In Search of a Good Dinner Party with Kimberly Belle with Gourmet Chef and Caterer. Listen and Learn as Kimberly fills our bellies with yummies this holiday season.
We first released this interview 2 years ago, when we first launched. With the holiday seasons around the corner, we thought what more pertinent theme that the etiquette of a good dinner party. Please do care to pay heed to the rules kids. Miss Belle always knows what’s she’s talking about…- Scallywag. Nov 22, 2010.
One could argue one of the social gauges of social acceptance and higher aesthetic predispositions comes with the arrival of successfully hosting ones own dinner party. Of course once one tries one dinner party they’re more apt to try it again with a variance of aperitifs, appetizers offered and more likely the dinner guest involved.
This said, SCV initiated its preferred discussion of aesthetics with the lovely and equally well attuned Kimberly Belle. Chef Belle, who hails from upstate civility and raspberry plum fields owns and operates the boutique catering “The Dinner Belle” as well as her scrumptious food and hospitality advice at Salt and Roe.
SCV; Apart from being a source of nutrition and copious alcohol what are dinner parties really all about?
Kimberly Belle; You are using the word nutrition quite liberally. Well if you want to get down to it, I think dinner parties are all about bringing the right mix of people and creating a memorable experience. By that I mean, getting your starving artists, your investment banker friends, your socialite friends, your closet Pulitzer writer friends together and getting them to meet and enjoy each other in a situation where they would otherwise would not.
SCV; So that’s where the alcohol comes in?
Kimberly Belle; Definitely, it’s always been a great lubricant for the social barriers.
SCV; What makes a dinner party successful?
Kimberly Belle; The mark of success is if someone from the dinner party asks ‘to do it again.’ You have to remember when you choose to throw a dinner party what you are really doing is taking on the role of an experience maker. It’s a kind of theater that cannot be repeated, a one of a kind performance if you will, where everything from the characters on stage, the food, the right lighting, the right script…
SCV; Right script?
Kimberly Belle; Yes, there’s a certain etiquette that one needs to follow in order to affect a seamless dinner party.
SCV; Unbridled alcohol?
Kimberly Belle; Well one should always keep the alcohol free flowing, but what I want to refer to is the theme, the conduct of the party. It’s important to offer your guests degrees of tantalization with the food, that is keeping in harmony with the reverie, and as you go from appetizers to main and so on then you too should exact that your guests get up, and by guests I mean the gentlemen of course, and move three seats to the left where the starving artist is now introduced to your entrepreneurial type, and so on every time a new delicacy is offered to the table. By the end of dessert, this game of round robin should strategically land the gentleman should back to the exact spot where they initially began their meal.
SCV; How chic. Talking of guests, who should one invite or not?
Kimberly Belle; Never invite anyone who you think wont dedicate their evening to the party. You don’t want some one who is always on the phone, who is going to leave early or who will behave in any other way that may be construed as socially non negotiable.
SCV; What should one do if a guest resists and continues to act rudely?
Kimberly Belle; Throw them in the bathroom with a bottle of champagne and lock the door behind them.
SCV; As you have already alluded, you are a great fan of seating arrangements, is that more because of etiquette or the dinner experience?
Kimberly Belle; I think part of the fun of having a great dinner party is the heightened expectation of who you will end up sitting next to you at a dinner party. It corroborates ones expectations of what their guest is going to serve, and who is going to be there to share what is being served. It’s kind of like when we were all young children, the anticipation, the delight, the finality of opening presents.
SCV; Should a guest feel obliged to bring a gift, a present?
Kimberly Belle; Never. A good wine if they feel like it, but they should never feel obliged. On the other hand though, it would make the host feel like a million dollars if you were to send her a token of your appreciation at a later date.
SCV; Are dinner parties out of fashion?
Kimberly Belle; On the contrary. I think given the current economic times they have made a kind of resurgence. Everything is becoming more intimate again. Look at all the restaurants that are doing well, they’re the neighborhood bistros. People are migrating to comfort, familiarity, intimacy and away from lavish, spectacle and the alienating experiences that some of the bigger restaurants tend to offer.
SCV; Has that affected what one now offers to their guests?
Kimberly Belle; Absolutely. There’s been a resurgence in comfort food, but with a twist. The best chefs are now using ‘offal,’ that part of the meat that used to be discarded or used only in peasant fare, and transforming it into gem delicacies. For instance, pork belly and pig ‘period’ are the rage. Also locally sustained produce is becoming very important, once again it’s part of returning to thoughtfulness. Yet the twist gets better, instead of vegetables being the side item as they have traditionally and the meat the main draw, it’s become reversed. The vegetable becomes the main source and the meat the accent.
SCV; Where else have these changes in accent taken place? Can one safely assume that jasmine tea and fine china will still retain its place at the dinner table?
Kimberly Belle; Fine china and tea will always have their place, but what’s becoming more popular and charming is the aesthetic use of reclaimed wood. Go to ‘Anthropology‘ and you will see nothing but organic home furnishings. They are being used to give a clean, green finish, there’s nothing like the feeling of finely salvaged wood. But one shouldn’t need feel confined to one thing or another. After all one of the best dinner parties I attended was where the host made everyone sit around on a lavish art deco carpet in a circle with newspapers as place mats and the most amazing braised halibut tangine imaginable, it was surprisingly quite a delight.
SCV; What about theme parties? Where people are asked to dress up?
Kimberly Belle; They can be so much fun, but as long as every one commits. It can be a little disorientating to turn up to say a ‘Hawaiian’ themed party to find yourself the only one wearing a grass skirt and coconut bra.
SCV; Well, one could argue that could be quite enchanting.
Kimberly Belle; Yes, if one is inclined…..
SCV; What topics should one steer clear from at dinner parties?
Kimberly Belle; I think that depends on who gets invited. You never want to make your fellow guests feel skirmish if you are the only one with a trust fund to their name and are just about to jet set off to some lavish locale while others are in the middle of some investment bankruptcy. But I don’t shy away from politics, I like talking the arts, and what I think is fun is if each guest devises a very clever question to ask of each of all the other guests, like who they would like to be conjugal with dead or alive?
SCV; Who would that be in your case?
Kimberly Belle; I’m sorry you will have to wait for the next dinner party.
SCV; When was the last dinner party you threw, and is it safe to assume all your guests were all well behaved.
Kimberly Belle; (laughing) Well actually I threw one last week and it’s fair to say everyone behaved themselves exemplary.
SCV; Was there a concept?
Kimberly Belle; Actually yes. It was in lieu of the end of the tomato season, and everything we served was tomato based, from tomato boats stuffed with fennel sausage, tomato marmalade topped artichoke leaves, heirloom tomato caprese salad, to the bloody margaritas. We held it in a nice open field, by the tomato patch.
SCV; Talking of recipes, what is one of your signature recipes?
Kimberly Belle; Beef Carpaccio Cigars, it’s the cutest. You take a raw piece of fillet, sliced very finely from your butcher, dress it up in a vin cotto glaze, season it with salt and pepper, stuff it with baby arugula, and sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, roll it up in a slip, loop the chive in and tie it into a delicately bow.
SCV; Finally, what makes you a scallywag?
Kimberly Belle; I’ve always believed in the creative class, and in todays culture, ‘bobo,’ (bohemian bourgeois) gets thrown around. It has a bit of a negative reputation, but I think it’s about a sensibility off the grid tastes and tactics for living your passion and if that’s ‘bobo,’ I’m all for it.
SCV; Thank you, SCV looks forward to one of your dinner parties on the condition you promise to leave us the keys to the bathroom.