Hands down, I absolutely prefer entertaining at home over going out. Everyone can let their guard down- and there's no worrying about turning the table, strangers eavesdropping on the conversation or splitting the check. But most importantly, homemade food comes from love; it's about creating and sharing from the heart. Showing off is totally welcome as well.
Seeing that my job involves putting on dinner parties for others, not only am I delighted to be invited to other people's homes, but WOW when I can be cooked for too! What a treat!
An old friend was in town from San Francisco this past weekend whose boyfriend was born and raised in New Orleans. He was cooking his family's beloved gumbo- even in tow with his inherited cast iron gumbo pan from the 1800's! As he explained, the recipe is only given once the cook-in-training can make the dish up to family standard. It's an all day process, low and slow, and all about the technique.
As soon as the front door opened, I got an instant whiff of gumbo heaven. Dan was relieved to find file (pronounced fee-lay) in the suburbs of Los Angeles, which is a powder made from sassafras- the traditional gumbo thickener. He explained the process to the rest of us. Heaven I tell you.
That night was exactly what I needed...a meal in, amongst kindred spirits, incredible food, intelligent conversation, and plenty of wine (duh). The menu was simple and casual, and perfect.