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Dinner Club Ideas

I have recently started up a dinner club in my area (Newport, RI). Any ideas for themes? I think this will be a great way to meet new people and try new recipes...

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  1. I'm interested in knowing how you got it started. I'd love to start or join such a group.

    3 Replies
      1. re: yeoyeo

        Only if "nearby" encompasses a distance of about 350 miles. :(

        1. re: CindyJ

          Here's what a friend and I are doing. We are having "Dinner At My House" where there are the two of us plus spouses and we each invite a different couple each time we get together. We are thinking of 4 times a year and can throw in some extra events if we want. We are going to have the guests participate in the cooking. Our first theme is French Country and I'm doing a cassoulet. (We are going to France in March). It will be fun to have different couples each time.

    1. One thing is if you are wine drinkers set a bottle theme (Bordeaux, CA Chards, sake, whatever) and have everyone bring a different bottle. Then have folks try a ton of different wines through dinner.

      1. We've been in a dinner group for over six years. We've run the whole gamut of themes:

        Every ethnic cuisine you can think of
        Seasonal menus - Fall, Winter, Spring and Fall
        Interactive menus - like a ravioli making party and a pizza making party
        Murder Mystery parties - we did a luau one outdoors that was great fun
        Menus planned around a game night - we all got together and played Cranium while enjoying a casual dinner
        Menus planned around a movie - we had good fun planning an italian menu and watching Big Night
        Menus planned around a holiday - Christmas, St Pats, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras
        A dessert party
        Recently we did a 50s TV character dinner - everyone came dressed as a character and we made upscale dinners complete with the foil trays.
        Waffle party for a holiday brunch
        Pool parties with exotic burgers

        We have non-drinkers in our crowd so alcohol themed don't work well for us. We did do an exotic soda tasting once that was fun.

        We've had good fun in our group. We were all strangers when we started but have become good friends. Have fun!

        1. I've heard a lot about these dinner clubs and am interested in joining one. How do you go about finding one?

          1. I had a gourmet dinner group for several years. In our group, there were three couples, and each one hosted a dinner once a month, so each hosted dinner 4 times a year. The couple hosting picked the menu, purchased the food ingredients, and got to invite a fourth couple. The other two couples in the group brought the wine, per the host's specification. The girls in the group would go over to the host's house the day of the dinner to help with food preparation.

            We got our inspiration for the menus from various places. Sometimes, the menu was seasonal and sometimes we'd do the menu featured in that month's Gourmet Magazine. Sometimes it was ethnic -- we did Japanese, Asian-Fusion, Moroccan, French, Italian. Sometimes it was something culled from a favorite cookbook -- we did a great dinner from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook.

            It was a lot of fun -- and, actually the only reason we stopped was because one of the couples had a baby and the other divorced :-P

            1 Reply
            1. re: DanaB

              This almost exactly how our Supper Club works. We rotate between homes and the host decides what to make. The rest of the participants are not allowed to bring anything. We've also weathered a divorce and a new baby, but made it through fine. We've given the new parents a break from rotation for a while and they're ready to jump back in now.

            2. Maybe local grown stuff -- or fish - there is a great fish monger on Jamestown at Zeek's creek. He gets wonderful tuna. he used to get me tuna bellies - don't know if he still can....

              8 Replies
              1. re: coastie

                LOVE the local grown stuff idea. I'll definitely keep that in mind for this summer.
                Thank you.

                1. re: yeoyeo

                  I think it would be great fun to do a "100-mile diet" dinner - all ingredients used in the cooking must come from sources less than 100 miles away. Particularly fun during the winter.

                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                    Home grown Ontario February tomatoes and corn? I knew you could do it FlavoursGal!

                    1. re: embee

                      I'm actually heading to St. Lawrence North Market today to see what's doable using products grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Oh, how invigorated and creative I become when you put me near fresh, local foods.

                      1. re: FlavoursGal

                        last year i did an eat local month and felt a bit restricted because somehow i got it into my head that it should include organic as well. it's a bit of a stretch to get organic, local AND variety.

                        but, you may want to look at a series of articles put out through... globe and mail? or was it the star... last year about the 100mile diet. writer's from across the country (or perhaps it was just vancouver, ontario, maritimes) put together a local meal for people. the vancouverite went all out and made her (or was it his) own salt via seaweed. the toronto based one wasn't all that impressive but it might help you develop some ideas off the beaten track.

                        also, if you haven't been to phil mathewson's market...i highly suggest it. the really unique product is his own home made vinegars which are very interesting plus the wonderful fish he can get.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          The 100-mile diet articles were in The National Post.

                          I did go to St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, and had no trouble planning for a dinner party based on what I found there and at The Big Carrot. I haven't made the dinner yet, and each week that we get farther into spring, of course, the local offerings will change. I did pick up some of the first of the season's rhubarb (forced) from Marvin Gardens. It's thin and beautiful and, I'm told, not fibrous at all. I'm still deciding what to make with it this afternoon - it'll be something to go along with the local Spy apples I picked up also.

                          Where is this delightful Phil Mathewson's market you speak of? Any other places to source locally produced foods and artisanal products that you've been hiding from me? ;-)

                          1. re: FlavoursGal

                            phil's is just a simple table set-up in front of the church off of stephanie and mccaul. he carts his goods in on saturday mornings by about 9am and heads out at 2pm when the crowds die down. from all hearsay... he's supposed to be there every week unless extreme weather conditions.

                            he focuses on organic though, and so mixed in you'll see your prepackaged big organic along with his own goods. it's pretty obvious which is which. a big tip is to talk to him, a lot, and you'll find out more and more about what he has. frequenters of his market also make it a habit to rummage through his car for items he may have neglected to put out. really though, the vinegar is probably the most unique product he puts out, although i do love his honey.

                            i'm going to assume you know of organics 4 life in kensington... he's got some good product but, again, the fish is what i go after here. i think it's bright and early on saturday mornings as well, he receives vaccuum packed fresh fillets of fish from a native fishery? some of the dufferin grove market farmers have their produce stocked there in case you can't make it during the week.

                            i can't think of anything else right now, i've had to become a little disconnected from grocery shopping, but i'm pretty sure i'm going to do the eat local challenge in may again. i'll review some of my notes and see if i can come up with some new options. i'm disappointed that the real dirt conference at uoft didn't really provide me any new sources. not sure if the slowfood toronto conference/panel was any better with that.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Thanks, pinstripeprincess!

                              What I gleaned from the Slow Food panel discussion was that more farmers' markets are on the way for Toronto - one at the Brick Works on the Bayview Extension, the others I can't remember right now...

              2. Well, I'll confess to being in the sots dinner club. We have several dinners a year loosely geared to certain wines...

                Wines of...
                Northern Italy

                1. I collect vinatge cookbooks... Charting your Courses the Newport Cookbook. Recipes from Newport Homes and Famous RI eating Establishments would provide a fun couple of dinners I think. Published 1948 - I got m,y copy off ebay - but its a common household cookbook for Newporters and its in the library
                  The recipes are local or the family name or the mansion etc.... better quality recipes than the usual "local" cookbook.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: coastie

                    I will have to get a copy of that cookbook; where did you get yours?

                  2. Food made with alcohol (fondue, meat braises with red wine, guiness chocolate cake).

                    Comfort food (oven baked mac n cheese, all manner of soups, brownies).

                    Things in season this month.

                    Ingredient-based themes (herbs = parsley salad + varieties of pesto + basil ice cream; citrus = blood-orange salad + chicken gremolata + meyer lemon tarts; coffee = base for rub to put on a roast + mocha desserts)

                    Something I've always wanted to make from scratch. (Bread, pie crust, pasta, ice cream.)

                    1. Hi,

                      Wondering how your dinner club has evolved. I'm in Newport and was thinking of starting one, but if there is already a good one...If it's still going, how can we find out more about it?

                      1. I was in a supper club for a number of years and we had some interesting themes:

                        Everything cooked in Muffin Tins
                        Color - everyone was randomly assigned a color and had to cook food that was that color
                        Breakfast for dinner
                        Iron Chef theme - everyone needs to cook something w/ the same main ingredient

                        1. I'm in a dinner club...currently we have eight people (four couples) and we meet once a month. It got started, because we're all in a town political committee (that doesn't socialize much) and some of us felt we needed to have some sort of social events even though the group as a whole wasn't participating. We rotate who will "host" the dinner each month. Instead of having the host purchase all the groceries, we have a planning meeting prior to the dinner to decide what to cook. Each one of the couple's brings one dish to the dinner & we have lots of fun & great food. Because of food restrictions and picky eaters, planning sometimes takes a little time. LOL...I'm a vegetarian, but I can't eat cheese, and I don't eat any white flour products or sugar. My husband doesn't like tomatoes, broccolli, asparagus, spinach, etc. One person can't eat wheat..well, you get the picture. For our next dinner party, we're having: 1 meat dish (leaving it up to the person cooking it what to make), 1 vegetarian dish (I'm making a chickpea and Korn (brand) "chicken" curry with brown rice), a quiche, a vegetable medley (carrotts, peas, and mushrooms), salad, and a strawberry cheesecake pie for dessert. So, we haven't really come up with "theme's" for each dinner party, although I love the idea.

                          1. Our club meets every 2 months. The host is in charge of the main course. The other three couples decide among themselves who brings the salad, appy, and dessert. The host chooses a place for the theme (Italy and the Okanagan have been the two recent ones). Each couple, including host, must bring a wine from that place that pairs with their meal. It has been a lot of fun so far!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Finsmom

                              Ours is structured similiarly - but we have eight couples. The hostess puts together an invitation with the menu, and all the recipes, with a 'first come/first choice' on the recipes. Set menu 'structure' where the hostess always does the entree, and an adult beverage in keeping with the theme. The other couples bring the rest of the meal, which is always 2 appetizers, a salad, a side dish or two, and two desserts (one of which must be chocolate). We've been a dinner club for the better part of 15 years. The rest of the adult beverages are BYO, which works just great for us. Everyone provides an estimate of what they spent on a sign-in sheet when they arrive, and the hostess shuiffles money around to keep the cost equal for everyone. This part could completely go away, except it makes it really easy for someone to propose a 'budget night' menu right after a Christmas extravaganza, and no one feels like they've cheaped out.

                              Some themes we've done -
                              Chinese New Year
                              Colonial Williamsburg Christmas - really pretty theme, with good food
                              Greek Night (ouzo played a large part in the later evening)
                              Cuban Night (played cards after dinner)
                              French Night - a truly super menu
                              Mardi Gras (done this a couple of time)
                              Crab Feast - blue crabs steamed with old bay and all the fixins'
                              Hoe Down night (chicken fried steak and the fixins' - and a country line dance teacher came and taught line dancing for an hour)
                              Superbowl Party
                              Budget Night - think good meatloaf and mashed potatoes
                              Tacky Lights tour (Heavy 'tacky' appetizers on a bus touring tacky Christmas lights).

                              I've got a whole folder of ideas we've done, just let me know if you want more.

                              1. re: jeanmarieok

                                Would love to see more of your theme ideas..The club I'm in has been around for at least 6 years, but we are recent new members and I want to come up with something new and fresh! I'm hosting next month-September. Any ideas?( One couple always has October/fall so that seasonal thing is taken.)

                            2. We have had a Dinner Club in our neighborhood for 11 years. At this time, we have 11 couples, and we meet once a month - excluding June and July. Our monthly schedule consists of a host and a cohost who are responsible for the main entrees, soft drinks, bread, and one appetizer. The rest of the group is divided between: one appetizer, two vegetables, two salads, two desserts, white wine, and red wine. We have changed many things over the years according to the tastes and size of the group. Right now this system is working great. The month after you host or cohost you get the next month off cooking by being in charge of the wines. We have had just about every theme you can think of, but here's a few suggestions:
                              Octoberfest, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, Big Fat Greek Dinner, Chinese New Year, Soup Night in the Winter, Gourmet Burgers, 50's Night, Luau, Diner Food, Breakfast for Dinner (PJ night), Easter/Passover, Guys Night to Cook.
                              You can really get creative!

                              1. yeoyeo, my dh is a pilot. We have enjoyed the air shows in RI several times. If your dinner club has any interest in balloon flights or byplanes...airshow as a theme might be alot of fun.

                                Our dinner club here in NJ isn't overly theme oriented but we do focus on techniques in the kitchen. Wine or some unique cocktail is usually included because one of our members is a bartender and we learn alot from him.

                                We have enjoyed changing sites by dining in a park, near the water, on a small boat, etc.

                                Have fun with it!

                                1. I'm not in a dinner club, sadly. But a friend once gave me the following birthday present: I would pick any country in the world, and she would cook me a meal from that country. I had an Estonian penpal at the time (long story), so I picked Estonia. It seemed not too common, like France or Italy, and not so exotic that she couldn't find recipes and ingredients (in those pre-internet days). The meal was delicious.

                                  That got me to thinking that it would be a fun idea for a dinner club, assuming everybody likes being adventurous and enjoys the research. At the end of dinner each night, you would pick a country from a hat or throw a dart at a map or something, and the next time you met you would be eating a meal from that country. Make it potluck and share the stories of your research into the cuisine of that country.

                                  1. It looks like there hasn't been much discussion on this thread in awhile, I thought I would try to start it up again. I've been in an adult Dinner Club for 15+ years - potluck based. Typically it's an ethnic theme, but it feels as though that's been done to death over the years. I am looking for some other original ideas from my Chowfriends. We tried a few things like 70's, Comfort food and 100 Mile diet.

                                    Any other interesting thoughts out there? Keep in mind this is for January in snowy Canada, so 'picnic' or 'luau' might not be ideal. I'm really looking for some warm comforting food, with an interesting theme (we dont' dress up or have alot of decor, it's all about the food) . We're seriously considering Jewish, something we know absoluately nothing about.. but the food has always seemed appealing to me.

                                    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TSAW

                                      You could do traditional winter foods- instead of just picking one country of interest, you could have people pick winter food options from cultures that interest them. You'd probably get a lot of interesting soups and stews that way. You could also do a warm color theme and have people make dishes with sauces from the warm side of the color spectrum.

                                    2. Realize this is an old post - but on this topic - I am wondering if there are any interested CHers in NY/NJ that might be interested in starting one up?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: smilingal

                                        smilingal, you'll have better luck with this if you start a new thread on your local board (don't know if you're NJ, Manhattan, NY State or Outer Boroughs).

                                        it's too bad i don't live back there anymore, i'd totally do it with you!

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          ok thanks - I will try that - and if it gets off to a start and you are ever in this neck of the woods - you need to look us up!

                                      2. I have been in a dinner club for 15 years in our neighborhood. We have done just about every theme you can think of. Here are a few ideas:
                                        My Big Fat Greek Dinner Club
                                        Mardi Gras
                                        50's Diner
                                        60's Hippie theme (included "herb" crusted roast)
                                        Breakfast for Dinner
                                        Cinco de Mayo
                                        Valentine's Day
                                        Tailgate (everyone wore their college t-shirt)
                                        Healthy New Year
                                        Beach Blowout
                                        Boy Scout Campout theme
                                        Back to School

                                        1. We got a lot of mileage out of a "This Day in History" dinner club.

                                          Pick the day that works; research what happened that day; creatively tie in foods with connections to those events...have fun with it.

                                          NO other rules.

                                          Yup, couple of times we had an over abundance of cocktails and a dearth of main course items, but it was a hoot.

                                          1. I have belonged to similar groups, BUT the focus was always on wines, with the foods being second. Still, we did "themes" for the wines, and those might be regional. Then, the foods were designed to compliment those wines, and again, they might well have been regional.

                                            Good luck, and enjoy,