By Jan Cox, Contributing Writer
Life quiets down in the mountains after the Christmas season. The “Snow Birds” head toward warmer climes. Shovels stand by the front door ready for the next big snowfall, ploughs weave back and forth, mounding up the welcome white stuff, and many local restaurant owners take a well deserved vacation. Here’s an enjoyable way to savor gourmet delights.
About a year ago my husband and I invited four other couples to join us in a Gourmet Club. The first question these couples had was, “What is a Gourmet Club?” Because we had been in another group years earlier, we were prepared with the details of how to set up such a group. We were soon up and running, ready to enjoy our first scrumptious meal.
There can be several ways to organize a dinner group and the following guidelines are from the five couples that came together to form one of these groups. We decided to create our meals around a theme. This theme can include the recipes of a specific country such as, Germany, Russia, or even the Congo. Or it can include recipes from a specific area such as the Louisiana Bayou or a time period such as Colonial America. Finally it might include such themes as Christmas around the world, or a Spring Celebration.
To help this group work efficiently, we follow several steps. First we decide on a date that works well for everyone and choose a host couple. The hosts plan the menu of their choice. We find recipes in both books and food magazines such as Eating Light, Gourmet, Bon Appetite, or Sunset, or from the internet. Just Goggle “Gourmet Recipes” and see what comes up!
The menu is copied and distributed to the other members. Each couple is responsible for buying the food for their dish. The host couple usually prepares the entrée and purchases the wine or other beverages to complement the meal, while the others prepare the appetizers, soups, salads, veggies and desserts. To avoid an inequity in costs, members present a bill for their part of the meal and the total is divided by the number of couples participating. An average cost for an entire meal is between $12.00 and $15.00 per person. Where else could you get an entire gourmet meal from appetizer through dessert and beverages for that price!
Sometimes the food items called for in these gourmet recipes are difficult to find locally. But, we have discovered that many local markets either carry gourmet articles or will make a special order for us.
Because each couple makes only one or two dishes, preparation becomes fun and less time consuming. There is even time to decorate the table and plan those special touches that make the evening special.
I recently spoke to several other groups in this area. One group sets up its meals in a similar way but does not split the cost. Instead they chart who has made what part of the meal each month and make sure that they get a different part the next month. This group challenges themselves to make recipes that no one has ever made before. And they laughingly let me know they have only had two failures so far! In this group there are several male “chefs” who enjoy doing the cooking.
Another dinner group does things very differently but enjoys it just as much. They hold a progressive meal where they all move from the appetizer course served at the first house, to soup and salad at the next, followed by the entrée at a third and dessert at the fourth couple’s home. These couples meet every 3 months during the year, with each couple preparing a different part of the meal each time. There is no theme for the meal and no cost splitting done.
So, if you are a person who enjoys cooking and getting together with friends in an atmosphere of fun, relaxation, good conversation and fabulous eating for a great price, why not get a few of your friends together and start your own gourmet club. Bon Appetite!