Lunya - Rediscovering Space in the Summer (An At-Home Dinner Party)

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Michella Oré

As I get older, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for staying in and focusing my energy on nurturing the relationships that matter to me most: my relationships with loved ones. It can be hard to hear (quite literally) about a friend’s recent career-altering decision over Top 40 hits or to make the space to truly get introspective about our altered connections with each other and our bodies over the honks of newly restored traffic at full blast.

And try as it might, a swanky lounge can never quite duplicate the intimacy that comes from winding down after a meal in the comfort of your own living room. Our homes are what we put into them—the joys, disappointments, dreams, and fears. Their walls serve not only as a sanctuary but a reflection of the people we are and who we hope to become. When we invite our friends and family inside these places, it’s like sharing those pieces of ourselves that make these relationships even stronger. And what better way to bring people together than over food?

Michelle with food and drink

A few years ago, I made it my mission to eat out as much as possible. Why stay indoors, cooped up, when I could see and taste all that my neighborhood had to offer? As a writer, this method of eating was also more convenient. I’ve spent hours at home drafting and editing copy long into the evening, realizing that at the end of my day, my only chance to pop outside was to pick up food or stop in somewhere for a quick bite.

The past year, however, caused me to reevaluate how I prioritize my personal time and how I make space for communion. While it made me yearn for the option to get out, even more, it simultaneously sparked an interest in creating that same experience at home as a way to connect with others more personally. I realized I felt more fulfilled when I could actually be present with my friends without the distractions of hopping in and out of Ubers, mingling with the crowd, and trying to get orders in before the kitchen closed.

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Hosting a dinner party felt like something one did when they reached a certain point in their life, but I now realize it’s as simple as putting together a thoughtful menu and texting friends a day and time, like Wednesday at 8 p.m.

When it came to deciding what we would eat, I looked to the city for inspiration. People say that transitioning from winter to summer in New York is like being transported to an entirely new place overnight. People smile at each other as they pass, kids run around full of mischief and laughter, and the air—thick and hot—carries a renewed optimism. In that spirit, I figured the best flavor profile was one light yet rich in flavor.

Michelle throwing a dinner party

The main meal was simple: the first dish romaine lettuce topped with ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, and slices of tangerine, drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon for more zest; and the second dish was a ricotta ravioli soaked in a brown butter sauce. Dessert was an assortment of cookies, tea biscuits, and a Castella sponge cake picked up from Keki’s Modern Cakes down the street. For drinks, I mixed my cocktail of the moment: a classic Negroni on the rocks garnished with a tangerine peel for some added sweetness.

I’ve learned that less is more when it comes to putting together a dinner for friends. There’s no need to go all out and break the bank for a lavish three-course meal that will likely go unfinished in the excitement of catching up, dancing over music, and forgetting the time of day.

Michelle taking a sip

Using the lessons I’ve learned in the past year about creating mindful spaces, I want to be intentional with how I continue to cultivate these vital relationships. Of course, some evenings, it will just be dinner for two, but for those nights where we want to be a little more festive as we make our way out of this pandemic, three—for me—is the magic number.

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