used to be a secret underground gathering of “foodies” at different locations has recently been revived as a not-so-secret, more casual neighborhood gathering. Many subdivisions and communities in Middle Tennessee have a variation of a clubhouse that residents can use for such events, but in lieu of such a common area, people are opening up their homes for food and fun.

SCANDALOUS COVER-UP: Many supper clubs formed as a front for serving alcohol during the prohibition. Now, we sip margaritas openly with the girls while the kids play in the other room, and we nosh on a pretty surprising menu of layered flavors and well-thought out arrangements from those in the neighborhood who aspire to be chefs, or at least have a good appreciation — and understanding — of The Food Network.

The chef and I have really seen a surge lately in local dinners, girls’ poker nights, modernized tea parties, and cooking classes within neighborhoods. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork, and they’re carrying a covered dish or a bottle of wine! If you are truly doing this within your neighborhood, you’re getting more involved with the people that share your general living space in this big, bad world.

TAKE IT TO THE STREETS: This is old-fashioned, but putting a new twist on the outcome should save you from looking like Bree Van de Kamp with her telltale “Welcome to the neighborhood” or “I’m sorry I killed your husband” muffins. Make something — anything that you are proud of — and share it. If you must cheat, order from your favorite local bakery.

Go door-to-door, if you feel safe doing so. Bring a little informal card that states that you want to get a neighborhood supper club together, or call it whatever fits your personality. Ask those lucky door-answerers who get a sample of your tasty treats when they might be available to plan such a fun event. Offer your home, or see if your local clubhouse is available. (Or, offer your neighbor’s home because it’s cleaner than yours! You may want to ask her first.)

Once an initial — and usually fun and informal — meeting has been established, just bring some awesome wine or something fun (adult chocolate milk, anyone?) and discuss how many people you want to involve, a fabulous theme for your soiree, and start devising a brilliant plan of culinary mystery.

One variation that many block blazers are trying these days is travelling supper clubs (also known as “progressive dinners”). It’s been done, but now, it’s being redone. Hors d’oeuvres at one home, entrees, dessert, and drinks all at different homes. If the weather’s nice, sneak in some cardio by walking between courses an houses (notice how funny the walks get after a few dinner drinks). 

When a supper club catches on, it’s quite a phenomenon. It encourages more interaction, involvement, and the development of new friendships. One of my closest friends was introduced to me because we had a neighborhood get together once a week, and two states and 10 years later, she’s still one of my besties.

Make it a consistent event, whether it’s once a week or once a month. Just squeeze this in, and watch the neighborhood come alive. It’s time to bust out of your warm little winter hole and step into spring in this fun, innovative, and delicious way.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SUPPER CLUBS:

1.       Unlike fight club, you are encouraged to talk about Supper Club.

2.       Not everyone will get it.

3.       Not everyone will show up.

4.       Not all of the food will be delicious. We’re experimenting here, so be open.

5.       Every single person who dares embark on this culinary and social journey will have a blast, and they will want to do it again. Success!

Need more tips or recipes for your first try at a supper club creation? Call Executive Chef Chris Rains at 615.305.4869. Check out recent successful and fun such parties at thechefandicatering.com.

Photographed by Sarah Bailey

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